By Ana Franco-Guzman
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sunscreen, water, a bag, Bible, notebook, money to purchase food and a good singing voice were all on Loren Soto-Barrios’ “what to bring” list for last weekend’s “Together 2016” in Washington.
“Francis Chan and Hillsong United,” 22-year-old Soto-Barrios told me when asked who she was most excited to see. They were among a number of speakers and recording artists who headlined the gathering, held near the Washington Monument.
She and her friends Michael Herelle, 22, Caitlyn Sass, 24, and Steve Nieves, 24, were four people in a crowd of about 350,000 people at the event. Soto-Barrios talked to me about the experience and what it took to get here for it.
On the Friday before, Herelle, Sass and Soto-Barrios left New Jersey and drove to Delaware to pick up Nieves. They were out of the house Saturday morning at about 7:30 a.m. to drive to Washington.
They then took a Metro subway train from The Catholic University of America stop to arrive at the National Mall by 9 a.m. It was at the Metro that we unexpectedly crossed paths.
“Once at the event, I saw that the line lasted for miles (but) I was not upset,” Soto-Barrios told me. “I had the opposite reaction, I was rejoicing. I could not believe this many people were waiting in line for this event. Everyone was there for Jesus, and it blew my mind that there were that many people there. I thank God for moments like that.”
In line the group of four split up, so that it would be easier to reserve a spot on the lawn. Herelle and Soto-Barrios waited in a security line, carrying the bags for all four. The other two went through an entrance for those without bags.
Soto-Barrios said at that moment she thought of “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” by Joanna Weaver, saying that “like the man in the book,” Herelle would carry everyone’s “burdens” (bags) and would not be able to keep going. But Herelle told her it “was much easier to do this and that this was not the case.”
Once inside the fence, it was hard for Herelle and Soto-Barrios to find their friends because of the amount of people. Via their cellphones, they had to describe their surroundings in detail so they could find each other — and eventually they did.
“At the event we were asked to split into groups to pray, and it was so nice for all of us to come together and pray together. All from different races, ages, we got together and prayed for this event, this moment, our nation and for our God,” said Soto- Barrios.
It may sound silly, she said, but “I have had dreams of coming to Washington, of being there in that moment where we were over the weekend. Dreams of being there with that many people for God,” Soto-Barrios said.
One takeaway from the event for Soto-Barrios was to follow 1 Corinthians 13, the way of love. “We need to act with a spirit of love,” she told me. For her this means acting with love and not judgment toward everything.
“This weekend was a confirmation that it’s all the Holy Spirit that helps me in every situation to act in the name of Jesus. When we welcome him, everything just becomes clearer to you. God has a plan for me and has saved me. I want to figure out what that plan is,” Soto-Barrios said.