Reformed Youth Services National Convention 2006 Review and a 2007 Preview

Returning to the site of former conventions from the 1990s, this summer’s RYS national convention was held at Covenant College on scenic Lookout Mountain, Georgia. More than 600 young people, sponsors, speakers and staff attended the weeklong event. Rev. Rich Kuiken and Rev. Jason Tuinstra served as the main speakers, clearly communicating the convention’s theme of “Look Out!” based on I Philippians 2:4. Conventioneers were urged to “slay the Me Monster (selfishness)” and “look out” for opportunities to both serve and display God’s light in a dark world. Ten related workshops were offered, including guys and girls only workshops. Again this year, we were blessed to have attentive students who appreciated the efforts of pastors and others to communicate the truths of Scripture to them. Some of the student evaluation comments included the following: I really learned a lot from both speakers, they didn’t just challenge me, they challenged me to change. He was so demanding and captivating with his lectures. He had my attention the entire time. Both of these men did a great job using illustrations and analogies that helped me understand the biblical points better. I went away challenged wanting to change. All the sessions and workshops were inspiring. The adult sponsors also appreciated that RYS intentionally presented its convention from a Reformed perspective. Our kids are blessed to have a convention that emphasizes the Reformed faith. RYS is invaluable (priceless) for our covenant children. To God be the glory! As a committee, we were also greatly heartened by the reports of the campus employees. One Covenant staffer stopped us, unsolicited, to tell us that our group was the best-behaved group of students she had ever encountered in her years of serving at the college. At the end of the convention, when it was time to report which rooms still needed to be cleaned up, not one student was required to return, a first-ever occurrence! We praise God for blessing us with a great group of polite, friendly, cooperative kids! We truly believe the Spirit was at work here with us on the mountain. RYS also unveiled its new logo in commemoration with the tenth anniversary of its ministry. To God be all the glory! The Board of Reformed Youth Services is also pleased to announce that the 2007 National Convention will be held July 30-August 3 at Concordia University in Irvine, CA, D.V. The theme that was selected is “Rooted in Christ,” based on Jeremiah 17:7-8. Rev. Phil Vos of Escondido URC (CA) and Rev. Paul Murphy of Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship (URC) of Ground Zero, NY will be the main speakers. Workshop speakers will include the following pastors and laymen: • Rev. Mike Brown, pastor of Christ URC of Santee, CA • Rev. Bill Green (missionary to Costa Rica) • Rev. Chris Gordon, pastor of the United Reformed Church of Lynden (WA) • Rev. Rich Kuiken, pastor of Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church (NJ) • Rev. Jason Tuinstra, pastor of Emmanuel’s URC of Lemoore, CA • Rev. Tyler Wagenmaker, pastor of Beaverdam CRC in Hudsonville, MI • Pastor Jeff Doll, a pastoral assistant of Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI • Rip Pratt, an associate pastor at New Life PCA in Escondido, CA • Jeremy Veldman, a graduate from Mid-America Reformed Seminary and presently a candidate for ministry. • Mrs. Julie Murphy, wife of Pastor Murphy, will lead a women-only workshop on the topic of submission. Registration brochures will be sent to RYS-member churches in late December. For more information about the 2007 national convention, please contact RYS Director Ed DeGraaf at or (616) 667-0694.

Mr. Ed De Graaf is the Director of the Reformed Youth Services. Midnight: Lookout Mountain, Georgia or bust! (Our attitudes when we boarded the buses at Bethany URC Monday morning.) Nine O’clock am: Us: hyped up on Mountain Dew and absorbed in card game tournaments. Chaperones: not quite sure how to get us to shut-up and sleep. One O’clock pm: ZZZZZZ… or Are we there yet? Five O’clock pm: We are here, finally, and ready for an amazing week! We grabbed our luggage, checked in, and went in search of our dorms. Gabby Spriensma and I had a nice dorm room, which we totally rearranged. We went to meet up with our suite mates, two of which were my classmates at school (the other three were from California and didn’t come until later). Each night after supper, we had a snack, met up with new friends and old, and spent free-time talking, participating in tournaments, and playing cards. We also had tournaments during our day free-time, which included volleyball, basketball, and tennis (We got totally creamed in volleyball, but it was still pretty fun). There was also a swimming pool. When everyone got moving in the same direction, a pretty awesome whirlpool effect was started up. Lights out was scheduled for midnight, however, most of the girls stayed up way past then talking. We regretted it the next morning, though, when they served breakfast at about seven a.m. Sessions and workshops were the highlights of the week. Rev. Tuinstra and Rev. Kuiken touched on the problem of selfishness, more commonly called “the me-monster,” by conventioneers. We took a look at “looking out for each other’s interests” (thus the theme for convention). Selfishness seems to be at the heart of every relationship problem. It is a lot more affective than we tend to think. The speakers both told us that they did not want us challenged, but changed. The sessions were spiritually enriching, and I felt so close to God–especially during singing. Three people led us in singing before the sessions started. This helped us prepare for worship. The music this year was so extremely amazing, and the awe and closeness that one could feel to God was so cool. On Tuesday and Wednesday, various speakers touched on specific areas of our lives where selfishness might be displayed. “Ticking Time bombs” showed us what went into the making of a good and meaningful friendship. “Parents. Who needs them” looked at how to honor our parents and how our selfishness strains our relationship with them. The girls workshop, which was about modesty, told us how to honor God with our thoughts, actions, and dress. “Everyday Evangelism”, taught by Rev. Murphy, pointed at a unique way to view evangelism and how our actions are a main part of spreading the Gospel. The week was a time of major spiritual renewal. On Thursday, half of the conventioneers went shopping, to the Imax theater, and to an aquarium. I, along with the other half of the conventioneers, choose to risk our lives white water rafting. It was a complete blast, as well as a little tense on some of the bigger hills. If you ever have the chance to go white water rafting, GO! You’ll love it! Seeing God’s power and majesty in nature the entire ride was breathtaking. The entire week was so much fun and so spiritually renewing. It was really cool to get together with 500 other believers my age and be able to express my faith without being nervous or afraid. Friday was really hard because we had grown spiritually closer to so many people. I can’t wait until next year: California or bust!

Ashley Hoekman is a high school junior and member of the Cornerstone United Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.