By Mary Baker Boudissa
The International Youth Convention is here! This week, the International Youth Convention of the Church of God, known as IYC, plans to take the Mile High City by storm. The biannual convention runs from July 4–7, 2012, and brings thousands of youth and youth leaders from cities across the United States and Canada. These exuberant young people come to worship and fellowship, and they are intent on making an impact on the world around them!
IYC equals life change—the kind of life change that can only come from living out a deeper relationship with God. But IYC participants aren’t just experiencing life change; they are changing the lives of others. In the days leading up to and during IYC, they are giving back to the Denver community. Since last Thursday, several youth groups have been coming together to organize community events, distribute food, and meet some of the needs in the community. More than two hundred teens were involved in the Carnival of Care in Sloan Lake Park, Colorado, a family event hosted by Sloan Lake Park Church of God. More than a hundred teen volunteers from Park Place Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), Westlake Community Church (Indianapolis, Indiana), and the Church at the Crossing (Indianapolis, Indiana) painted, cleaned, and did landscaping at George Washington High School in Denver.
According to Mandy Baldwin, associate youth pastor at the Church of the Crossing, leaders wanted the youth to see the power behind unity and cooperation. “For our kids, its being a part of something bigger than themselves. We couldn’t have walked into the school as individuals and been able to do so much, but when we worked together we could make an impact.” In essence, partnership, service, and love are the driving force behind the IYC efforts around the area. As Baldwin put it, “This is all part of serving and loving people well.”
Pre-IYC, more than a hundred youth gathered at a Denver church and wrote letters to children in third-world countries that will be delivered through Compassionate Ministries. More activities are planned for IMPACT Day at IYC, Thursday, July 5.
What is IMPACT Day? It’s a single day whose total focus is on making a tangible impact on the world around us. On Thursday, youth groups will partner with local nonproﬁts and engage in service activities around Denver, including trash pickup, collecting and stocking donations at local food banks, and various projects with the Salvation Army.
If they aren’t volunteering with an organization, groups have been encouraged to plug in to the city in other ways. Handing out bottled water to downtown visitors, visiting local nursing homes, and extending a hand to clean up local parks and streets are just a few of the ways young people can touch lives.
IMPACT Day is an important component of IYC’s efforts to develop Christian leaders.”We want every young person to know that they have been empowered to share the love of Christ with others,” says Lainey Priddy, IYC intern.
Priddy, a junior at Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, organized the activities for IMPACT Day at IYC. According to Priddy, some activities planned for the Colorado Springs area were cancelled due to the ﬁres, but that didn’t stop the IYC team from ﬁnding ways to serve. As the ﬁres raged, a call went out to youth groups to collect nonperishables and toiletries from their local congregations and bring the items with them. These donations will be given to help the dedicated team of ﬁreﬁghters, as well as those who have been evacuated from their homes.
Service to the community is part of the larger effort to help youth understand the need to share with the world. On Thursday afternoon, from 1:30 to 4:00 PM, more than fifteen hundred IYC participants will pack meals that will be sent to aid starving families in Honduras. Each meal contains rice, soy, vegetables, and vitamin powder and will feed a family of six people. The group plans to pack one hundred thousand meals to feed a half million people over the next few months! So, in addition to experiencing all that the Mile High City has to offer, IYC has a larger goal: it’s all about learning and growing in ways that allow teens to live differently, knowing they are loved by God, supported by a community of Christian believers, valued for their gifts and abilities, and empowered to affect the world in tremendous ways.
This year’s IYC theme is “LIVE 8,” based on the eighth chapter of the Bible book of Romans. “There can be no better road map for our lives than that which is laid out in the Bible,” says Dr. Andy Stephenson, leader of youth and family ministries for Church of God Ministries, Anderson, Indiana. “Romans 8 is a foundation for living, and that’s why we are emphasizing it this year.” Stephenson and his youth ministries team, which includes youth leaders from churches around the nation, have planned a convention that will equip young people to live Christ out in every area of their lives. Students will attend conferences, experience worship that will focus on the way in which they can LIVE Free, LIVE Awakened, LIVE Empowered, and LIVE Connected. For IYC, this is something of a homecoming, since the IYC was held here a decade ago. “The city of Denver is special to the IYC family,” said Stephenson. “This is an awesome community, and we’ve made some close connections over the years here.”
For a complete schedule of conferences, services, and events, get the IYC app free!