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What 3,000 People will Remember about SEU Conference 2018

By: Kerryn MacMichael, SEU Student

Always. Only. Jesus.

Always. Only. Jesus.

Always. Only. Jesus.

The heartbeat behind SEU Conference 2018 was a powerful message that defined every aspect of the three-day event held from February 26–28 at Family Worship Center in Lakeland, Florida.

“This theme was established out of a heart of making Jesus known among our campus and community,” said Jordan Muckle, who works in the Department of Spiritual Formation and served as the coordinator for SEU Conference 2018. “We believe that God wanted to speak something fresh to our university at Conference, and we wanted to make the theme around what truly only matters: Jesus.”

While the three-day event was similar to SEU Conferences of years past, it also explored new paths.

“For the first time ever, SEU Worship recorded a live album over the duration of the five sessions,” Muckle explained. “In addition, we were able to bring in a wide range of diverse speakers. And, Mosaic MSC closed out SEU Conference 2018 in a full worship set.”

She considered directing the event an honor and attributed the success to help with time, details, and planning from the team leads and volunteers.  

Conference 2018 impacted thousands of lives. But for Emma Dooley and Elena Espinoza, students at Southeastern University, the impact was life-changing. Last year, Dooley felt a tug on her heart during Conference 2017 that led to her financial support of a Compassion International child. She then had the opportunity to share her story with the thousands of attendees at Conference 2018. Espinoza received a powerful message from the Lord during conference that inspired her to create a business that spreads His message.

Emma’s Story

Dooley (Elementary Education, ’20) traveled to Uganda in 2017 with a mission team to meet the Compassion International child that she decided to sponsor during SEU Conference 2017. When she first arrived in Uganda, she was blown away by God’s timing. While they were exchanging money at a bank, her team met a Ugandan girl that had applied to Southeastern. Later, they happened across another mission team that belonged to a church where an SEU extension site was going to launch.

“We met so many people we shouldn’t have met halfway across the world,” she said. She knew this was God’s confirmation that she should be there, which gave her peace during the trip.

When the team arrived at the Compassion site, their bus was immediately flooded with kids that were singing and dancing and wanting to be held. Dooley had the opportunity to meet her four-year-old Compassion child, Brayan, who had traveled from four hours away with his father and was all dressed up to meet her. Brayan’s father hugged Dooley right away and told her, “From the moment that we knew you we started praying for you. Thank you so much for joining our family.”

Dooley describes Brayan as shy at first, but full of laughter and wanting to be held by the end of the first day. During the four and a half days she spent with the boy, she was able to gift him with a suitcase full of toys, clothes and shoes, and watch him simply be a kid and not worry about family responsibilities. He did not say more than two words the entire trip, but when it was time to go, he latched onto her and tearfully whispered, “I love you.”

At Conference 2018, Dooley had the opportunity to share her story about sponsoring and visiting Brayan. She spoke on stage alongside two other Compassion sponsors. After she shared, there was an opportunity for everyone present to make the decision to sponsor a child in need and receive an application packet with their child. Hundreds of hands shot up, and every single packet was distributed that night. People came up to Dooley afterwards and told her that she was the reason that they sponsored a child.

“Our God can do anything that He wants and you can’t tell me that He’s not real,” Dooley said. From the confirmation while on the trip, to meeting Brayan, to sharing her story on stage, Dooley held fast to her faith in God’s direction in her life. Her story blessed lives not only at Conference 2018, but the lives of Compassion children that were sponsored as a result.

Elena’s Story

Espinoza (Digital Journalism, ’21) struggled for three years with a disintegrating jaw after it was injured during her sophomore year of high school. She did not feel peace about having surgery, so she tried several non-surgical ways to move her cartilage back into place … but to no avail. Later, an MRI showed that the cartilage had completely disintegrated on one side of her jaw and was blocking her airway, a phenomenon that she describes as the feeling of “breathing through a straw.”

At the second night of Conference, speaker Benny Perez spoke about God’s healing in a powerful way that would forever change Espinoza’s life. During worship, he asked those in pain to raise their right hand if they needed God’s healing and to place the hand where the pain originated. Her hand shot up and went to her jaw, which was especially sore from worshipping. She prayed to the Lord with complete faith in His healing, saying, “[My jaw] is sore but I give it to You. There’s pain, but I give it to You.” She started to feel a pressure in her jaw and to her sheer surprise, her next breath was deeper than she expected it to be. From that moment, her pain disappeared.

Since that day, Espinoza learned that she needed to have more faith after the miracle than for it. She had believed God would do it but needed even more faith to believe that He had done it. After Conference, she had the opportunity to share her story during Southeastern’s chapel and on SEU Radio, opportunities she knew she wouldn’t have been given if her jaw hadn’t been healed. “God, this is your moment. Take it,” she prayed before sharing her story at chapel. “Whatever you want to be said, heard or known about this story, just take it.”

She was later inspired to start a t-shirt business supporting mission work when she heard a metaphor about a cargo ship. The metaphor stated that a cargo ship in a harbor must move forward before it can be guided in any direction and becomes equipped to carry cargo from port to port. Espinoza said that in the same way we must step forward in faith for God to guide us, because we are equipped by him to share His Gospel. The fitting name for her business is Step Out of the Harbor.

The Story Continues

God is at work at Southeastern University, and Conference 2018 was an influential tool that He used to spread His message.

“There were moments where I was able to step back and watch as 3,000 people worshiped and experienced God’s presence in a way most of them never have before,” said Muckle. “The prayers that were spoken over this conference were heard, and God truly showed up and shifted the spiritual climate of the university. We are still hearing stories of lives that were healed, changed and touched by God’s presence at SEU Conference 2018.”

Espinoza’s and Dooley’s powerful stories are two out of thousands of lives that were touched during the February event and their stories are not over yet. Today, Espinoza’s Step Out of the Harbor is gaining recognition not only on Southeastern University’s campus but all over the country. Dooley continues to support Brayan financially and prayerfully. She keeps a Ugandan flag in her room as a reminder to pray for him daily, and they write letters back and forth.

Ultimately, Conference 2018 was not about the live recording of SEU Worship’s album, the incredible speakers, or even the lives that were touched. It was always and only about Jesus. Southeastern’s campus aligned seamlessly with this message after Conference because students were inspired to spread the message. Jesus became even more known in the community in countless, new and beautiful ways.

What will 3000 people remember about Conference 2018?

Always. Only. Jesus.

Save The Date

The next SEU Conference will be held February 11-13, 2019.