When I first started coming to GYC, I would remember every message, every speaker, and every conviction felt during each session. I would even remember who sang which special music for which evening. I learned so many new things, heard so many fresh thoughts that I had never heard before. My hungry and ignorant soul needed those sermons.
But if you’re like me and will be attending your n-th GYC conference this year, you may have more difficulty in remembering the messages you heard in previous GYCs. It takes me a few minutes now to distinguish between GYC 2008 and 2009, and I honestly can’t remember what happened in 2010. The conferences, plenary sessions, and workshops blend together in this one big blob of memory where I picture multitudes of people entering and exiting the auditorium.
If that is so, I want to suggest that listening to 7 sermons straight each day may not be your greatest need in coming to GYC. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come, though. I’d like to submit that your greatest need may be to serve others at the conference and volunteer.
Early this year I wrote about my volunteering experience at GYC 2011, about how much fun it was. As a result, I couldn’t attend most of the sessions and seminars, and I remember almost nothing from last year. But I assure you, I was spiritually fed and refreshed.
If you have never volunteered at GYC, here’s my attempt to canvass you to do it this year.
First, you get to work with people who are like-minded and passionately determined to give the best for God. The resonance in thought, feeling, and mission is at a level you will rarely see elsewhere (and if you’re in a secular environment – never). As a result, the kind of synergy in teamwork that takes place is simply invigorating.
Second, you get to be involved in a short-term project that will very likely end well, and with low chance of interpersonal conflicts because everyone is so nice. Even if there’s conflict, the prevailing custom is to be Christ-like. Basically, a happy ending is guaranteed and you will gain that rewarding feeling from a job well done.
Third, you get to appreciate the complicated orchestra that is GYC. The details that go into actualizing an event for 7000 people are simply astounding, and not one person involved in the project has superpowers. Have you thought about what goes into moving 7000 people from the auditorium to the dining hall without confusion? GYC happens because of individual contributions from young men and women whose lives have been touched by the Gospel. And THAT is simply amazing.
Fourth, you get to see how God covers glitches. Because there are so many pieces that need to come together, mistakes happen. And you get to practice that Christian love and humility you hear about in the seminars, because it may be that God covers some of the glitches through you. What about practicing patience during complaints when registration is down? These things do happen, because we’re imperfect human beings in an imperfect world.
The machinery that makes the conference happen is not faultless, but it so happens that God’s grace is enough to cover our–yes, all 7000 of us–shortcomings and weaknesses.
You may get sore leg muscles from running back and forth delivering water bottles. Or you may get blisters from rushing to print handouts for speakers. But there’s a storehouse of blessings that will not be unlocked until you are engaged in service.
“in our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy andthe highest education are in service”(Education, p. 309)
So, volunteer! Just remember to do stretches each night and that blisters heal. But that joy of service will do something more lasting to your soul. See you in Seattle!
GYC 2011 in Houston, Texas was my eighth GYC, and I think it was the one at which I had the most fun. What made this GYC drastically different than any of its predecessors? This time around, instead of attending the conference, I was volunteering. I’ve volunteered in the past, but not to the extent that I would miss most of the meetings and seminars. This time, I really volunteered. And I don’t remember ever being so refreshed returning from a GYC conference.
My favorite part about volunteering at GYC was the part where I could work together with like-minded young people, with my favorite people in the world. I’d do any project with these ones. And not only I could work together with them, I could work together with them physically in one place. There’s nothing that can replace the synergy of a team other than being together. And the team that made up the Presidential Hospitality Department (PHD) at GYC 2011 was top notch! I’ve never seen such seamless and efficient execution of both planned and unplanned tasks.
Since I’m located in a place far away from most of my spiritual peers, this ability of working in a team is something I highly crave. It boosts my mood and quality of my work when I can do them with people. It is even a source of spiritual struggle when this doesn’t happen. In fact, this was the case the last few months of 2011. I was simply tired, not of working, but of working alone.
With that background, volunteering for PHD fulfilled perfectly my spiritual need. I needed to work more than I needed to sit in sermons or seminars. Being involved in service is the practical aspect of spirituality and it is equally (if not more) important than the theoretical. In fact, this practicality suited my day-to-day existence. Being in a working cycle, where I cannot rely on protracted amount of vacation time anymore, I can’t rely on breaks to get spiritually charged. I need to learn to find spiritual refreshments during the intense demands at work.
Most times, at least for me, when I think of spiritual needs, I think of the need to be fed through prayer, Bible studies, sitting in seminars or sermons, or being spiritually nursed by older and wiser mentors. And when I think of service, I think of it as a less important and optional aspect of my spiritual life, because in this case I am on the giving end instead of the receiving end.
I’d like to submit that service is a spiritual need. Working, getting physically tired from running around doing errands, taking care of other people – all of these are spiritual feedings. I experienced it first hand this GYC – gaining more refreshment by giving.
So, for all GYC attendees out there, I highly recommend volunteering at GYC, or anywhere, as a matter of fact. Volunteer at church, in the local communities, and engage in service. You need it!
The events that took place leading up to the ANEW Fall Conference 2011, the planning, the expected and unexpected happenings, the anticipation for the number of attendees, the novel program format and content, gave the team a sense that this conference was going to be epic in more ways than one. And it was.
For the first time, after years of claiming that I’m a part of a campus ministry movement, I can finally say that I came home from an event having witnessed a true movement. Why?
Because now, it has become evident that the students are moving. Finally, after saying it over and over again in many conferences, the attendees understand that ANEW is them. ANEW is not just the leaders and not just the conference; it’s everyone in the network. Finally, students are taking up projects and running with it. The network is finally moving.
Perhaps it was just so obvious that based on the number of projects we set out to the network and the ridiculous goals we set ourselves to do, people just knew there was no way these things will get done by 8 people. And so what did they do? They jumped on to the bandwagon.
You know you have a movement coming along when at the end of the conference, people crowd around the leaders to get involved with the different projects.
You know you have a movement, when after saying “Canvassing will change your life… getting doors slammed in your face,” you have students crowding Eunice to sign up for the summer canvassing program.
You know you have a movement, when after Juan appealed that we need to know very intimately the message that we are to carry on campus – the Three Angels Message – the 3AM Project doubled in size.
You know you have a movement, when after pretty much saying “We’re broke, but we’re not going to stop doing things,” people raised up their hands to come up with ideas, and rushed to David and Erica to join the fund raising team.
The newsletter project, high school and young professionals project, caregroup initiations … This thing is more than a full time job.
Accomplishments? That word is the least fitted word to what has happened so far with ANEW. Our work has only just begun, because the movement has only started.
It’s time for a deeper dedication. It’s time to really sacrifice and weed out unnecessary things in life. It’s time to move.