A Young Person’s Perspective on the RYS Convention

In the days leading up to the twelfth annual Reformed Youth Services National Convention (held July 23–27, 2012), over eight hundred conventioneers boarded airplanes, buses, and vans to begin their journey to Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Overcrowded vans, long flights, and 36-hour bus rides did nothing to stem the anticipation that filled every vehicle headed toward the convention.

This year’s theme was “Soar Like Eagles,” which was based on Isaiah 40:31: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Rev. Wybren Oord, pastor of Trinity URC in Lethbridge, Alberta, and Rev. William Godfrey, pastor of Grace URC in Torrance, California, spoke on this theme during each day’s main session. Both men exhorted their listeners to hope in the Lord, to worship Him rightly, to serve Him with passion, and to stand firm against the attacks of the devil. Above all, Rev. Oord and Rev. Godfrey urged us to adopt a gospel focus as the foundation of our lives. Rev. Oord encouraged us with these words: “If you want to soar like an eagle, turn to Jesus Christ.” This brief statement was the core of the week at convention.

Each day at convention began with the announcement, “We have another busy day ahead of us!” Nothing could have been truer. Each day was jam-packed with activities, including workshop sessions presented by a variety of talented speakers from the Reformed community. Every one of these topical presentations challenged the young people to grow in their faith and knowledge of the Lord. In keeping with this convention’s theme, workshops were titled with names like “God’s Flight Plan,” “Flying High with Humility,” and “How to Soar in a Fallen World.”

In addition to the educational aspect of convention, attendees enjoy the Christian fellowship they experience all week long. As the hundreds of conventioneers arrived at campus on Monday, happy reunions with old friends took place. Reformed young people whose homes are spread across the U.S. and Canada greatly enjoyed coming together for five all-too-short days of fellowshipping with like-minded youth. Just as old friendships were rekindled, new friendships were formed within the first hours of convention.

The singing that occurred during each main session deserved its reputation as being truly remarkable. It is a blessing to join with hundreds of fellow believers uniting in heartfelt praise to the Lord. The music at convention, for many, is a favorite component of the week.

Each day opened and closed with SONrise and SONset groups—morning and evening devotional meetings. The SONrise gatherings consisted of all males or all females, each member from a different home church. SONrise groups allow the youth an opportunity to meet and talk about spiritual matters with brothers or sisters from across the continent. SONset meetings provided the chance for everyone to share with their own youth group the highlights, challenges, and blessings encountered in the day just past.

This year, conventioneers could choose between two “Day Away” options: whitewater rafting or experiencing historic Chattanooga, Tennessee. Whitewater rafting down Tennessee’s Ocoee River was not only beautifully scenic but also intense and exciting. The Chattanooga trip was complete with a stop at America’s largest freshwater aquarium, downtown touring, and the opportunity to view an IMAX film.

Everyone looks forward to the extracurricular activities that were available to fill the free time. Some enjoyed a 5K run, basketball, soccer, and volleyball games and tournaments, while others found their forte competing in board games or Bible Jeopardy. No one wanted to miss Thursday evening’s talent show, which showcased an enjoyable variety of acts such as instrumental solos and ensembles, vocal numbers, comedy acts, and even a Claymation film.

On Friday, conventioneers headed for home tired. Physically tired? Yes—from a combination of lack of sleep and lots of excitement. Spiritually tired? No—just the opposite. All left convention having been spiritually invigorated, encouraged, and fortified in their resolve to “soar like eagles” in the strength of the Lord.

Miss Mary Karsten is a member of the Grace United Reformed Church in Waupun, Wisconsin.