ATLANTA (AP) - College students are known more for keg parties than prayer and worship, but the latter is exactly why Chris Nehmer drove 12 hours on New Year's Eve.
The 21-year-old junior at Wheaton College in Illinois is one of 22,000 college students from around the world who have flocked to Atlanta for the Passion Conference. The annual four-day event brings college students together in a non-denominational environment to talk about Christianity and global concerns.
"For 20,000 college kids to come together for any purpose is incredible," said Nehmer, who attended last year's conference in Nashville, Tenn.
For the first time this year, conference organizers also asked students to help people across the globe, ranging from donating money for wells in Africa to money for translations of the New Testament in Indonesia. The conference hopes to raise $500,000 for those efforts.
On a more local level, each attendee was asked to bring a pair of socks and a towel to donate to Atlanta homeless shelters and missions. Just an hour into registration for the conference on Monday at the Georgia World Congress Center, the sock bins were overflowing and hundreds of towels were bundled and stacked in the lobby.
Conference officials said they asked local shelters what they needed most, and socks and towels topped the list.
"We didn't want the students to come and leave Atlanta, and Atlanta never be changed or different," said Cheryl Bell, director of events for the conference.
Though the Passion Conference headquarters are in Alpharetta, this is the first year the event has been held in Atlanta. The conferences have been held since 1997 in cities across the country.
Volunteer Becca Christian, 24, said the conference provides college students with a positive environment in which to explore their faith.
"College ministry is a much needed thing," said Christian, who does full-time mission work in Africa. "Once you get out of high school, there are so many other worldly influences."
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