This year, our trip to Atlanta marked the fifth time that G-Dub and I have had the privilege of attending the NYWC (Since we started in youth ministry, we’ve had to miss it twice and sorely missed it both times). It was interesting to me that this year I attended with a new perspective; the first few years I was desperate for ideas and training, this year I came with experience under my belt, but hungry for encouragement and spiritual renewal.
This need was reflected in my ‘convention highlight’ list. I didn’t attend all the seminars, and those I did attend were moderately helpful. My most memorable moments were those that made me laugh, smile and cry, and those that captured the mystery and wonder of the unique relationship we have with our Almighty God.
Here are a few standout experiences of the conference:
Critical Concerns Course with Brock Morgan and Mark Helsel: Re-thinking Traditional Youth Ministry Models - This was an in-depth seminar that led to some great conversation and laid the foundation for concepts that spanned the entire weekend. Youth ministry is a relatively new phenomenon, and it was fascinating to see how it emerged and the transitions its already undergone.
Sand Artist Joe Castillo - I had never even heard of, much less seen this incredible artistic performance in which sand is moved around on a lit table, creating moving images set to music. What a unique and stirring way to portray the Passion.
Marquis Laughlin - Marquis is a gifted performer with a unique ability to memorize and recite scripture. "Recite" is too dull a word, though, as what Marquis does is present the word of God in a way that springs to life. I've never been so enthralled with the Bible. Sunday evening, Marquis presented Genesis 12-24, all by memory. As he concluded, I couldn't believe how quickly it had gone. I had a strange conflict of emotions, impressed by Marquis' gift, sad it had concluded, wondering if the dull, boring ways we are accustomed to hearing scripture might border on the downright sinful. G-Dub and I bought a DVD to share with our youth, and had the chance to chat with Marquis for a little while. Good stuff.
Shane Claiborne - If you read Gary's post a few days ago, you know that Shane's session was the most controversial of the weekend. For whatever reason, I found Shane's reading of the sermon on the mount to be beautiful and encouraging. Of course I would love to hear about his different experiences, but instead of feeling 'ripped off', I appreciated that Shane told his story not through words but his demeanor. The way he carried himself as he walked on and off the stage. The humble and sincere tone of his voice as he read Jesus' words. The innocent joy in sharing his greatest treasure, the words of his saviour. I didn't feel preached at, but invited in.
Compassion Testimony - At the convention each year, there is always a Compassion booth encouraging attendees to sponsor a child. During one of the general sessions this year, we had the opportunity to hear from an incredible woman named Michelle who had been a Compassion child as a young girl in the Philippines. She shared her story, how she had been raised in poverty in a broken home, and really had no hope until Compassion intervened, providing her the necessities of daily living as well as the value of knowing the heavenly Father who loves her. At one point, she brought out letters she had received from her sponsor as a child, and told us through tears how she had treasured every one. It was so powerful, I can't even write this without tears coming to my eyes. I was blown away by the realization how often I underestimate the ability I have to actually change a child's future.
Worship with David Crowder - Throughout the weekend, we had the privilege of worshipping with a number of great groups, including Desperation Band, Chris Tomlin and Steve Fee. Historically, I've never clicked with the DCB live, but for whatever reason when they took the stage this weekend, I was most able to set down the burdens I've been carrying and just give them to the Lord. What a gift. There's an indescribable intensity about worshipping with thousands of other youth workers, and these times never fail to be my favorite of the convention.
Skit Guys - I've seen Tommy & Eddie perform several times now, and they never fail to make me laugh or cry with their hilarious and touching dramas. Sunday night, I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my face, easily the hardest I've laughed since hearing Ashley's bathtub story almost two years ago. Thanks, Skit Guys, for the joy you've brought into my life! I'll see you in April at Planet Wisdom!