PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Jan. 30, 2019) -- There are a lot of songs at Resurrection, but one song in particular seemed to seal the deal to take Holston Conference’s 34-year-old annual youth weekend to a new level.
When Yarieth Arias Chacón belted out “How Great Thou Art” in Spanish on Saturday at LeConte Center, she received a standing ovation from 9,000 youth and leaders who had just participated in a special offering to re-create Resurrection for young people in Costa Rica.
“This is special stuff,” said Josh French, co-emcee, before gathering Chacón and her team from Costa Rica together for a prayer as audience members stretched their arms toward the stage.
“Many of us have been impacted by this event for a long time, myself included,” French said, “and now we have a team trying to bring this vibe and this feeling and this spirit to Costa Rica. Do you understand how incredible that is?”
By the time Resurrection weekend concluded on Sunday, Jan. 27, attendees had given $28,797 toward the realization of “Resurrection Costa Rica.” The inaugural event has been scheduled Oct. 11-13, 2019, in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, with a goal of reaching 1,000 youth and young adults.
The offering was collected as a project of the Youth Service Fund, which is collected every year at Resurrection and distributed through grants to support youth ministries in the U.S. and overseas.
Nate Roark is chair of Youth Service Fund. When he and the youth council that helps plan Resurrection heard about the opportunity to seed a new event in another country, “we hopped all over it,” he said.
“It’s really something to be able to say as a conference, we helped create a nationwide mission,” said Roark, a member of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM).
“Resurrection Costa Rica” is the now-knitted vision of Methodist dreams and ministries that have been emerging separately in two nations. The Resurrection Design Team has “wanted to include others in the Resurrection experience” for several years, said Laura McLean, Holston associate director of connectional ministries.
“When we began livestreaming the event, we had lots of conversations around how we could share that with people around the world,” McLean said. “And while seeing video from our Resurrection event is exciting and powerful, it is far more powerful for people in different areas to have the opportunity to lead and develop a ministry for their people.”
The Rev. Jerry Russell, a longtime leader in Holston Conference missions and founder of Samaritan Hands, has led teams to Costa Rica for 28 years. In March 2018, a youth team from Fairview United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee, where Russell served for several years before retirement, helped organize an event for the La Fortuna Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Costa Rica.
The concert was a hit, attended by 150 youth and young adults. “It went phenomenally well, and that seeded the thought,” says the Rev. Jason Roe, leader of Holston’s Resurrection Team.
According to Russell, the Methodists in Costa Rica began to ask, “Why can’t we do something that’s not for one group of people but for the whole country?”
When Roe and Russell met for breakfast one day, it didn’t take long for a plan to emerge that would help create a new Resurrection.
“They’re so excited about the hospitality of Holston,” said Russell, referring to the Methodists in Costa Rica. “There’s no other conference that I know of that displays the love of God and the hospitality to other bodies of Christ the way Holston does.”
The Evangelical Methodist Church of Costa Rica has 90 local churches, 45 preaching points, and 9,500 members, according to the World Methodist Council. Bishop Fernando Palomo is on the team to organize Resurrection in Costa Rica, Russell says.
Six members of the Costa Rica design team attended Resurrection in Pigeon Forge Jan. 25-27 to share the vision for their new event and to answer questions. One of those members was Chacón, who sang “How Great Thou Art” in Spanish. Another member, Yadir Santiago Soto, shared his testimony on the LeConte Center stage.
“My responsibility is to organize people around the country because we want to have 1,000 people. If God wants to bring more people, then we are able,” said Soto through a translator later in the day in the exhibit hall. He is a youth minister for Central Methodist Church in Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica.
“For us, it’s like a dream,” said Soto. “Never in my life do I think this is possible.”
For $10 per participant, Resurrection in Costa Rica will pay for – not just admission to hear a speaker and musicians – but also meals and lodging, Roe said. “It will have a whole different dynamic. They don’t have hotels. They don’t have money. So they’ll sleep in churches, schools, camps.” The event will be held in an open-air venue in La Fortuna, near Arenal Volcano.
Russell says they’ve already located 580 of the needed 1,000 places for participants to sleep. “It’s going to take $18,000 just to feed them six meals.”
The goal for Resurrection in Pigeon Forge was to raise at least $50,000 total to fund the Costa Rican event. (U.S. participants were asked to bring $10 each for the offering.) The $28,797 raised was more than $10,000 higher than the previous year’s Youth Service Fund offering, but still short of the goal.
“We’re still receiving donations,” said Roark. (See giving information below.)
Samaritan Hands is also inviting United Methodists in the U.S. to join a team that will travel in October to help the Costa Rican team put on the event. (See information below.)
After the inaugural event, the organizing teams already have hopes to host 8,000 for Resurrection 2020 in Costa Rica and later to re-create the event in Guatemala and Zimbabwe, Russell said.
People who have loved and appreciated Resurrection are now part of a movement to share the love with brothers and sisters in new places, Roe said.
“For the adults who have been attending Resurrection for its 34 years -- If they were 12 in 1986, they’re now 46,” Roe said. “The idea is, we have a lot of people who have been impacted by Resurrection. This could be their opportunity to give back.”
Contact Annette Spence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
> To contribute to the Youth Service Fund, write checks to “Holston Conference” with “Rez Costa Rica” on the memo line. Mail to: Laura McLean, Holston Conference, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701.
> To participate in the servant leadership team to Costa Rica Oct. 7-14 (cost per person: $1,550), contact: Kerry Russell at 865.214.6953 or SamaritanHandsTN@gmail.com.
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Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.