“This is Now…Don’t wait for Then; strike the spark, light the fire.” — Rumi
Sometimes we face life’s challenges and changes with a torch — but more often, we are given a spark. And what we do with that spark makes all the difference.
In a year where relationships have been strained to the breaking point in everything from politics to physical distancing, this year’s APEX theme of “Community” resonated more deeply than anyone guessed when it was created last fall. And as a tight-knit community of students, perhaps what 2020 needed more than anything was a sweet reminder of how much we need each other — and what a beautiful gift it actually is to be in the same place.
Although COVID-19 restrictions may have canceled our national APEX: Ignite event, it couldn’t keep us from being a community. And thanks to our National Student Cabinet, APEX came to our student body instead. The Cabinet resiliently rewrote the script, re-dedicated themselves to extra months of work, and braved COVID to travel around the country. Held in four different locations over four extraordinary weekends, these events brought together students, staff, and virtual speakers for the first time since Unbound became a unique company on July 1.
Want the SparkNotes version (yeah, pun intended)?
Great keynotes are a deep element of APEX. Even with the changes this year, these Spark events were no exception. Jonathan Brush opened each event with a moving recap of Unbound’s journey. From its creation over a decade ago to today, Jonathan shared the miracles that God has done on our behalf. Grounded in practicality, the session challenged students to risk dreaming about bigger changes in our generation than might seem possible.
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Speakers Dave Runyon and Jasmine Holmes filmed personal sessions for our students to watch. They then participated in live Zoom Q&A’s for each event. A successful author, mother, and speaker, Jasmine spoke to the pattern of Creation, Fall and Redemption and how this applies to our relationships with others. Dave Runyon, pastor, non-profit leader, and pioneer of the “neighboring” movement, tackled the question of “Who is my neighbor” head-on. He directly challenged the modern generational paradigm of not knowing your immediate neighbors.
With a history that spans much of the changes in Unbound’s student history, alumni speakers Abraham Chen and I shared personal stories and lessons from our own experiences and challenged students to look up, inside, and outside of themselves as well as to truly “see” others and risk being real.
From intense small group discussions to photo challenges, students made the most of each precious minute at these 30-hour events. Connecting over great questions, fun free time games like life-sized Dutch Blitz, and the Musical Chairs tradition are APEX customs. Spark attendees enjoyed both the profound and the light-hearted. We found time to start a random dance party, race each other to Flight of the Bumblebee, and lip-sync a Journey concert.
At each event, Saturday night culminated in a celebration of this year’s graduates and their remarkable accomplishments. Jonathan Brush served as the commencement speaker, delivering a powerful and resonating challenge to graduates, alumni, and students alike. We are facing unique difficulties, but difficulty itself is not unique. We can look to the examples of those who have previously triumphed over their own set of hardships — and changed the world in doing so.
…And Now What?
“A spark is a little thing, yet it may kindle the world.” — Martin Farquhar Tupper
APEX is over for this year. But with our speakers’ challenges — and the encouragement of our fellow students and alumni – still ringing in our ears, it’s no longer enough to just go on in normal life.
In fact, this year pretty much guarantees that we can’t go on “normally”. Because for most of us, “normal” isn’t there any more.
But if what we do with a spark makes all the difference —
Then what better time to challenge our current ideas about what community should look like?
What better time to find creative ways to reach out to our local neighborhoods, our local church, our local friends, our local communities — as well as to our Unbound friends?
In the words of our first quote, what happens if you do that now instead of waiting till “then”?
And if you do, what will your life – your relationships, your community — look like tomorrow?
Victoria Grant is the Director of Content and Coaching for Unbound. An Unbound graduate, Victoria has served in a variety of roles including student leadership, coaching, and in the Business and Leadership program. She is passionate about equipping young adults to recognize their potential, to know God, and make Him known in daily life.
When she’s not working on an Unbound project, you can find her scribbling on a novel, playing a favorite instrument, riding horses, watching a sunset, or dreaming up some new adventure that absolutely includes the Pacific coastline. One of the best parts of her world is walking alongside her fellow Unbound students as they make an eternal impact in their generation.