Two years ago, I wrote about YC17—why it’s important to young people, and how it changes lives. I wrote it as a sixteen year old. Now, I’m nearly nineteen, and looking back, I greatly underestimated the power of a convention like this.

I’m convinced that when you’re in high school, two years can change you as much as ten years can when you’re an adult. Grades six through twelve are extremely influential years. People change so much. I’m living proof of that. During YC17, I was about to be a junior in high school and was highly anxious. I chased happiness and contentment in the most fleeting forms, and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Many students who attend YC are in the exact same spot I was.

The pressure they feel is intense. The lies they hear might seem appealing, but they always end up feeling empty. They hear voices from all sides telling them they’re worthless, they don’t matter, they have to do it by themselves.

At YC, they’re told “you’re beautiful,” “you’re loved,” and “you don’t have to do this alone.” Those truths are so precious. Life is so hard in middle and high school, and it keeps getting harder. The vulnerability and transparency of the YC speakers who present the truth gives students hope that they are not alone. There’s something about hearing real life stories from people who have (actually!) been teenagers too. Those stories stick with the students who attend YC, and the hope they hear can make all the difference in their lives.

They listen to these truths alongside others who are in the same boat, and they are experiencing what fellowship in the Church is supposed to be. They sing these truths, accompanied by hundreds of other voices. They see these truths displayed through some of God’s greatest creation. They’re surrounded on all sides with God’s goodness, and they’re hearing the real gospel, not one that fills in the not-so-pretty parts with fluff. There’s no room for fluff with teenagers. They sure aren’t getting fluff in real life, so let’s not give them fluff at church.

Young people have the opportunity to get as much out of YC as the Lord puts on their hearts. I’ve seen first-hand how God uses the convention to grow his Church, and how he works in the hearts of his children. I know that many have come to faith through attending YC. I’ve seen students start to act differently. I’ve seen them step up in new ways.

YC is raising up leaders. YC is equipping the Church, because young people are the Church right now. I think of 1 Timothy 4:12 often when I think about my youth group. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” I think one thing I’ve failed at as I’ve grown up is looking to people younger than me as an example. Many of them have hearts hungry for the gospel. They ask question after question, and have a child-like faith that we could all learn from.
During YC17, as I watched the youth leaders and heard the speakers, I felt a tug at my heart. It all clicked as I realized we were going to need a new youth leader at our church—and it was going to be me. Still, I had no clue the impact it would have on me. That week I asked if I could be a youth leader, and it has changed my life. At YC19, there were hundreds of kids in the same position I was in two years ago. There are bound to be many of them whose lives have been changed as mine was—one day we will hear their stories.

As I look back at myself from one youth convention to the next, I see so clearly the work God has done in my life through this time in the mountains. Although the speakers and organizers are targeting the messages and activities towards youth, I think the leaders take away just as much, because we have been there before. We’ve been middle and high schoolers struggling our way through life. At YC we are fed the Word of God from people who know the struggle. And as leaders, we have the privilege of discussing what we’ve learned, and helping the youth grow into what God has created them to be.

My youth group has been a light in the darkness to me through these past couple of years. I never would have had this relationship with them or had the chance to be a leader to them if it wasn’t for the ministry of YC. Now I’m going to college to learn how to be an even better leader to youth. I’m so thankful for all the weeks I’ve been able to spend in the mountains. The impact of YC goes beyond time spent at YMCA of the Rockies. It’s life-long. It’s eternal. I’ve never been a part of something quite like it.

Thank you for your support of YC—past, present, and future!

Olivia Nordlund is a member of Grace Lutheran Brethren Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.

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