ST. MARYS — Two St. Paul’s United Church of Christ youths spent a few days on the campus of Purdue University earlier this month, joining a group of teens from across the nation for an event that occurs every four years.
Jenny Briggs and Maddy Ginter attended the National Youth Event, which “provides an opportunity for over 3,000 youths to gather for worship, workshops, faith, fun and fellowship,” according to the United Church of Christ’s website. Ginter and Briggs learned of the event through their youth leader at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ.
“Our old youth leader asked if we wanted to go,” Ginter said.
Briggs said she was interested in the event, so she signed up.
“It sounded like fun,” she said.
The two girls, along with chaperone Laura Yelton, traveled to West Lafayette, Ind., for the National Youth Event July 10-14 for an experience they said they’ll never forget.
This year’s National Youth Event theme, Imagine, focused on imagining a better world and featured speakers, worship, workshops and other activities to give the more than 3,000 youths in attendance the tools they need to make a difference. Attendees were welcomed to the event with “Imagine Extravagant Welcome” on July 10, which focused on how the United Church of Christ accepts all people, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation. On July 11, the theme of the day was “Imagine a Healthy World,” and on July 12, activities focused on imagining a world where differences are embraced. Activities wrapped up on July 13 with a theme of “Imagine One Church.”
Every morning and evening, attendees met for worship and also heard from a list of keynote speakers including JR Martinez, MK Asante and Marcia Mcfee, they also heard from youth keynote speakers who had all attended the National Youth Event in the past. Ginter noted JR Marinez’s speech, which focused on adapting and overcoming, stood out to her.
“I just liked his the best,” she said. “It was interesting.”
Briggs noted Carissa Yinmed’s speech.
“It stood out to me,” Briggs said. “She talked about how people didn’t accept her because she came from a different country.”
Ginter visited a West Lafayette, Ind., nursing home as a service project.
“We talked with the residents and played cards,” she said. “One of the residents painted a picture.”
Briggs attended a handful of workshops.
“I went to one about no violence, healthy world,” she said. “It was about how we shouldn’t have violence, and we talked about temptations. There’s some necessary violence — like police officers that catch bad guys — but the rest of the us need to take a step back.”
In addition to their time spent in worship and workshops, Briggs and Ginter got a feeling for college life, staying in a dorm room.
“We had a lot of fun in the dorms,” Briggs said, noting that although she enjoyed most of dorm life, she was not fond of the community showers.
They also toured the Purdue University campus, finding a link to home at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, where they found a statue of Neil Armstrong and outlines of his moon footprints.
Briggs and Ginter said attending the event strengthened their faith and are looking into the possibility of returning to the National Youth Event in four years as mentors in training.
“There were some girls there that were helping high schoolers,” Ginter said, noting the mentors provided tips on saving and earning money for college and what to look for when choosing a college.
The two left the National Youth Event with a little homework — a community service project, Faith In — that they are hoping to get started on in the fall.
For more information about the National Youth Event, visit UCC.org/NYE.