Ross McEwan, a senior sport management major from Dumbarton, a town near Glasgow, Scotland, served this year as president of the Student Christian Association. He is a member of the Men’s Golf and Cross Country teams. McEwan, who is also completing minors in Bible and religion, business administration, and health, was invited to represent Erskine College at the 65th Annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The breakfast Feb. 2 was followed by a leadership training weekend sponsored by the National Student Leadership Forum. Here he writes about his experience.
As I reflect on an intensive five days of prayer, networking, learning, and exploring in Washington, D.C., I thank God for the amazing opportunities He has put in front of me thus far in my American college journey. This year’s National Prayer Breakfast, followed by the National Student Leadership Forum student weekend, proved to be some of the best days of my life. It is particularly humbling for me to see God’s intricate plan unfold as He provides new opportunities of growth and networking as I near my May graduation. I am also immensely thankful to the many friends and mentors who continue to support and encourage me every step of the way. My attendance at the 65th National Prayer Breakfast would not have come to fruition if it were not for these beautiful brothers and sisters in the faith.
After landing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, February 1, I made my way to the Washington Hilton Hotel and prepared for the first event of the extended National Prayer Breakfast festivities. Meal number one on Wednesday evening rocked my world and shattered all expectations I had for the week. Not only did Vice President Mike Pence greet and pray over our dinner party of around one hundred people, he was followed by an after-dinner sermon and further time of prayer by Pastor Rick Warren. I certainly felt like we’d gotten off to a flying start. Onwards from the opening evening, I decided to set two challenging goals for myself; firstly, to sit with and boldly communicate with a different group of leaders at each gathering, and secondly, to ask a question in each of the group Q&A sessions. These goals (although somewhat nerve-wracking amidst many congressmen, senators, and some of the world’s most elite leaders) definitely helped me grow as a young leader and connect with many influential individuals from across the world.
Words cannot do justice to how the high caliber of Wednesday evening remained consistent throughout Thursday. Starting off with the National Prayer Breakfast, we heard from many speakers throughout the day including President Donald Trump, Pastor Rick Warren, and 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (who was beautifully explicit in his testimony of Jesus Christ’s central role in his life). After a long day filled with many great lessons and much networking, the 65th National Prayer Breakfast came to a close for the 3,000-plus world leaders from 140 different countries and all major world religions. I and the 99 other student leaders had an intensive extended student leadership weekend ahead of us, and my excitement continued to grow in spite of my diminishing energy levels after the craziest two days of my life. Good job I’m an extrovert!
Leaving the Prayer Breakfast for the student weekend, I felt incredibly encouraged in my faith as the name of Jesus was lifted high. If I were to sum up the first leg of this adventure, I’d say that there was a theme of all national/international and Republican/Democrat barriers being broken down for the purpose of coming together in love and unity as brothers and sisters under the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. This theme of love and community continued as 100 college student leaders from all over the States and throughout the world gathered together to learn more about the greatest leader in the history of the world—Jesus Christ.
My biggest lesson from the student weekend was one of intentionality. This idea of intentionality can be summarized in a very simple thought that was shared with us in our first meeting; “We must be constantly thinking of doing the ‘rightest’ thing in each moment.” Looking at this idea through a lens of Christology made beautifully clear the call for us to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22) and to rise up out of our comfortable complacency to get out and stand in the field. I could write many pages expounding on this simple idea of choosing the good, but in summary I left feeling immensely motivated to be more intentional about caring for the least, the last, and the lost among us by meeting people one-on-one on their level instead of trying to force complicated and foreign ideas upon them. I gained a much stronger desire to get to know people better in order to learn how to love and serve them better, just as Christ would love and serve different people in different ways.
In conclusion, I would encourage any fellow student leader to consider attending a National Student Leadership Forum event, either by state or nationally. It has blown open a whole new world of valuable knowledge and networking that I am excited to maintain in this season of change and uncertainty. I can sense God using this new knowledge, together with an immensely larger network of believers, in some seriously profound ways. I would be encouraged to share more of my experiences with anyone who’d be interested—there is so much to share, much more than could possibly be portrayed in this brief summary. What a beautiful thing it is when 3,000-plus leaders come together under the banner of Jesus Christ to share friends, knowledge, and resources. The body is at work in this world, in this country, and at this college.