6Months ago I was pretty determined not to go to Rocknations, for one thing I couldn't afford to and for another I wasn't overly impressed with the conference the last time I went.Furthermore, I hate hype, so when people get obsessive over things particularly christian events my enthusiasm drops like a sack of potatoes. It was my friends Annie and Sophie whoeventually persuaded me to sign up and pray the money in - they told me that whilst I may not get anything out of it I still had lots to contribute. Sure enough the money came through and last week, I, along with 70 other tweens, teens and twenty-somethings spent four days in a very posh hotel in Bradford walking to and from Abundant Life Church. It has definitely been one of the most significant moments of my Summer.

One of the highlights of my time at Rocknations was the opportunity to spend time with my youth group. I loved being able to go deeper than the usual 'Hi, how are you?, how's your week been? how's school? what's your name again!?' I was lucky enough to have 4 awesome girlies in my group and I loved all the conversations we had on our walks up to the church. They made me so proud and gave me so much hope, their faith and passion are inspirational. I also have the privilege of mentoring 2 other very gorgeous girlies and I found it so refreshing and uplifting to grab coffee with them and go through their notes, opinions, dreams, fears and to pray with them. God really spoke to me through these 'mentoring' sessions and I began to feel less like a vegetable and more like Ellie Jackson again. It was also really good to spend time with my friends who were also leaders, the bible talks about treating men and women like brothers and sisters and over those four days they really began to feel like my spiritual family. I had an amazing DMC with one of these 'brothers' and he really built me up and encouraged me and it was so special to cry, pray and share with the girls in my room. Every day one of us would crumble and the other two would pick up the pieces. That is love in practice.

Those who know me well will know how I feel about RPM in that I am often very cynical about them. However, on hearing them live I have to say that I was very wrong about them. I enjoyed their songs and they generally led worship really well. Even so, there were moments where I felt like they were more interested in playing us their songs than leading us in worship, something which was only emphasised when they did an autograph signing after the evening meeting. This is where Parachute Band really raised the bar on worship leading. They appeared on the second night of the conference, a bunch of guys from New Zealand who travel all over their country collecting songs from local churches and putting them onto albums. This meant that every single song was well structured and incredibly powerful, their set was not about their talent or selling albums, it was about leading people to worship and everyone I spoke to after the conference felt they connected with the spirit more with Parachute Band than any other worship band.

I am also generally quite skeptical about the Gambills, and once again my cynicism was overridden by the outstanding material that was presented to us. Every single preach hit different areas of my soul, in particular Steve Gambill's on putting our dreams into an 'Isaac' Box to show that we are handing them over to God and his leadership seminar on increasing capacity (apparently sleep isn't the answer!) Abs Niblock's word on decision making was also incredible. Again, the teenagers I spoke to after these meetings were deeply impacted by these talks and I know that many attitudes have been changed forever.

The concept of prioritising character development and our relationship with God before our talents and dreams was especially prominent. I was speaking to one guy who wants to be a worship leader and I had the privilege of praying with him, asking God to put humility at the centre of his character. He recognised that God is ultimately in control of his future and that talent alone will get him nowhere.

That is the idea that I have taken away with me. I arrived at the conference feeling emotionally drained and completely useless. I was running on empty and felt like I had nothing left to give. Yet God still used me in my brokenness, he showed me that despite feeling fragile and vulnerable it was his strength in my core that kept me going and pulled me back together. He forced me to put the needs of the young people in my care before my own and made it clear that by doing this I would be taking a step further along the healing process. How great is our God!?

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