I had never been to GYC before and had no plans of trying to attend, but by God’s design, I found myself at my first GYC event three weeks ago in Portland, Oregon. I had heard mentions of GYC before, but had never thought about attending or even seen live streams or audio clips. In short, it was an absolutely amazing experience! There is something very powerful when you are surrounded by thousands of other young people who believe the same as you, and are on fire for Christ. The entire event was a fantastic experience, and I would encourage any young people reading this, if you have the opportunity to attend next year, please do it! You won’t regret it! Each day usually started with an early morning prayer session and then breakfast followed by a group morning devotional. After that, we would split into different seminars. There were a total of 15 different seminars each with a different speaker, and each one had multiple different sessions with an overarching theme. All of the different sessions I attended were extremely thought provoking and packed to the brim with info that I would run out of room to share here. (stay tuned?) The first full day, Thursday, we had two sessions before lunch, and two after. When the seminars were done for the day, the exhibit hall would open for a couple hours, there would be one more evening meeting at 6:00pm, and then the exhibit hall would be open again till 9:00pm. At 9:00pm, they started my favorite event, which was called Afterglow. It was essentially a smaller setting to connect with other people, network, and make some new friends. I had a rough introverted experience the first night, but ended up really enjoying it and made some great friends and connections. After the morning devotional on Friday, there was one final seminar session. After that was completed, it was time for outreach day! This year, the GYC team had organized five different outreach opportunities. The first was building beds for local children. Through a partnership with a local chapter of the nonprofit, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, this group was able to build 107 beds for local children who did not currently have one. The second outreach team was putting together care package bags for the local homeless population through a partnership with CityTeamPortland, another local nonprofit working to help those struggling with food insecurity and homelessness. This was the group that I was a part of. Together, we made over 2000 bags full of snacks, hygiene supplies, blankets, gloves, hats, and other needed supplies. Many bags also contained GLOW tracts and handwritten notes. These bags were later distributed around the area to the local homeless population. The three other outreach opportunities were literature, singing, and most importantly, prayer sessions. There were groups of people going door to door handing out GLOW tracts while talking and praying with local residents. A group of musicians and singers also went around town, singing at multiple different areas including a correctional facility. Finally, there was a large hours-long prayer session led by Gem Castor praying for each outreach team and the local community as a whole.
The theme of GYC this year was “But if Not.” Pulled from Daniel 3:18, these verses are Shadrack, Meshack, and Abed-nego responding to the king, saying that God would be able to deliver them from the fiery furnace, but if not, they would still not worship the golden image. That message really got me thinking over the four days that we were there. So often we talk about how God is always there for us, how He will always hear and answer our prayers. But what do we do when those answers don't come right away? Do we stay strong and act out in faith or do we simply give up and abandon Him? Do you live in faith and commit to Him, knowing that He can save you from that fiery furnace? But if not, will you follow Him even when the path is unclear, and you have your own doubts and fears? When you know that His plan for you is better than your own? His plans may not take me where I want to go. They may not be clear to me and make sense, but if not, I will still follow… Wherever He Leads.