A large, diverse family sits at a long picnic table having lunch together under a large oak tree shading them from the high-noon sun, in full view of an expansive ocean front. Alongside the words “great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1), this picture is an invitation to belong – more specifically, an invitation to Belong to the Truth at Youth Advance 2014 at Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask.
Conference-going youth from across Western Canada entered a campus transformed into “Grandma’s house,” a place of family and belonging from Jan. 31–Feb. 2, 2014.
Director of Truth Matters Ministries Sid Koop, the main speaker, invited youth to “awaken to the truth of Jesus,” and to belong to God – “the Truth.” Joining Koop on the stage to lead singing and give a late-night concert on Saturday evening was GMA award-winning band The Color. The band from Winkler, Man., provided a solid background to the entire event, mingled with the youth, and presented a workshop on “Band Stuff.”
Koop also hosted a workshop called, “Our Digital Reality: Following Christ in a New World,” a session intended to help youth understand the impact of technology on their lives, and to use technology to communicate the love and truth of Jesus to a broken world.
MCs and Bethany students Stephanie Chase and George Hembery entertained the crowd with one-liners and funny quips. Under the guidance of ministry arts director Susan J Schmidt Goerz, Bethany students performed a dramatic presentation of “The Family Nobody Wanted.”
The family experience was a full immersion with Bethany’s halls lined with old family photos and converted into a living room, cozy bedroom, and even a laundry room. Meals were reminiscent of Grandma’s home cooking.
The theme of the weekend echoed the spirit of Bethany College itself, a community of more than 100 students building relationships and learning to follow Jesus through study and service learning opportunities. Likewise, the event was designed for youth to have fun, worship God, and to see hearts changed.
“It is my prayer,” said event organizer and associate dean of men Dave Carey, “that the lessons of this weekend – the amazing worship moments, chats with youth leaders, and the fun – would be stepping stones on your journey of transformation into the likeness of Jesus.”
—Rick Guenther, director of advancement, Bethany College