First full day of NYG accomplished!
I’m happy to report Holy Cross youth group has survived its first full day of the conference—meaning Morning Session followed by session after session after session. We’ve been surprised by the sheer number of people here at the convention center and how that has impacted our first day. More specifically, we’ve had a bit of a challenge attending sessions and getting food because there are people everywhere. BUT, I do believe it will be better throughout the week as we all learn how to best navigate the schedule, the crowds, and (yes) the food.
Some sessions the youth were able to attend include:
- i doubt it
- Leading Like the Elite
- 321 Improv
- Next Steps After High School
Something I haven’t mentioned yet in the blog is the BOMB. PHOTO. SCAVENGER. HUNT. the youth are participating in. We (amazing youth leaders) put together a fun hunt that the youth are really enjoying. I’ve included some pictures they took during or many excursions, and they get bonus points for creativity. They are pretty competitive, so they’ve been doing a great job at maintaining it.
As we transitioned to the Mass Event after dinner, the theme of the conference began to creep back into our minds. Real. Present. God. We’re assuming each day focuses on a different part of the theme, and today was “real”—meaning bringing our true, authentic selves (blemishes and all) to our real God. Because Jesus became human, He bridged the gap between us and the Father. Because Jesus is real, we can be real with God.
I don’t think I could write about tonight better than Ben has in his description below, so at this point I will hand off the reigns to our fearless leader:
The mass gathering tonight was very powerful and impactful, with the youth getting far more out of it than the first night. The event included several skits dealing with how we hide our "real" self out of fear, guilt, and shame. These themes are very relevant to the youth and the skits led them to wrestle with how they face being real in their own life.
While part of the evening was about being real with those around us, the deeper theme was being real with God and with ourselves. Often we try to hide who we truly are from God out of shame and guilt at what we have done, believing that we aren't good enough, that we have screwed up too much, that we are unlovable. Instead of coming to God being honest about ourselves we try to down play our sins and brokeness, we try and justify ourselves before God, we try and hold onto our sin and hide it from God, but we don't have to because Christ has already taken it from us on the Cross. Because Christ came and was fully real, we can be real with God because he has taken our sin from us. He has freed us from the burden of hiding our real selves from God.
The main speaker for the evening, Ahley Paavola, had an amazing talk that not only dealt with issues of being real, but also dove head first into discussing racial disparity and race relations in the United States, along with many big problems that often seem to be far too great for us to handle or do anything about. It really resonated with the kids on multiple levels, and we were able to hear some of their comments about it later at our debrief. They were struck by how torn she was between pretending she understood the girls she was ministering to’s situations and revealing she really had no idea the situations by which they are confronted. In turn, this allowed her to build real relationships with these girls and learn about them in a way that allowed her to grow just as much as them. As she nicely put it, "God's power is made perfect in our weakness, not in our fakery.”
It's clear God is doing a lot here in the hearts and minds of our youth, but even moreso it's evident more than just these teenagers lives are being touched. As youth leaders, we benefit just as much from this experience (or more) than these youth. I know I've thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with the youth, building relationships and having "real talk", as well as growing in my own knowledge of Scripture as we attend all the sessions. While it's easy to point out the craziness caused by the logistical challenge of hosting so many people in one area, I think we can continue to thank God for the amazing feat it is to bring so many people together to come praise His name. On that note, we'd like to extend a few prayer requests out there as we continue on in the conference this week:
- Susan's friend Marianne with surgery complications.
- Cat's great grandpa who passed away, her family in the loss; as well as a close family friend who recently passed as well.
- Continued thanksgiving for being at the gathering and for certain things to go more smoothly throughout the week.
- Safe upcoming travels for those coming and going from the gathering.