by Jaime Loewen
You may not realize that the weekend doesn’t actually begin with the arrival at the destination. It begins the moment the group comes together at 8 a.m. all sleepy-eyed with their pillows under arms ready to load into a squished bus. This journey began on Friday, May 19, 2017, in the parking lot of the Kleefeld EMC (my home church) with 20 youth and an eight hour drive ahead.
One pit stop and plenty of kilometers later, 28 churches from across Canada arrived at Briercrest College in Caronport, Sask., all eager for our weekend of fun and learning.
First Main Session
After settling in the dorms and eating supper, it was time for the first main session. At each session we begin with praise and worship. The band called “The Color” has performed for the past three Abundant Springs. They do an amazing job creating an atmosphere free to worship Jesus; and many youth, when asked their favourite part of the weekend, responded with “the worship.”
This year we had the privilege of having Sid Koop as our main speaker. Sid, who is passionate about awakening the lives of students through the truth of Jesus Christ, has spent over 15 years in full-time youth ministry in the local church. Sid taught us what it meant to be alive in Christ by focusing the weekend’s sessions on Eph. 2:4-5.
Sid explained to us what it means to be alive in Christ and how God makes us alive in Him. He started the session with the story of the Pharisees, in Luke 15:1-7, who were expecting God to be firm and harsh in his judgment, to cast those that stumble or stray away from his presence. But Jesus used the parable of the lost sheep to illustrate how God is eager to be with us.
The shepherd did for the sheep what the sheep cannot do on its own: find its way home. Likewise, God does for us what we cannot do: make us alive in him through the sacrifice of his one and only Son. Sometimes we need the reminder that it wasn’t us that pursued first; even while we were full of sin, God continued to pursue us.
After each main session each of the youth groups break off into small groups to reflect on the message, share thoughts and stories from throughout the day, and to pray for any requests. These strengthen the youth groups and build deep relationships.
Youth continue learning in smaller workshops both Saturday and Sunday morning. There are many workshops running, so youth choose. Some of the topics were Human Trafficking: Bringing Hope in the Face of Tragedy by Flo Friesen, Freedom From Addictions by Teen Challenge, and Making the Bible Come Alive by Dr. Patrick Friesen.
Saturday afternoon met us with a ton of activities, including sports tournaments: street hockey, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. For those inclined to the finer arts, there were indoor activities and crafts such as bracelet making, painting, drawing, board games, and a wild game of life-sized Dutch Blitz.
Sid talked about condemnation and hypocrisy and how we tend to look to things to give us life (materialistic objects, relationships, success and popularity); and how these things actually give us the exact opposite and lead us farther away from living in the truth.
When we focus on these earthly things we become hypocritical and condemning of others. We listen to the voice telling us that we can do things better than others or be better than others. But Jesus came to recreate us and we no longer have to listen to these voices. Instead of our experiencing condemnation, Jesus gives us life through dying on the cross and offers us continual grace and a better way to live.
After this evening session the entertainment committee hosted what is now called The Showdown. Youth leaders prepared game show activities for volunteers. One was The Whisper Challenge where one person whispered a phrase and the other person, while wearing headphones with loud music playing, tried to figure out what is said. Another was The Bottle Flip: three youths competed to flip a bottle so it landed upright.
Following Sunday’s workshops and lunch was the Wide Game, where all the youth participated in a huge outside game. This year’s game was called “The Search for a Cure.” You were to imagine that you woke up one morning to find out that you have all been infected by a sickness that would remove your ability to feel, think, and create. As small groups you have to retrieve the cure.
Around the campus were multiple stations led by youth leaders where teams had to pass a challenge for the mind, the flesh, or the spirit. Some of the challenges were eating hot sauce, getting your team to stand on a pillow case and flip the pillow case over without anyone stepping off, placing a speedometer on your head and nodding fast enough to reach a predetermined speed, and solving riddles and puzzles.
The first group to complete a certain amount of challenges and make it back to the home base won the game. Seeing everybody’s excitement and participation during the game blew me away. I could see team building relationships and tons of good memories being made.
Sid taught us from 2 Cor. 3:17 about living in freedom and how as a result God will become the core of who you are. True freedom isn’t doing whatever the flesh desires; it’s when what we ought to do becomes what we want to do.
Sid challenged us to reflect on if we are experiencing freedom or slavery. What you behold is what you become, so how are you spending your time? Are you creating time to behold Christ? Following Jesus is more than just becoming a better Christian; it’s about becoming a new creation in Jesus.
Praise and Prayer
With Sunday being our last night, we all gathered into the chapel for a time of praise and prayer. This is a chance to reflect on what God has been doing in the past couple days, to thank him, and just to pray about what we’ve learned. We started it out by praise and worship led by The Color. It was followed by Garth Koop leading us into a time of prayer and repentance within small groups.
On Monday morning we had our fourth and final session with Sid. He taught us about allowing the Word to search our hearts and to lead us to a living faith. Sid used James 2 to show us that a living faith means a loving faith. An example Sid used of a husband who bought flowers for his wife when he didn’t really want to. The deed was empty of feeling.
Sid connected this to how we sometimes serve God just because it’s something that we are told to do. We could really see how living faith loves God and when we love God our actions and our desires will only want to please Him.
Each of the sessions throughout the weekend were eye-opening, they were filled with amazing truth, and were highlights for all.
A Bit More of Jesus With Us
After packing up and saying goodbye to new friends, we began the reverse of our Friday drive. The weekend had been soul searching, full of growth, so much excitement. This writer was thankful for the time of quiet on the bus ride home to reflect before entering back into the daily grind of life. Hopefully, for me as well as the others, we will be carrying a bit more of Jesus with us from here on out.
Jaime Loewen is a youth leader at Kleefeld EMC.