On the May holiday weekend, 875 teens and their leaders converged on Sir Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, for four days of challenge and excitement at the annual All-Ontario Youth Convention.
Kristen Woudstra, 16, from Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Waterdown, Ontario, found the event thought provoking. “The theme was ‘One Life: Make It Count.’ I really started to think about how I can make my life count,” she said.
She appreciated the main speaker, Phil Cann. “He was brutally honest,” she said.
Cann urged his listeners to have the courage to take action.
“We have this one life, and we waste so much time deciding how to do something instead of when to start. No matter what we do, we may make the wrong decision. We need to be risk takers,” said Tyler DeWeerd, 17, of Bethel CRC in Listowel, Ontario.
Marnel Muller, 17, of Trinity CRC in Goderich, Ontario, said that Cann challenged listeners to consider what they were willing to sacrifice their relationship with God for. “He told us, ‘Judas sold Jesus; Peter denied him.’ He asked, ‘What do you sell Jesus for?’” said Muller, who enjoyed Cann’s passion and his fresh take on biblical stories. “He not only told us about Scripture, he applied it to our lives,” she said.
Cann contrasted the consumer lifestyle promoted by reality shows, such as one that follows brides-to-be as they shop for outrageously expensive wedding dresses, with alternative choices Christians can make. “These shows are completely ridiculous. Imagine how much better off people would be if they had given the money for that dress to a clean water project instead,” said Muller, who along with others helped raise $2,000 for water projects in countries served by the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.
Throughout the weekend the teens engaged in exuberant worship. They also had opportunities for thoughtful reflection in small group discussions. DeWeerd’s small group did not shy away from challenging topics such as pornography. “We heard crazy stats. It was a very deep talk. Our small group leader, Brad Baker, was amazing,” said DeWeerd.
The convention offered sports tournaments, a skateboard park, and games—all of which made for healthy appetites. “We had some very hungry breakfast eaters, with almost twice the planned amount consumed,” said conference organizer Tim Scholman.
A prayer sanctuary, featuring devotional objects and pictures at a number of stations, gave teens an opportunity for quiet reflection away from the buzz of the crowds. “It was a great atmosphere—really moving,” said Muller. The convention’s art den allowed them an opportunity to work with a variety of mediums. “You could do art and reflect on God by creating something,” said Muller. And one night the convention held a dance. “It was really fun,” said Woudstra.
The highlight for Woudstra was experiencing the amazing energy of so many Christians together. And when it all comes to an end? “You don’t want to go home. It’s a great place,” said Muller.