This is a guest article by Unbound Student Jace Bower.
I remember sitting at my first APEX event in 2015, waiting in interested anticipation for Joshua Shi to stand up and give his student keynote. At the time, Josh was just an Unbound student like myself. He had been given the opportunity to be one of two student keynote speakers at APEX 2015.
The lights dimmed and all the conversations across the room came to a close. Josh was introduced in typical Josh fashion: hype music and high-fiving students in the audience as he danced his way down the aisle to the front of the small, intimate, auditorium.
The energy of that night was high but it didn’t remain on the surface for long. Josh drilled his main point deep into his listeners’ hearts. He eloquently and charismatically communicated his central message: surrender to God whatever is holding you back from executing your purpose.
Josh called us to examine our lives for that one part that we were still holding onto, trying to control. He encouraged us to find what that was, then surrender it to God. He embellished his talk with examples from his own life as well as the inspiring story of Gladys Aylward, a missionary to China.
Gladys had a vision to take the Gospel to China but was faced with many obstacles. Many missionary leaders told her that she was “unqualified” for missions work. Despite the many obstacles and naysayers, she surrendered her dreams to the Lord and did not give up her vision. In 1932 she set out for China, spending all her life savings on the passage through the Siberian wilderness. She arrived in China after an adventurous journey and remained there until her death in 1970.
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Josh’s dynamic storytelling style made it seem like I was with Gladys herself as she battled the setbacks and obstacles that stood between her and the work that God had called her to. He wisely pointed out that each person has something that stands between them and the realization of their vision. For some it’s a sin, for some it’s a fear, for some it’s a selfish ambition.
To say that this keynote, carefully prepared through weeks of practice, had a profound impact on the students in the audience that day would be an understatement. When Josh closed his talk, the room was silent as each listener spent time contemplating the application of Josh’s words.
Josh’s keynote was four years ago but the application of those words have stuck with me over all that time. I realized that I would never accomplish anything “great” for God apart from Him. Surrendering was the first step in finding purpose and fulfillment in relationship with God. That’s something I’ve been learning for the last several years. Josh’s keynote was a formative point in my journey of understanding that concept.
And I’m very certain I wasn’t the only one who left Josh’s talk that evening with a lot to think about. I am still grateful for Josh’s courage and wisdom in addressing his fellow students and encouraging us to step out and surrender our fears, failures, desires, and everything else holding us back.
Since graduating with a BA in History from Thomas Edison State University in 2016, Jace has devoted his time to learning how to engage the culture through dynamic storytelling especially in the mediums of writing and music.
Hannah Linde is the former Student Community Coordinator & Marketing Manager for Unbound Student Life. She loves people, hiking, and learning, but most importantly loves raising her two little boys — Clarke and Ollie. She is a 2016 Unbound Alumna with a BSBA in Project Management from Liberty University and passionate about the Unbound community.