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Youth Assembly 2009 continues to resonate; community and acceptance


Youth group reads worship scripture

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September 17, 2009
- Hannah Burkholder

CARONPORT, Saskatchewan — From July 6-10, 2009, over 200 youth from across Canada converged in Caronport, Saskatchewan at the Briercrest College and Seminary. With Colossians 3:12-17 as our central scripture, the Assembly’s theme was Living Inside Out.

The five days I spent at the Youth Assembly with the Home Street youth group felt like the perfect way to let go of the pressures of a public high school, and enter a university-directed mindset. I’ve felt refreshed by almost every aspect of the Assembly, and a couple of ideas have taken root within me, giving me insight that will empower, inspire, and motivate me as I enter a new stage of life.

Probably the most memorable observation I made was the feeling of community and acceptance between all the attendees. Although our youth group spent much of our free time together, there were various opportunities that allowed us to branch out and meet people outside of our church. For example, everyone participated in an Amazing Race (Prairie Version) for an afternoon, and late-night activities were excellent times for interaction with other youth groups. We also put our hands together for several hours to make over 5000 school kits for schools in Cuba.

Worship services were always a special part of each day. We had a versatile worship band who led us in a variety of music; from popular Christian music, to hymns, to music from around the world. Each day one of the youth groups presented a scripture passage using creative visuals, tableaus, or song. We also had the privilege of hearing four inspiring speakers: Michelle Hershberger (Chair of the Bible Department, Hesston College), Jeannette Hanson (MC Canada Witness worker), Rachelle Friesen (Interim Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba), and Shane Claiborne (author, speaker and self-professed “ordinary radical”).

Michelle Hershberger spoke at three of the worship services. In her passionate, dramatic way, she used a unique approach to remind us that God loves us and has chosen us, his beloved, to serve him using the gifts he has given us. One of the most powerful words I heard from her was that you cannot base your identity on how others see you, because if you do, you become enslaved to those people. Rather, we must hold onto the fact that God loves us, and because of that love, we are free to be ourselves, not trapped in the eyes of the world.

Shane Claiborne was another keynote speaker, who shared his insights as a member of the Simple Way, as well as his work with Mother Theresa. Speaking about the power of sacrificial love, he recounted how Mother Theresa wore the most tattered shoes in her community, so that others could have the more comfortable shoes. As a result, her feet had become “deformed,” but her love for the rest of her community gave her the ability to continue to be cheerful.

Shane also shared the idea that you don’t have to go overseas and be a missionary to serve God; all God asks is that we use the gifts he has given us, in order to change a small part of the world. Perhaps most importantly, he said, is that our motivation to serve God should not be based on what other will think of us, but rather we should serve because God’s love for us spills over from ourselves to others.

Shane left with a final idea that in a generation from now, the world will no longer see Christians as “anti-gay, judgemental, and hypocritical,” but rather as people of “grace, mercy and love.” And we all said a hearty: “amen!”

I wouldn’t have traded my experience at the Assembly for anything and I could feel the Spirit moving in me, around me, and through others.