The Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention. What a week! It was a fun filled time spent with others of the same faith for the ultimate purpose of growing spiritually. Having attended the convention, I would like to take you through the following daily account of the activities and remark about some things I have learned about being a “Courageous Christian Youth.”
August 6, Sunday
This evening is the annual pre-convention singspiration. It really starts the whole convention. Hundreds gather and the singing begins. What an inspiration! Uplifting! Enthusiastic! Glorifying God! It is what singing must be, so that we can sing from the heart the theme song of the convention:
“The Fearlessness of Faith.”
“Jehovah is my light, And my salvation near;
Who shall my soul affright,
Or cause my heart to fear?
While God my strength, My life sustains,
Secure from fear my soul remains.”
Ever really think about those words? They have so much meaning, depth, and truth.
August 7, Monday
Luggage lines up the front of Grandville PRC while conventioneers sign up to room with friends, receive their room keys, the schedule for the week, their ID bracelets, and meal cards.
Everyone is full of energy and excitement. At 9:00 a.m. about 60 older young people board one of the two buses and head out to Miner Lake for a day of water skiing, tubing, volleyball and swimming, while the remaining conventioneers went to Hope College for games. At the lake some of us sit in the grass and talk, getting to know others in our denomination from California, Iowa, New Jersey, Illinois, Canada and other places. Such fellowship will be remembered for a life time.
Uh Oh! Someone has been hurt while tubing. Everyone is trying to make her feel as comfortable as possible. We jump to take care of her every need in any way. At such times we realize that God uses these incidents to teach us how to treat others.
The convention is also a time in which to encourage each other in what we believe. Lunchtime
rolls around, and without a thought, many of us hungrily begin to eat, until someone courageously reminds us to stop and pray. This incident uncovered our weaknesses, but also tells us to be courageous as Christian young people; to remind, even admonish, each other when necessary.
Arriving at Hope College late in the afternoon, we all hurry to find our luggage and meet the rest of the group for a brief meeting and supper.
Finally all 340 of us gather for the first speech. This is the whole purpose, the heart, the essence of conventions. Rev. Mahtani began to speak on “Daniel—A Faithful Prayer Life.” We as young people need to learn and grow by the grace of God, and make application to our own lives. We need encouragement to resolve to be more faithful in our own private devotions, especially prayer. Like Daniel, we as young people must be courageous in the midst of a wicked world.
Miniature golf and bowling brought the events of the day to a close.
Now it is nearly midnight and the girls from the neighboring rooms on my floor gather for devotions with our chaperons. One of the best times are the devotions we have late at night and early in the morning. It is an opportunity to put to practice what we had heard earlier today about the importance of devotions.
August 8, Tuesday
Awakened at 6:00 by my “chap” banging on our door, I roll out of bed and get ready for a new day. We start out with devotions, thanking God in prayer for the day and for the strength which He gives.
This morning everyone lines up to get in on the convention picture. Somehow a few people even manage to get in on it twice!
Assembled at the Dimnet Chapel, we hear some brief messages and an introduction to the topic for the group discussions. “Private and Public Devotions” went along with what we had heard in yesterday’s speech. Sitting in a circle with twelve others, we share our own methods for devotions, answer various questions, and look at Daniel’s set example in his prayer life. We conclude that one must “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), so that daily the child of God is constantly mindful of God and brings one’s thoughts toward Him.
With the above in mind, everyone departs for Holland State Park. What a marvelous creation we live in! How the handiwork of God is shown at the shore of Lake Michigan! We enjoy it by playing volleyball in the sand, swimming in the water, or walking the shore.
This evening, Rev. Terpstra addresses us about being a “Bold Witness.” We learn through what the Bible teaches in the book of Daniel the way in which we are to be a bold witness.
August 9, Wednesday
Aroused even earlier this morning, we begin the day with devotions. The topic today for the discussion groups is “Respecting Authority.” In that regard, we talk about the fifth commandment, how we should pray for those in authority, and how Daniel respected the authority over him.
Canoeing or tubing down the river in Newago is quite exciting. I hear laughter behind me as canoes tip over and fill with water. After three hours of being in the cold water we board the buses and return to Grand Rapids. The neighbors around Covenant Christian High School generously allowed us to use their homes to have a warm shower and make us feel clean once again.
Yet, the day is only half over. We have supper and then everyone goes to the baseball game in which the Grand Rapids Whitecaps play. Although it is not the most exciting game, a couple close slides occur and the last batter cracks the bat, finishing off the last inning.
August 10, Thursday
Devotions begin in the dorms, followed by the last speech of the convention. This one is about Daniel and making godly choices. The speaker stresses that we do consider ourselves to be Christians, yet, we must show that forth in our daily life, especially by whom our friends are and in everything we do.
We separate once again into smaller groups in which to discuss “Choosing Friends & Maintaining Friendships.” At this discussion the group I am with is fairly open, sharing some instances that they have encountered in their own lives. Again, we look at Bible passages, seeing what our friends ought to be. The highest example is that of Jesus as our friend.
Good discussion is really important since it shows an interest in spiritual matters which is essential for a believer. Our discussion gives one a glimpse of the future church, whether we as young people are interested in these things.
Today we are having a fun fair on campus! Everyone is going from game to game such as the bungee run, radar throw, and human bowling. Towards the end of the fair, a man wanders through and asks us who we are and what we are doing. He has some questions and opinions about the Bible and Christianity. Those talking with him do their best to answer his questions. Yes, in the midst of a good time one can be a witness to others.
The banquet, held on the campus makes for a delightful evening. Decorations make the room attractive and the meal served to us is scrumptious. Following the meal, we enjoy special numbers and a performance by a ventriloquist.
Since this is the last night of the convention, almost everyone has the idea that they want to enjoy every minute and stay up all night. This is made possible in the lock-in at the Dow Center. Many play basketball, walleyball, volleyball, or swim into the early hours of the morning.
August 11, Friday
This morning we have our devotions from I Peter 2. They are later due to the lack of sleep for many conventioneers.
Finally, with a week’s worth of memories, we say our good-byes and perhaps snap a few pictures before heading home.
The convention was a busy time, full of good memories and fun activities. Conventions are a time in which young people can gather together to grow spiritually and encourage others. Hopefully, those who have gone can look back and realize they made new acquaintances with fellow believers, and how to be a courageous Christian youth. When that happens, the convention will have served its purpose. Let us continue to strive for this goal in future conventions.
Shari is a member of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
The aged. What do you know about them? You know that the extremely aged often live in a nursing home, where they receive care from the staff. You know that they are old, and that they have lost the abilities that they once had. You know that sometimes we pray for the aged. Yet, do you realize much else about them? I would like to tell you more about the elderly, as well as what they have taught me, so that you may be better able to understand the aged as well as apply what I have learned from them to your own life.
I work in a nursing home after school. I enjoy working in the nursing home, and I have talked to various people about my work there. However, from their response I often receive the impression that they do not like nursing homes. I realize that a nursing home may not be a very pleasant place to visit. It may remind the visitor of unpleasant things, such as old age and death. Yet, is this proper thinking for the child of God concerning the aged?
We must try to know and understand the elderly. We must try to understand what they go through. The aged are afflicted. This is true physically. They suffer pain. The elderly may have been diagnosed with a terminal disease which causes them to suffer. Some suffer the effects from a heart attack. Many times, patients are only able to use one side of their body from the effect of a stroke. Many patients are also in wheelchairs. Some patients cannot breathe very well, and as a result, they need an oxygen tank connected to them. Intravenous feeding is also done if they are unable to eat through the mouth. Many of the patients are weak, tired, frail… This makes them unable to take are of themselves.
Seeing all these things in the nursing home forces me to think how weak man really is of himself. It is God who gives us our strength and abilities. One must be thankful for this. So often we take it for granted, as if our strength is our own. Without God, man can do nothing. The child of God must be mindful of this. He must realize that God is in control of his life.
The child of God can also be weak spiritually. He too, loses his strength and needs to be strengthened. David knew that he was weak. He prayed to God in Psalm 6:2: “Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me…” Remember Jesus also when he prayed with the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, while the disciples slept. Jesus told them in Matthew 26:41 to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The child of God ought also to make this his prayer.
The aged can also be afflicted mentally. They might easily get confused. This may be because of their age, or maybe specific reasons such as hard hearing or blindness. Patients might not understand everything anymore. They can easily forget what was just told them. Also, they might ask the same question over and over again, not comprehending the answer given to them. Some patients do not recognize their relatives when they come to visit. This shows that their mind does not comprehend as it once was able. They are unable to learn because of their condition.
Yet, interestingly enough, many of the aged do remember their past. They speak of their past as if it were yesterday. It is what they learned in their youth that many remember. A good example of this is the Scripture verses and songs that they have learned. Often I can sing them a song and they will sing with me. This comforts the aged. I have even heard the childhood prayer “Now I Lay Me” spoken by a patient before he went to sleep. They have learned in their youth.
Let us apply this to our own life. We have the ability to study the Word. God has given this ability to us. We have the opportunity to learn in catechism, society, school… in our daily life. What we learn now in our youth will stay with us for the rest of our life. It will guide us in our walk. Proverbs 22:6 makes this plain for it states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” How easy it is to push our own devotions aside in the busyness of our tasks. Yet, what else can be so important!
The elderly are also lonely. Many of them are widows or widowers. Many of their friends may also have passed away. They are separated from their family, children and grandchildren. They realize this. This is but another affliction, a trial that God has given them to bear.
The calling for the child of God in this regard is to visit the lonely. James 1:27 teaches us, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” Yes, the child of God must visit the elderly. Visiting the elderly benefits both the visitor and elderly himself. You can learn from the elderly, who love to talk of the history of the church which they have lived. Visits can benefit the elderly also. They see that you care about them. Your visit gets their thoughts off themselves. It is uplifting for them. I think of the time before Christmas when groups of people come and sing carols to the aged. It occurred almost every night until Christmas. Even a couple of patients who do not talk much sang along. To describe their gratitude! One of my patients could not stop talking about it hours after they were gone. Are the aged forgotten after the season though?
One ought to see the commitment of some family members of the aged. Certain people who come every single day just to see their loved one in the home! Some just talk, sometimes they feed the aged, take them outside, or read to them. In these cases I not only know my patients but their families as well.
How easy it could be just to forget about the aged, and go about ones many tasks. Yet, some of these families; spouses, children, even grandchildren come so often! How faithfully they show their love for their neighbor.
I also am reminded by these faithful visitors of the great commandment in Matthew 22:37-40. It states that one must love God, and also the neighbor. We are commanded to love Him and our neighbor. We must show this in our daily life. The family member who visits the lonely is just one example of this.
When I have new admission patients, I am always shocked at how little they possess. The aged do not have many belongings, whether they came from home or the hospital. They do not seem to need many possessions. They are satisfied. How can this be, to work and get gain in ones life only to have to leave it? This seems to be rather difficult.
I Timothy 6:7,8 states, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” This explicitly tells the child of God that it is wrong to set our hearts on earthly possessions. Rather we ought to take a hold of what Christ taught us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness…”
The aged face death. We all face death. Yet, the elderly know they are going to die soon. This may be the hardest aspect of living in a nursing home. Other patients may be dying. A patient may know another one has died. It is not easy. It is not easy to comfort the family of whom a loved one died, especially if they do not accept it as God’s will. It’s hard for me to see someone for whom I have cared for a long time, die. I miss him or her. The next day a new patient may be in the same bed. Grief. Despair. Joy? Hope? What are one’s thoughts at a time such as this?
Romans 14:7, 8 tells us, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” We must take this view to our own life. We know that our life is not our own. How do we show that we know that? By realizing that it is God’s will. Read the book of Job. He went through much loss. Yet, he said “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” We also ought to be able to say this.
The work that I do with the aged forces me to appreciate my own life. Life. God has given it for a time. Thus, we must use it to glorify, praise, and honor Him! He is the Giver of life! This must show forth in our actions, in our speech … in our daily walk. You can see how I have learned from the aged. Pray for the aged. Visit and learn from the elderly, and apply what you learn to your own life.
Shari is a senior at Covenant Christian High School and a member of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.