RYS National Convention 2021

My name is Tess Van Dyk. I am from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and attend Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo. I have always been in a Christian atmosphere, having gone to Kalamazoo Christian school since preschool; I will be going into my senior year at Kalamazoo Christian High School.

This past week I attended the Reformed Youth Services youth convention in Nampa, Idaho. With convention being cancelled last year, it hurt not being able to go. The Lord, however, knew what he was doing when he cancelled it. The theme for convention this year was “Be the Light,” and I believe that it was a perfect fit, especially with the year we just went through. This convention with RYS hit me harder spiritually than any other event I have ever attended.

The main speakers were Rev. Nick Smith and Rev. Bob Van Manen, and they challenged us to think hard spiritually about who we say God is in our hearts, and how to spread our light to others. Rev. Smith asked us to do more thinking of ourselves and took a more abstract approach, whereas Rev. Van Manen gave us more visuals to help remind us of his sessions. Their approaches complemented each other and made a lasting impression on me.

Even the workshops that I attended were incredible and reflected both the theme and the main sessions very well. During the week of convention we attended five workshops, and each had a unique topic and impacted me in different ways. The workshops I attended were Idol Factories by Rev. Russell Herman; Coexist, Contradict, or Just Confused by Rev. Chad Steenwyk; Stressed Out by Rev. Greg Lubbers (filmed pre-surgery); Courageous Christian Sexuality by Rev. Bill Boekestein; and Covid, BLM, and Partisan Politics by Rev. Sacha Walicod.

After all this hard work and thinking we needed a break, and that is what Wednesday brought us. The convention committee gave us two choices for our day away from campus when we signed up: either go touring downtown Boise or go whitewater rafting in Horseshoe Bend. I chose to go rafting, and it was so much fun. It was my first time rafting, and I was lucky enough to have one of my closest friends, my dad, and an amazing guide with me. The sights while we were rafting were so different from what I usually see in Michigan, and it reminded me of the power, majesty, and craftsmanship of God and how he cares for me as well as everyone else. It truly was a calming and fun experience, and it made me want to go back to do it all again.

For any high-school-age students thinking about going to convention, I would pray about it and seriously consider going, as it truly is an amazing experience. Words and videos can describe things only to a certain extent. Attending one of these events is a totally different experience, and I encourage everyone to go at least once.

I would also like to say a thank you to all those who continually lift up the speakers, sponsors, and students in prayer while we prepare and attend these conventions. It truly does mean a lot to us. Another thank you to the RYS convention committee for making another great convention. Congratulations on twenty-five years, and many more anniversaries to come! I cannot wait to see everyone again in Minneapolis next year.


My name is Madison Koetsier. I am eighteen years old and a professing member of Cloverdale United Reformed Church in Boise, Idaho. I just finished my senior year of high school, and like all seniors, I was heartbroken to have to say goodbye to all the amazing aspects of the RYS Convention.

Looking back over the past few years, I would say I love all the different aspects of the convention. One of my favorite activities is singing. In my opinion, there is nothing like hearing seven hundred to eight hundred high schoolers sing “Nearer, Still Nearer” and “In Christ Alone.” We were blessed to do this at the main session every day.

The two main speakers of the week were Reverend Nick Smith and Reverend Bob Van Manen. The main sessions played off the theme of how we are called to be a light in the darkness. They talked about how as long as there is one light shining, darkness cannot win. We can let our light shine because the darkness we face is the same darkness that Christ already defeated. As Reverend Van Manen said, our light can shine because “it [the darkness] is finished!”

Everyone attended five workshops which are aimed to help Reformed youth live according to God’s Word regardless of the worldly difficulties we encounter. In one of my workshops, Reverend Bill Bookestein spent a good length of time using Scripture to answer the youths’ questions about their sexuality and how to interact with the LGBTQ+ community. Likewise, Reverend Russell Herman went into how we make idols out of anything we put above God.

I have loved the friendships I’ve made, the deepening of my faith, and getting to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have been so blessed to be able to attend Convention, and I urge everyone I know who’s eligible to attend because it is an amazing experience!