Meeting God and Each Other at Canada Youth 2016

Days that open with wacky dancing and end in prayer. Meals spent discussing Bible study and Frisbee games. Evenings filled with worship and cotton candy.

This was Canada Youth, a week-long conference held at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., where hundreds of young adults from all around the country came to learn leadership skills, worship God, and have lots of fun. It was a way for Presbyterian youth to connect with those their own age—something that might not be available to them as much in their home congregations—and grow together in the Spirit.

Participants could join up in one of three tracks: the Youth Track which focused on small groups and discussions for participants who have graduated Grade 9; the Discipleship Track which focused on challenging youth who had graduated high school to think deeper about God’s plan for them; or the Youth Ministry Training Track, which was a way for youth and adults 18 and older to learn more about what it means to be a youth leader.

The theme for the event was “We Are Home,” and each day was spent looking at another aspect of “home.” Whether it was celebrating our home here in Canada, or looking at the situation of refugees without a home, participants were challenged to look at what God’s home looked like, and what that meant for them.

While there, the Record asked some of the young people and leaders when they had last encountered God in their lives. They were chosen randomly, and their answers offer a small look into each person’s spiritual journey. These responses show some of the ways young people are passionate about Christ, and the ways that God is still actively working in our world.

Leaving CY, participants were given a key on a loop of hemp to remind them that they are always welcome in God’s house. But they left with much more than that: new friendships, new perspectives and new energy to bring God’s house with them wherever they go. —Gillian Secord

When did you last encounter God?

Daniel McAlpine, Collingwood, Ont.
I think I have encountered God] probably the whole week at CY. Back at home, I have a tough time with faith and attending regularly, but it’s a lot different here. It’s like jumping into freezing cold water; you’re immersed in God for the entire week instead of being at church for one Sunday and then missing the next week or two. This is a whole week of being at church and being with God, which is really great.

Amanda Henderson-Bolton, Charlottetown
Our church made a video recently of the past year of our church and youth group, this big compilation of photos and videos from everything we’d done over the year. I saw God in all the memories being played out and seeing all the moments from the community pulling together and it was a really great reminder that God is with us all the time.

Jo Colgan, Calgary
I was out camping up in the mountains the weekend before CY, and it was a quiet time to connect with God in the hills and meadows up there, and see Him in nature. It’s a very different thing than CY, which is very high energy, so it was nice to recharge out there for a bit before coming here.

Barb Acton,Edmonton
One of the girls in our group here at CY is new to the country, and when we went to check into the airport before our flight over here, it turned out that she didn’t have the right ID with her to fly. Annabella, who’d driven us to the airport, drove back to her house to get her proper ID, but it still wasn’t the right one so she still couldn’t get on the flight.

She had to take the girl back home as the rest of us got on the flight and ended up driving us to the airport, driving back for the ID, then back to the airport, then back again with the girl, going the next day and driving a bunch of kids to a camp, and then driving the girl back to the airport. Finally they were able to get a paper to let her fly. It was just so kind of her to do all that extra driving when she didn’t have to.

Julia-Don Edwards, Edmonton
I just graduated high school this year from a performing arts K-12 school. I was there a lot, especially for shows and rehearsals, so it really was my home. God has always worked in my life through theatre and art; I feel His love and grace, the same feeling as being at church. My last week of school was full of those God moments as I said goodbye to teachers and peers.

Right now, I’m at a vulnerable place where God is working in me in different ways than He normally would. I’m mourning that period in my life, but with God, I’m not stressed, I’m just allowing it to happen and letting myself feel it.

Jasmine Khnanishoo, Ontario, Canada
About six months ago, my mom’s parents were pretty sick. My mom asked me to pray for them, and I did. Then, a couple weeks later, we heard that their symptoms had gotten better. Sometimes I doubt the power of prayer, so it was nice to see it answered like that.

Dia Erdelyi, Hungary
I work in an office, so coming here has been very spiritually refreshing. Worship has especially been wonderful in helping me with that, and it’s also very interesting to see the different liturgy that your church uses in comparison to ours.

Noemi Abram, Hungary
Right before coming here, I was in an intense exam period. By God’s grace I managed to get through it, and come to CY. After the loneliness of studying, it’s nice to experience togetherness here.

Charlie Varney, Calgary, Ontario, Canada
I’ve felt God a lot this week in my casa group [small group]. I’m in a really good group, and everyone in it has been great. We’ve all been really open when we’re talking about our faith, and respectful of what each other has to say, so we’ve had some cool talks there about God and faith and stuff.

Allison Duncan, Shedden, Ontario, Canada
I felt God’s presence last night at worship. We do older hymns at my church usually, and that’s not bad, but it was really cool to feel the power of everyone singing with one voice here when they cut out the music and it was just our voices.

“That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
—Ephesians 2:19-22
(The Message)

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About Gillian Secord

Gillian Secord was the Record’s summer intern. She lives in Newmarket, Ont.