As Hillsong 2016's second-last day finally draws to a close, I am reminded once again of the power of passionate people. Though the conference has almost become a blur of speakers and sessions and interviews, there has been time to recall the purpose of this gathering of people in one place; and that is to uplift the name of God and His good news of grace.
Interestingly, an interview with Taya Smith and Jonathon Douglass (JD) from the Hillsong United band after the main morning session brought this home as they reflected on their new album, Of Dirt and Grace.
Reflecting on the heart behind the album, Taya Smith began tearing up as she recalled meeting Palestinian children in Israel while filming the album's live recordings. She mentions how it was the people who brought such joy and whom she remembers while singing on stage wherever Hillsong songs are sung.
It was a poignant moment where the raw humility of an open heart, reflected by these singers, is having an impact beyond the stage.
The masterclasses, or breakout sessions, continued this theme, as many of the main speakers, as well as those associated with Hillsong, where able to share the message of the good news in a more intimate setting – the only heartbreak - there were so many!
Christine Caine from the anti-trafficking organisation, Australia's own A21 Foundation, was able to open her heart about the plight of unseen children who are valued by God, and the unseen God who values people. The fact that if we are able to see and not just look past what we often categorise as our inconveniences, God will do an important transformation in our lives, was an important point to note.
One of the great ways that Hillsong is able to connect with so many thousands of people during the conference is through the amazing help of the volunteers – all 4500 of them.
I happened to be sitting next to one such volunteer on the Hillsong shuttle bus coming back from one of the media events, and we started talking about the conference and her personal involvement in the life of the church, despite the amount of people attending Hillsong every week.
She and her husband, as well as her mother, had been able to plug into the church, had begun volunteering at the conference for the first time this year, and had witnessed the ability of a dynamic congregation to pull people together. As we swapped stories over a packet of Maltesers on the rainy ride back to the venue, I was again reminded of the simplicity of a simple message that has welcomed and embraced so many.
The church is empowered to connect people through the power of community, and as I have witnessed, so many people, from churches and places, not just from around Australia, but from around the world, at this year's conference.
I am a witness of this connection, it intrigues people into acknowledging that there are many who care and see beyond themselves and invest into the lives of others. I am encouraged that there are those who are committing to be involved in this life-giving community.
Pastor Brian Houston shared that "you do not have to attend Hillsong; just find a local church and invest your life into it, and you will never be the same again".
This encouraging thought is intrinsic to us as a people longing for a sense of belonging. Every person wants a place to be accepted, and if we are able to become part of such a community that love and are loved, perhaps this is the way - we can let hope rise.
Joseph Kolapudi is a culture-kid born in Australia to Indian parents, Joseph recently returned from California where he was studying theology at Fuller, and has been working for the US Center for World Mission; his love of books and writing has now drawn him to PSI.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html