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Young adults from several Alberta Christian Reformed churches had an “amazing race” in which they competed to reach places that reflected Reformation history.

The 25 participants, aged 18 to 30, from Edmonton, Edson, Lacombe, and Neerlandia, were attending the fifth annual Classis Alberta North Young Adults (CANYA) Retreat held in Canmore.

“Instead of random countries or places being selected as locations of the challenges,” explained Ron deVries, Classis Alberta North’s youth ministry consultant, “groups were taken to places that reflected part of Reformation history. One example was when groups were directed to a mass of water representing the ocean separating Europe and America.”

Initially the plan was to rent canoes and have participants cross the water with all their belongings to symbolize the immigrant experience. This turned out to be too expensive, so the young adults biked around the lake instead, weighed down with knapsacks filled with rocks to suggest the weight of the journey. Once there, said deVries, “the challenge was to build communities using Popsicle sticks and glue. It was interesting to witness that the majority of groups established churches first, not houses. We were inspired by this.”

Throughout the weekend, participants made connections to the Heidelberg Catechism, Reformation history, and the present church story through puzzles, stories, challenges, and Scripture. Rick VanManen, CRC campus chaplain at the University of Alberta, offered three worship and teaching sessions based on Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Participants reflected on the anxieties they experience and where and how they might recognize God’s providence in their lives.

Brad VanderWey, 27, was on the planning committee as well as a retreat participant. “The retreat turned out well,” he said. It was a good time of fellowship, and the messages by Rick were very relevant to our time.” He added, “I think it is important for young adults to hang out in a Christian environment with their peers to have fellowship and worship with each other. . . . It is nice to be a part of a group like CANYA and know that when you bring up the topic of religion you don't feel like you need to be defensive or worry about offending someone. . . . When you go on a hike and take in God's creation, you know that others also feel amazed at God's wonderful creation and not that it is just a beautiful place.”

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