Cleveland teen: Resurrection is a 'powerful encounter' for youth

Cleveland teen: Resurrection is a 'powerful encounter' for youth

On Jan. 18-20 and Jan. 25-27, more than 12,000 youth and counselors gather in Gatlinburg, Tenn., for Resurrection, Holston Conference's annual spiritual retreat for teens. Here's what one participant wrote about her experience.

It's a Friday night in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and teenagers from across the Holston Conference are lined up outside Gatlinburg Convention Center in 35-degree weather. Passersby might think Brad Pitt has just entered the building. But what’s inside is something extraordinarily different and far more powerful than any encounter with Brad Pitt.

It’s Resurrection 2008, an event where the lives of youth are dramatically altered every year. This is the event that youth look forward to all year long. It’s a time for youth to see old friends, meet new ones, worship, fellowship, and -- like any good United Methodist gathering -- eat fantastic food. Everyone is here and ready to go. By the end of the weekend, Gatlinburg people won’t know what hit them.

Music has significant impact on everyone’s lives in one way or another. It has a way of reaching people like nothing else does, so it’s no surprise that Resurrection has an amazing band every year. The guests of honor this year is the band Starfield: three Canadians and one mullet-wearing Texan. This is not Starfield's first visit to the Smoky Mountains, for they blessed us with their music last year as well. Their loyal fans couldn’t have been more elated to see them return. At the mention of their name, thousands of screaming fans rushed the stage to form a huge crowd around them.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that the only thing they have going for them are their good looks and electric sound; their lyrics are beautiful and truly inspiring. One could easily tell that Starfield is a hit with the crowd from the hundreds of Starfield T-shirts worn by everyone in sight from Friday until Sunday. Future Resurrection bands will have big shoes to fill, as Starfield is truly loved by the fans at Resurrection.

The speaker at Resurrection has an extremely important task. The task is to bring the word of God to thousands of teenagers from across the conference. He or she has to be someone who youth can relate to and look up to, and this year the speaker did not disappoint. This year we were blessed to have Rev. Lowell McNaney. His message brought a question to many people’s minds: Why aren’t we radical about God? One of his answers was fear. He taught the crowd an African phrase that means, “I am not afraid of anything.” For most of us, that phrase cannot be said honestly. The lives of human beings are driven by fear. Fear keeps us from asking out the person we like, or trying out for a sports team, or more importantly, from spreading the word of God.

The Rev. McNaney demonstrated an important lesson. He taught the group that with God in their lives, they no longer have to be afraid. He taught them that the one ounce of fear in their bodies doesn’t have to ruin their lives and keep them from living out God’s plan or experiencing all that God has to offer. The speaker made an impact on many lives and was a phenomenal inspiration. Because of his powerful message, most teenagers and chaperones were extremely grateful -- and forever changed.

Resurrection is not only made up of sessions at the Convention Center, but also of opportunities to get to know the people in your youth group. There is free time before and after the sessions -- the perfect time to spend together and walk the streets of Gatlinburg. There’s time to eat, or ride the chairlift, or take pictures with celebrities in the new wax museum. But all of these things don’t compare to the time spent riding buses, playing pool, or eating in restaurants with the members of your youth group. It’s a very unique thing to meet teenagers who are as passionate about God as you are. It’s a wonderful thing to experience, and all who do are extremely lucky.

When people come together at the start of Resurrection weekend, the majority of them come as strangers -- either strangers to each other or strangers to God. However, by the end of the weekend, they are no longer strangers, but united as brothers and sisters in Christ. They are united in a cause of living for God. It’s the most beautiful thing to experience people being transformed into new individuals. Because of Resurrection 2008, youth from across the Holston Conference will be forever changed.

*Kirby is a youth member in a Cleveland District church. Some information is withheld to protect her privacy.