Friday, August 04, 2006

Youth bear witness to a faith in Christ that moves mountains.

National Youth Conference (NYC), July 22-27, 2006, challenged the youth of the Church of the Brethren to "come and see" with a conference theme inspired by John 1:35-39. The 3,606 youth and advisors who answered the call witnessed a faith in Christ that can move mountains.

Set at the base of the Rocky Mountains on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., NYC offered a experience of the awesomeness of God’s creation, and a challenge to "move" the mountainous problems of our world such as hunger, poverty, child welfare, and violence.

Worship played a central role, with morning and evening worship celebrations held in Moby Arena. Questions of the day guided worship services led by a host of dynamic speakers--and by the NYC band that rocked the arena with the theme song, "Come and See" by Seth Hendricks.

Among preachers who inspired and challenged the youth were Craig Kielburger, founder of (Kids Can) Free the Children, who urged youth not to wait to get to work for God. "Every day we receive our calling," he said.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners community in Washington, D.C., and an evangelical leader on social issues, gave the youth an important task: "You’ve got to clear up the confusion about what it means to be a Christian." Following Jesus means getting in the middle of the world’s suffering, "because that’s where (Jesus) stands inviting us in," he said.

Ken Medema, who has been a popular performer at previous youth conferences, sang a song in response to Wallis’ message. The congregation was invited to join in the chorus: "We are the people we’ve been waiting for. The world is waiting so come through the door. There’s lots of room here on the dancing floor. There’s no delaying anymore."

The Mennonite comedy duo Ted and Lee were received with laughter and applause as they acted out gospel stories about the disciples’ relationship with Jesus.

Youth speakers Jamie Frye from Kansas, Allen Bowers from Virginia, and Chrissy Sollenberger from Pennsylvania, each gave his or her own different perspective on what following Jesus really means.

Jeff Carter, pastor of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, answered the NYC theme with his statement, "It is the Christ that we have come to see."

In a service created by General Board staff, several Brethren youth and adults spoke of the importance of being part of the church, and told stories of their work for Christ in the world.

Beth Gunzel, Brethren mission worker in the Dominican Republic and consultant for a microloan community development program of the Church of the Brethren, led a service focused on the situation of the poor in the DR. She said that Christians have a responsibility to others. "We are guided by the Holy Spirit to turn wrongs into rights, to be used for a divine purpose," she said.

Andrew Murray, professor of peace studies at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and a popular Brethren folksinger, answered the question of the day, "Who are you becoming?" At age 64, he told the conference that most of what he has become he never anticipated. "I believe Jesus said, ‘Come and see,’ because whose you become will determine who you become."

Preaching on 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Bethany Seminary professor Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm said, "God’s got you covered.... But beware of the protective coverings you make for yourself" including "veils" of hardness of heart and mind, she added. "If you want to loosen the hold of hardness...then do what God does, do what this conference has asked you to do. Ask questions." Wilhelm asserted, "With every question we ask, we join Jesus in tugging at the veils and revealing God."

Worship on Wednesday evening ended with anointing for freedom through Christ. Afterwards, in moments of deep emotion, groups of youth sat in tight circles on the floor, or stood in large groups, swaying to the music with their arms around each other.

"I am ready to change the world!" responded Deborah from Washington State the next morning. She was one of several youth who gave testimonies at the final worship service. At NYC, "thousands of strangers have truly become the body of Christ," said Caitlin from Arizona.

New Community Project director David Radcliff preached for closing worship. "You’ve got the world in your hands," he said in a sermon that sent youth home with new hope and energy to follow Jesus. Brethren youth are up to the challenges of the 21st century, he said. "Jesus will give you power to change this world," Radcliff said. "I want to tell you Jesus believes in you, enough to put his mission and his world in your hands."

In addition to worship, NYC offered small groups, concerts, recreation, service projects, workshops, devotions, and late-evening activities. Tournaments of Jungle Ball volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee continued late Wednesday because of interruptions by afternoon thunderstorms earlier in the week. Concerts were given by Superchick, Ken Medema, Andy and Terry Murray, The Guys, and the Bittersweet Gospel Band. Other late-evening activities included worship service led by groups from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, a talk-back session with Jim Wallis, a reception honoring scholarship recipients and international guests, a swing dance, a performance of "Godspell" by an arts camp from Camp Harmony, and an Open Mic talent show.

NYC coordinators Cindy Laprade, Beth Rhodes, and Emily Tyler worked with Chris Douglas, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the General Board, and the National Youth Cabinet to prepare for the conference over the past two years. Cabinet members are Becky Ball-Miller, Leigh-Anne Enders, Nick Kauffman, Zac Morgan, Shawn Flory Replogle, Erin Smith, and Rachael Stevens. Numerous other volunteers made NYC possible including youth workers, worship coordinators and musicians, workshop and special event leaders, and youth advisors from congregations and districts.

For more stories and photos from National Youth Conference 2006, go to

Source: 8/4/2006 Newsline Special Report

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