I’m in front of Pilate’s house.”
It was the only way I knew how to explain where I was to my Adventist friend the first time I attended Camp Meeting.
Before I even knew what a Seventh-day Adventist was, I knew and loved SonRise. SonRise is an interactive, put-you-there-at-the-scene trip through Christ’s final days leading to His death and resurrection. The cast consists of more than 500 Southern Adventist University students and church members.Five or six years ago, my mom somehow got tickets to this immersive Easter pageant. Neither of us can remember how she got those first tickets, but we went together, and what I witnessed was life-changing. I saw Jesus cry and pray in Gethsemane, I saw Him die on the cross for my sins, and I saw him rise from the grave. I openly wept harder than I had ever wept from a spiritual experience.
After that, we continued to go almost every year. Even during a time in my life when I didn’t know what or who to believe when it came to the idea of faith, I still went to SonRise, and I still cried when Jesus rose from the tomb. I knew I wanted a relationship with Him, but I didn’t know how to get it. I was afraid of being hurt in church again.
I did not know during that first experience or in the years following that that would become my church. The very path I walked so many times following Jesus in His last days would become the campus where I received my education. God knew, though. I like to think that every time I walked through SonRise, God looked down on me and thought, “You don’t know it yet, but I have big plans for you here, plans that will shape you into the woman of God that I created you to be.”
This year, after so many years of watching and wishing I could be a part of the story, I decided to audition for SonRise. I was offered the role of Mary, mother of Jesus. What shoes to fill, indeed! I was beyond blessed to have the opportunity to give back to a ministry that made such a difference to me as a non-believer. I had my reservations about committing. After all, I was a busy student with multiple jobs and obligations, but I felt in my heart that this was something I needed to do, even if it meant going home completely worn out. However, that was never the case at all. It was as if every source of stress and exhaustion from the rest of the world melted away, and I left every rehearsal with a smile on my face and a sweet sense of peace and rejuvenation. I became very close with many fellow cast members. Even now that it’s over, I see them in the hall and we stop and speak — people I never would have known if I hadn’t decided to participate.
On the day of, the weatherman called for rain. It was supposed to be cold and stormy all during SonRise day. There was some talk of a contingency plan, but the weatherman was no match for hundreds if not thousands of prayers. My bare feet were cold, but a light drizzle was the worst weather we saw all day. And, by the end of the day, several individuals gave their hearts to Jesus.
It was no coincidence that my mom was given tickets that first year. I know that it was God setting the stage for my own transformation. Even though SonRise didn’t play a direct role in my reacceptance of Jesus, it serves as a precious reminder that God will never leave us, and He has a plan for us even in the darkest times.
Georgia-Cumberland | July 2019