Many teens came to the All-Ontario Youth Convention in Waterloo, Ontario, for the fun. And there’s no shortage of it: bouncy-castle gladiator fights, bands, board games, inflatable super-twister games, sports, a skate park, dance lessons, an art den, swimming—there’s something for every taste and temperament.
And through all the fun, the real reason for the annual convention shined: asked about the best part of the weekend event, many youths responded that they had grown closer to God and hoped to share this new excitement with their church and friends.
Bouncy-castle gladiator fights helped burn off energy.
“I’m hoping for a closer relationship with God . . . and a fun time,” said Sarah Lodewyks, 16, from Faith Christian Reformed Church in Burlington, Ontario.
The theme of this year’s convention was “Infuse.” Through worship and small-group sessions, teens learned what it means to be infused with God’s character, rather than with what the world offers, and how to influence the world instead of letting it influence them.
Workshops on topics such as social justice and “no more entitlement” challenged participants to look beyond their comfort zones and do things that will make a difference and further God’s kingdom.
One goal of the weekend was to help make hunger disappear. Many youths participated in the challenge to walk eight times around the worship area, adding up to about a kilometer, carrying a 25 kg sack of grain. On Sunday, lunch consisted of one cup of rice and beans, staples of much of the world’s population in developing countries.
Between donations from youths and the money saved by doing without that one cafeteria meal, more than $15,000 was raised for the work of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. In addition, almost 80 children became sponsored through Compassion—either by youth groups, volunteers, or individual young people.
“So often [at youth events], kids come and praise the Lord and go home and do nothing,” said Ray Heeres, the convention worship rep. “These kids continue to amaze me with their passion and their willingness to reach deep into their pockets.”
Cards and board games were favorites.
The Ontario convention is run entirely by volunteers. “About two weeks after [the convention] a planning team meets to review and to start planning for the next year,” said planning committee chair Tim Scholman. All of the details—technical production, hospitality, promotion, pastoral care, safety, administration—are taken care of by volunteers.
The rewards of that work could be seen in the number of young people who made or renewed commitments to Christ during the weekend.
Samantha Buys, 14, from Burlington, Ontario, was taking home new commitment. “Every time you go to places to get closer to God, you come back . . . empowered. I want to bring that back and spread it around to other friends.”