By Sam Rainey
Thousands of teens and leaders gather together every two years for what could be the moment of a lifetime. For four days, the International Youth Convention allows teens to experience everything from outreach projects to live concerts to powerful speakers and worship. It could be simple to see IYC as just another Christian convention. But it is so much more than that. IYC is a vessel full of stories, an event that holds in its history of forty-nine previous conventions thousands of testimonies and life-changing moments, every single one of them of unending value and continuing reach.
Kayla Harden was, in her own words, “extremely isolated and alone.” She was, in fact, being bullied to the point of wanting to switch schools. As she came to IYC2002 in Denver, Colorado, though, Kayla was excited because she had heard so much about past IYCs. She was “overwhelmed by the chance to worship with thousands of other teens,” with some of them probably feeling just as lonely. Then, during the event, Christ met Kayla right where she was. She explains that, at IYC2002, her loneliness “faded as God reminded [her] that [she] wasn’t truly alone.” Up to that point in her life, she had a relationship with Christ, but her faith was only surface-level. She “went to church and knew the right answers,” but her faith life seemed to be all about rules. In the atmosphere of a large youth event like IYC, Kayla found that God would care about her and would never leave her behind. She began to truly develop her relationship with Jesus. After her experiences at IYC, she felt the calling to become a youth leader. She is now the student ministries pastor at West Side Church of God in Glendale, Arizona. Throughout her spiritual life, she has found God present, “working behind the scenes, drawing [her] closer to him.” And now as someone who brings youth to IYC, she finds that the event is a chance for her to see God work in her students’ lives.
Josh Deeter grew up in a home that didn’t frequently go to church. The extent of his experiences during his elementary years were mostly Christmas and Easter services. He categorized himself as a “young seeker,” someone who hadn’t quite found God yet. During the sixth grade, Josh started coming to church more often because of an invitation from his cousin, and a year later, he was preparing to go to his first IYC—IYC1998 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was ready to have fun, feeling like the trip was “a vacation with a bunch of friends.” Once he got there, it was unlike anything he had experienced before. He was “encouraged” by the fact that the people there were “full of energy, aimed at worshipping God and drawing closer to him.” This event would hold a lot more for him, though. It was there that he fully gave his life to Christ. After the speaker had presented the gospel, he spoke a prayer for the Lord to enter his heart and ultimately to enter the hearts of his family. Over the next year, Josh convinced his parents and two brothers to come to church with him and encouraged them to accept Jesus. Eventually, they all did. At the next IYC, he made an official commitment to ministry which, from then to now, he feels has been “a journey.” Since his commitment, Josh has graduated from Anderson University, obtained a master of divinity, and is now the lead pastor of First Church of God in Tallmadge, Ohio. His journey has even led him to help organize IYC2008 as an IYC intern, which he calls “the most fulfilling thing [he had] done.” Planning for and participating in a convention that changed his life for the better was “exhilarating.”
Students who have experienced life change at IYC, like Craig Knisley, Alyssa Peterson, and Katelyn Parson, are just a few more of the countless examples of how God has changed young people’s lives and paths through the International Youth Convention of the Church of God. Let’s pray and believe that this year’s IYC will hold many more stories of redemption and hope, with all glory going back to the Father.
Your student ministries group can still register for IYC2016 at the door. For details, visit www.iyc2016.org.
Sam Rainey is a general studies major with a music business focus, and a complementary major in writing, at Anderson University.