RYS Convention draws more than 500 attendees by Ed DeGraaf, Director of Reformed Youth Services
From July 15-19, Reformed Youth Services held its 2002 youth convention in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was the first time RYS-member churches had traveled out west for their annual national conference. More than 500 young people and sponsors from 36 member churches and others attended the convention held on the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Main speakers Mr. Rip Pratt of Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Dallas, Texas and Rev. Phil Vos of Escondido United Reformed Church in California thoroughly explored the convention theme of “Faith to Move Mountains” with biblical and personal applications.
In his opening address, Mr. Pratt challenged the young people to live a radical Christian life, one that gets them noticed by the world. Rev. Vos followed up that introduction to the convention with a definition of the elements of true faith, highlighting Heidelberg Catechism question and answer twenty-one in his talk. Later in the week, Rev. Vos shared his personal story of struggling with Hodgkins lymphoma. He said that the experience taught him that we need to thank God for even the hard times and to trust the Lord’s leading. Rev. Vos concluded his address with a heartful rendition of “Find Us Faithful.”
Mr. Pratt also challenged the conventioneers to remember God’s faithfulness in tangible ways and urged the teens to have “faith with feet.” “Build yourself up in the faith,” said Pratt, who has worked with youth for more than 20 years. “Faith comes from hearing the Word of God. Be pleasing to Him by going out and serving as living epistles.”
In response to conventioneer request, RYS added another workshop to the schedule this year. The young people attended five of the seminars, choosing from 10 faith-related topics led by nine pastors and an elder. Not surprisingly, the most popular workshop numerically was entitled “Boy Meets Girl— Then What?” led by Rev. Bob VanManen, an OPC pastor from Michigan. All of the main sessions and workshops were taped and made available to conference attendees for a fee. In addition to approximately 370 teens, about 100 adult sponsors attended the convention. Those youth leaders learned more about Reformed Youth Services, its ministries and materials at the convention’s annual sponsor dinner. Once again, the convention was ably served by a large hard-working volunteer committee that made sure the details of the event flowed smoothly. We also praise God that everyone arrived and departed home safely. To God be the glory! Lord willing, next year’s national convention will be held July 28August 1 at Lake Williamson Christian Center in Carlinville, Illinois. The theme of the convention will be “Fishers of Men.” For more information about RYS or the convention, please contact RYS director Ed DeGraaf at (616) 667-0694.
In God Alone by Laurie Ellens Youth Leader Hudsonville, Michigan
As a sponsor, there are many events and outings that fill our youth group schedules The most recent one was the Reformed Youth Services national convention in Colorado. What a joy it was to attend! So often our teens are faced with tough choices, and it is our job as parents, youth leaders and church members to lead them in their decision making. The world that we have left behind for our teens is not an easy one. It has lost much of its innocence. This makes our job more important than ever.
First, I would like to thank the convention committee for their months of work. Their dedication is greatly appreciated, and God greatly blessed their efforts. As churches we need to continue to support RYS with our prayers and gifts. Their assistance to youth leaders and the opportunities for growth and service to our teens is invaluable.
Our main speakers, Mr. Rip Pratt and Rev. Phil Vos did an excellent job of driving the point home, that “In God Alone” are the answers for which we search. So often we look within ourselves, and don’t use the weapons of faith that have been given to us. When struggles and conflicts arise we ask ourselves “why me?” We should be asking “why NOT me?” God has promised us that He would never leave us.
We have to take him at his Word, leave the doubt behind, and remember His faithfulness to us.
The workshops that were offered did an excellent job of taking the different aspects of everyday living and bringing them into the light of God’s Word. Issues such as modesty, relationships, daily devotions, evangelism, our heritage, being a servant to others, and trusting God in daily living and in challenging times were some of topics that were discussed. Praise God for lives that were changed as a result of these workshops!
One of the things that warmed my heart was the singing of the hymns that are an important part of our heritage. It was such a blessing to hear 500 people sing “Amazing Grace” and “When Peace like a River” from their hearts. It brought tears to many eyes. I’d like to leave you with a few phrases of songs that were also from the heart “My name is graven on His hands; My name is written on His heart”, “Let every breath, all that I am, never cease to worship You”, “Nothing compares to the promise I have in You”. On Thursday evening, at our final Son-set group meeting, this was the prayer of our teens: “may all who come behind us find us faithful”. Praise God for his everlasting love!
Faith to Move Mountains by Swandel Dykstra Young Person Everson, Washington
Colorado Springs, Colorado proved to be prime location for this year’s Reformed Youth Services (RYS) Convention with it’s majestic mountains surrounding the campus. Mr. Rip Pratt and Reverend Phil Vos spoke at the main sessions, while a variety of speakers spoke and led ten different workshops.
This year the teens of the convention all attended five sessions and five of the ten workshops.
Mr. Pratt spoke for three of the five sessions. In his first session he had everyone respond to his questions with, “In God alone”. Where is our comfort? Our security? Our hope? All were answered with “In God alone”. His second session was about leaving memorials, ebenezers, or standing stones. They were left in the past to show and tell a story of God’s faithfulness to his people. Believers too are to leave memorials behind so generations to come may hear of times when God has been faithful to them. “Faith with Feet” entitled Mr. Pratt’s third session. This talk focused on pleasing Christ and God, not one’s self. Also he showed that God keeps His chosen ones to Himself and that believers should live their lives as living examples of Christ for unbelievers.
Rev. Phil Vos spoke at the other two sessions. His first session dealt with what faith is. It’s a knowledge of the Bible, an agreement that all the Bible holds is true, and a trust that God’s promises are for each individual. His second session covered true faith. He shared his battle with cancer and showed us that true faith impacts situations differently than what the world thinks.
The workshops each covered a different perspective of faith. “Faith of our Fathers”, by Rev. David Feddes explained about martyrs of the faith and their stories. “Answering Challenges to Your Faith”, by Rev. Alan Strange, explained how to stand up for ones faith, and why people challenge it. “Trusting God in the Midst of Turmoil”, by Rev. Rich Kuiken, went over God’s providence. Everything happens with God’s knowledge, so God knows the struggles that His people face. “Everyday Faith”, by Mr. Rick Poll, said that one’s walk of faith will never be greater than one’s life of prayer. “Daily Devotions: Duty or Delight” by Rev. Iain Wright, was about personal relationships with Jesus Christ. Other workshops included “Where is the Lord Leading Me?” by Rev. Keith Davis, “Boy Meets Girl – Then What?” by Rev Bob Van Manen, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” by Rev. Jason Tuinstra, “Why Not Share It?” by Rev. Duane Vedders, and “Servanthood 101” by Rev. John Sale. All the workshops blessed the attendants each in their own way.
Along with sessions and workshops, there were many activities each day to get involved with. Some organized activities included a mixer, volleyball, girls and guys 3-on-3 basketball, and ultimate frisbee tournaments. During the hours of free time impromptu games of volleyball, soccer, frisbee and football broke out. Free time also allowed the teens to mix with each other, make new friends
and explore the campus. The warm sunny weather proved to be perfect conditions for water fights which erupted almost everyday with the provided water bottles.
Every morning one hour was set aside for Son-rise groups. Same sex groups of eight teens and two leaders met and had devotions and prayer time. Each night time was set aside for Son-set groups. This provided time for each youth group to meet, discuss the day, and pray for concerns among them.
“In God alone” was heard all week in sessions, workshops, and small groups. Mr. Rip Pratt and Rev. Phil Vos along with the other pastors and elder challenged the attendants of the convention to look past simple faith and explore deeper into it. The knowledge gained, the friendships started, and the memories made, will not likely leave the teens or leaders minds for some time.