Brayden Lykens will not forget the Cincinnati children who talked about hearing gunshots at night.
Lindsey Kizer learned what it's like to have a “voice and a vote” at Annual Conference.
Tatum Harvel was so moved by the speaker’s messages at Assembly, she went home to preach out of her own heart in a follow-up video and blog.
These three teenagers were among the participants in Holston’s summer youth ministry, which includes three events:
> Youth in Mission in Cincinnati, Ohio
> Annual Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C.
> Assembly at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia
Each of the events draws participants from Holston churches throughout east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia. Each of the events were “all fun in their own way,” said Lykens, age 18, a member at Panther Springs United Methodist in Morristown, Tennessee.
Lykens attended all three of the summer events organized by the Holston Conference Connectional Ministries office. In Cincinnati, Lykens was one of 55 people from Holston who participated in “Summer Impact,” a ministry hosted by Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. The Holston group joined Hyde Park's summer mission for its own Youth in Mission during the week of July 8-14.
Lykens described how his group painted in the morning and “hung out with kids” in the afternoon. “One day we walked with them three blocks from the church to a swimming pool,” he said. “I got to see things from their point of view.”
The children were local residents attending a community center day camp. “They were not phased or scared” by the walk through the city streets, Lykens said. Also, "the stories they told of hearing shootings at night freaked me out a little.” Because he plans to attend seminary and pursue a call to pastoral ministry, Lykens said he was glad for a glimpse of the children’s reality.
The Cincinnati neighborhood where Lykens and other Holston youth and adults served was the Over the Rhine community, where homelessness and poverty are prevalent and very visible, explained Laura McLean, associate director of connectional ministries.
“It was a different area than most of our students are used to, so it was good and eye-opening for them to see that,” she said.
Holston members served with the community in other ways throughout the week, including renovating a church building; picking up trash; conducting prayer walks; working with disabled and handicapped neighbors; and repairing and delivering furniture, McLean said.
Five Holston churches sent youth and adults to the “Youth in Mission” trip in Cincinnati: Panther Springs in Morristown; St. John in Chattanooga; Kern Memorial in Oak Ridge; First UMC in Maryville; and Mt. Olivet in Galax.
HOT ANNUAL CONFERENCE
The Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) is a body of youth, each elected by their peers to represent Holston’s nine districts. The CCYM attends the Holston Annual Conference each year as voting members.
This year, 20 CCYM members went to Lake Junaluska for the June 10-13 meeting, McLean said.
“The CCYM is like a family, like a bunch of kids who like each other and who want to make other youth feel welcome and happy,” said Kizer, age 17, a member of Broadway United Methodist in Maryville.
Like Lyken, Kizer said some of the Annual Conference sessions were long and less than exciting. (“Is this going to end anytime soon?” Lyken found himself asking in Lake Junaluska.)
However, both youth said they liked following the debates and weighing in on decisions involving new business and The Connexion purchase.
“Annual Conference reminds me of the senate or something,” Kizer said. “As teenagers we are sometimes looked down on, but we have a voice at Annual Conference. I think there is a part of me that will want to go back even after CCYM.”
Favorite parts of Annual Conference this year included the ice cream social, waffles and meatball subs prepared by Kizer’s mother, and fellowship time at Brookside Lodge, even though it lacks air conditioning and abundant hot water, Kizer said.
“Growing up in the 21st century, when you always have a phone in your hand, we’re very grateful to live in houses with air conditioning and hot water. But we have an inside joke that you learn a lot about each other when you’re tired and hot,” she said.
This year, Emory & Henry hosted 131 students and staff attending Assembly from June 25 to June 29, McLean said.
The annual event features games, spiritual development, and groups for interests such as photography, drama, or dance. A signature part of Assembly is the “family groups” to which every participant is assigned.
“Family groups give you a deeper connection – they give you a way to connect with someone you wouldn’t have known from a different place like Chattanooga or Virginia,” said Kizer.
This year’s worship speaker was the Rev. Matt Hall, Holston’s 2017 Appalachian Trail chaplain. He is currently appointed as pastor in the recovery ministry at First United Methodist in Maryville, Tennessee.
Hall’s personal recovery and faith story made an impression on many, McLean said. Tatum Harvel, age 16, shared excerpts of Hall’s messages and witnessed about her own faith in a video and blog. Harvel is a member at First United Methodist of Pennington Gap, Virginia.
“This camp was incredible and these people were amazing, and I made such great friendships that will last a lifetime,” Harvel said in her video. “But it’s not really about being at camp. It’s about how we take that home and impact people around us. … If we can just each take a sliver of that, just a tiny bit, the world would be transformed into something so unimaginably awesome.”
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.