What does it mean to be “on fire”? This was a question I heard often prior to Canada Youth. Since I was invited to lead four days of keynote addresses, people in my community wanted to know what the theme actually meant.
The theme verse was Luke 24:32—part of the story of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. It is a story about God’s relationship with us.
We considered how we are children of God, called and chosen and gifted by God for ministry.
Then we reflected on the notion of discipleship. There are a multitude of choices people need to make each day and continuing to choose Christ can be a challenge. I spoke about injustice on a local and global scale. We talked about the importance of standing for something.
We reflected on the challenge of feeling alone. Leading a life of discipleship can be a hard thing to do. There are times when we wonder if God is there and if God is really listening to us. Particularly in our most difficult moments, how do we understand if God is present and how God works in our most desperate times? This was the day we raised up issues such as disease, grief, death, bullying, peer pressure, living in a new context and crying out for God’s guidance.
It was a difficult day and an honest day. We dealt with some very challenging issues; some of us even cried. But this was balanced out by clear affirmations of God’s continual presence with us. Sometimes we don’t recognize the powerful movements of God’s Spirit in our time because it comes to us in ways we do not expect. Still, God is there; we are never alone.
The final day of keynote addresses focused on transformation. With all that we had explored in the days before, what do we do now? Perhaps we live as people called by God, living lives of discipleship, knowing that God goes with us in our most difficult times. We live as transformed people.
This was the day we spoke about change. We spoke about speaking truth to power. We know that God loves us exactly as we are, but we also know that God loves us enough to change us into something even more precious. God loves us so much that God wants us to be even better people than we are now and God will work with us to bring about transformation in our lives and in the world around us.
We explored some challenging concepts, yet we did so in humble faith and in ways that made sense.
And I was never really alone. I was able to gather an amazing team of youth. I wrote a series of dramas to animate the scriptures at Canada Youth; drama team members Jemima Amoabeng (Ghanaian Presbyterian), Vanessa Cordova (North Park) and Eric Oh (Toronto Myung-Sung Presbyterian) shared their gifts for acting on stage.
I really appreciated some of the one-on-one conversations I had with young people. Some came and shared how a story or a video had really spoken to them; they wanted to delve a bit deeper into their own faith journey. Earnest and sincere, sometimes we sat together and reflected and talked about how to carry the ideas from this conference forward into their everyday lives.
It was an honour to be part of this gathering. I am grateful for the Spirit’s presence, which I felt so tangibly during that time. This was a gift of God. Thanks be to God.