Abundant Springs 2019
By Jaime Loewen and Stephany Wiebe
Here we are again, two years later, and another amazing weekend was spent connecting, growing and worshiping at Abundant Springs. On May 17 the youth of Kleefeld EMC, our home church, along with 23 other EMC youth groups across Canada made their journey to Caronport, Sask. A total of 364 youth and 176 leaders and staff joined together in building memories, relationships and taking steps towards knowing and loving Jesus more.
Everyone arrived at Briercrest College and Seminary, settled into their dorms and acquainted themselves with the campus before dinner. Following dinner, we gathered together for our first session with speaker Kent Martens. Kent is a father, a husband to his wife Pam, and has been on staff at the Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church in Steinbach, Man., for 19 years and is currently working with kids, youth and parents as the Family Ministry Pastor.
Kent made it very easy to follow sessions as he delivered his messages with humour, making the sessions enjoyable and relatable. Our main theme for this year was “Everywhere,” based on the verses found in Matthew 28:18-20 which showed us that as followers of Jesus we are to share the gospel wherever we are.
This first session, Kent brought three stories to light from Acts 8:26-40: My story, Your story, and God’s story. Within My story we learned that God intentionally pursues us personally. In Acts we read that Philip’s story was mixing with God’s story; he was asking questions and was curious. He learned and connected God’s will to his own personal story. At the end of this session, Kent invited anyone who wanted to remember this lesson to come up and collect three beads on a paperclip to symbolize the three stories.
After each session we enjoyed delicious cookies provided by each youth group attending, giving us energy to participate in the late-night games or concerts. Friday night we participated in a concert by the band “The Boy + The Sea.” Completed with glow sticks and beach balls, we enthusiastically worshiped our one true God.
Breakfast is served at 8 a.m. At this time, some of us barely pull ourselves out of bed while others spring up much earlier to get in a jog around the campus. Once fueled for the day we gather in the sanctuary for worship and information on the day ahead.
The mornings are set aside for youth and leader workshops, which is a time where students gather into classrooms to hear different speakers talk about different topics. On Saturday morning, we were able to attend two workshops of our choosing and another one on Sunday morning.
Some of this year’s workshop speakers were:
- Brenda Brown who manages a high-risk youth program with the RCMP. She spoke to us about “friends helping friends” who are affected by substance use or abuse.
- Patrick Friesen spoke on the practice of prayer and how to keep our focus on Jesus.
- Sara Dacombe enlightened us on “how to like yourself on social media.” Her workshop was all about social pressures, increasing our self-respect and how to practice time management concerning social media.
- Jeremy and Adrienne Penner ran the workshop “called, equipped, sent: living life on a mission.” They took time to look at the way Jesus calls each of us to be missionaries with the youth, how He prepares us to answer our calling, and how each of us is sent as His ambassadors.
After a morning of exercising our minds we have a time of “Active Engagement.” This is a time for multiple sports tournaments, crafts, and a time to get to know one another in a relaxed, unfocused setting. Many took part in the street hockey, basketball, soccer and volleyball tournaments; some played dodgeball or life-sized Dutch Blitz.
Our second session with Kent was focused on becoming an everywhere follower of Jesus, personally and actively, not only maintaining the faith we grew up in, but continually taking the next step towards knowing Jesus more. Kent reminded us that we are all a work-in-progress and continually under construction.
Using the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10, we were shown that Jesus came to earth to love and connect with each of us. Zacchaeus’s response to Jesus was active and eager to make changes to follow Jesus. Kent encouraged us to make our faith active, not to be passive in our faith or lazy in our relationship with God. At the end, the invitation was offered for people to come forward and accept his calling, to be active by being open. To trust Jesus. To take the next step forward and be obedient.
A time of reflection was much needed after hearing Kent speak about being a follower of Jesus. Youth groups shared and prayed in small groups and connected with one another deeply. We ended the day with lighthearted fun back in the sanctuary with The Showdown, an evening of games participated by all. This year we played Family Feud. Teams on stage attempted to best one another by taking turns answering questions. Most answers had the viewers howling with laughter, which made it a great time for all.
After enjoying another breakfast and worship time, we had our last workshop of the weekend. Students attended a workshop of their own, and once again this year, leaders had a workshop just for them. Leaders were welcome to come and be without responsibility while worshiping and listening to a small devotional delivered by Mo Friesen, ending with a time to reflect and rest in the Lord. While being a part of leading Abundant Springs is eye- opening and inspiring, a time just for ourselves to let down and be in awe of God was very welcomed.
We had a guest speaker via Skype after our workshops. Christian Cruz was supposed to fly out from Ixtapa, Mexico, but did not receive his visa in time. Thanks to technology, though, we didn’t have to miss out on hearing his amazing testimony of how God has been working in his life and the amazing things he has done. He shared how he was imprisoned at one point for sharing the gospel and how the Lord was with him the whole time. Christian shares the gospel in many different ways, but one of his favourites is through rapping, which he was able to share with us.
‘Smuggler’s Run’ Wide Game
You may wonder, can 541 people really play one game all together? Yes. Yes, they can! With much preparation and help from many leaders we were able to pull off another wide game this year.
This year’s game was comprised of many little “booth” games where students, in teams, would run across campus to different stations where they would perform tasks or games to get a signature. The goal was to solve clues in order to find the location of three “underground” churches where they would deliver Scriptures that they so desperately needed. The tasks or games consisted of throwing a mini marshmallow in a teammates mouth, leading a blindfolded teammate through a maze of tires, eating a cracker covered in hot sauce, dancing or singing and many others.
Once a team received all the necessary signatures they had to race back to the main building before the other teams. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, teams must also avoid getting caught by the “authorities,” other leaders roaming the grounds. This large group game is always a great time and a highlight for many.
Later in the evening Kent jumped into teaching us about how we have an “everywhere” assignment: to become an ambassador and help others become right with God. We are called to be part of God’s story and others stories, but sometimes we choose to run and do the opposite of God’s will.
Kent used the story of Jonah and Moses to portray this. Jonah and Moses were afraid to complete the task set before them, but God partnered with them and completed the journey alongside them. He said that 2 Corinthians tells us that Christ’s love compels, motivates and inspires us.
Two questions were brought to light: Where does God want me to be a light and who does God want me to build a relationship of encouragement and love with? We ended with a time of prayer, led by Patrick Friesen, for countries around the world, personal requests, our neighbours, and with the Lord’s Prayer.
Our last night at Abundant Springs ended with a great concert performed by the alternative band from Edmonton “West of Here.” They are a group of brothers who find passion in inspiring people to live life to the fullest in Christ through their many amazing songs and talented voices.
Our fourth and final session took place Monday morning. We listened to Kent explain the cost of cooperation with God by hearing the story of Esther. She had to take a major risk with her life to save her people and her response was, “If I perish, I perish.”
Jesus tells us plainly that there is a big cost to following him: to sacrifice. Often, we only give God a tiny part of our lives, but He wants it all. He wants our time, work, money, media, and our future.
Just like Esther had the confidence to take the risk, we learned that God is calling us to take up our own cross and that the Holy Spirit is with us always. We were told to continue to say Yes to God, and back up the big Yes with little everyday “yeses.”
After a wonderful, busy, eye-opening weekend it was time to pack up and return to the bus. With minds full of messages to ponder and hearts full and content, we completed the journey home. We were determined to continue to say Yes, to relinquish more of our lives to God, to trust and obey. We know that God will continue to grow us and use us in amazing ways if we follow, serve, and trust him “everywhere” we go.
The article and photos were provided by Jaime Loewen and Stephany Wiebe, both youth leaders at Kleefeld EMC.