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More than 600 Christian Reformed young people were lured to Salt Lake City, Utah, this July with an invitation to discover a mystery. What they learned at the Youth Unlimited Convention through the Mainstage messages, worship, seminars, small groups, and testimonies was something many of them had already brought with them and even more took home.

“The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you. . . . It’s that simple” (Col. 1:27, The Message).

Cameron Van Kooten, 16, from First Christian Reformed Church, Pella, Iowa, flew to Convention by himself at the invitation of friends he met on a mission project. “I’ve been really struggling with what God wants me to do in my life, and many of the speakers’ messages helped me feel God pulling,” said Van Kooten. “After this convention, a possible future career that I had never considered before is going into youth ministry.”

Van Kooten wasn’t alone in sensing such a tug on his heart. Connie Shaarda, youth leader from Vogel Center CRC in McBain, Mich., said that six of the kids from her area group of 46 sensed a similar call. “I was just amazed during the convention as one by one they came and shared with me that they feel God wants them to go into ministry,” she said. “And several others want to be youth leaders or do mission work.”

Many of the youths said they were deeply moved during worship led by Peder Eide and Band and/or through the words of the Mainstage speakers.

“It was so awesome and moving to be in a setting with the whole audience being teenagers and praising God together,” said Anna De Boer, 15, of Cottonwood Heights CRC in Jenison, Mich. “[We] go to church with our parents, but some of us don’t always want to go because it’s boring or too traditional. So it was fantastic to see every single person so willing and excited to worship!”

De Boer also had high ratings for main speaker Doug Herman, calling him “one of the best speakers I have ever heard.” Nate Schaap, 19, from First CRC in Sioux Falls, S.D., said he enjoyed listening to Herman, calling his messages “captivating and moving.” Overall, Schaap said Convention “challenged me to seek my whole identity in Christ so I can further understand who he wants me to be and how I can serve him.”

Several conventioneers went home with a new boldness about their faith. Ryan Kamp, 17, from Orland Park, Ill., CRC said he is heading into his senior year of high school and hopes he is “more able to set an example to others and witness my faith.” Kara Venema, 14, from Immanuel CRC in Hudsonville, Mich., said watching other teens at Convention showed her that “it’s all right to stick up for Jesus and for what you believe in.”

Sandy Blacketer, a youth leader from Neerlandia CRC in Alberta said this was at least her 10th Youth Unlimited convention. She keeps coming back because “it helps open the door for more spiritual conversations among our group, and gives us a great opportunity to reconnect with God.” Blacketer and her group rode to Convention in a school bus with no air-conditioning—nearly 1,200 miles each way. As a result, she said, the group has bonded and the kids are closer with each other now.

This year’s convention attendance was down by 400 from last year. But Cameron Van Kooten of Pella, Iowa, has plans to change that trend for Convention 2008 in Montana. “When I got back this year I told the rest of youth group and my leaders what an awesome time I had,” he said. “I think the kids in my area were missing out, so we decided we’ll be attending Convention next year as an entire youth group.”

Convention 2007 Facts and Figures

  • Dates: July 20-24, 2007
  • Location: University of Utah, Salt Lake City
  • Attendance: 614 youths, 254 adults
  • Mainstage Speakers: Alisa Barrymore, Ben Glenn, Doug Herman, Dave Horsager, Jason Taylor
  • Worship Leader: Peder Eide and Band
  • Largest Age Group: 17
  • Gender Breakdown: 53 percent girls, 47 percent boys
  • Largest Church Groups: 32 from Westview CRC, Grand Rapids, Mich.; 32 from First CRC, DeMotte, Ind.; and 27 from Immanuel CRC, Hudsonville, Mich.
  • States and Provinces: 26 represented, highest numbers from Michigan,
  • Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois
  • Most Miles Traveled: 2,482 (3,971 kilometers) from Lake Worth, Fla. (air); 2,372 miles (3,795) from Bradenton, Fla. (air); and 1,157 miles (1,851) from Neerlandia, Alberta (bus).
  • Registration Fee: $425 US/$510 CDN

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