by contributing writer Brian Austin
How does a grandpa like me give a fair evaluation of a weekend with 1,500 youth? How do I measure the energy in that huge tent full of youth singing, clapping, and many of them dancing as they praise God? When the beat of the drums has my chest feeling like someone is doing CPR, how does an old guy like me still enter into the spirit of praise?
I love youth, but like many of my generation, I love them in small doses. I confess to a bit of trepidation in committing myself to this weekend. I enjoy the passion and energy of their music, but I long for some of the old hymns in the mix. I rarely give much thought to the bit of hair I have left, but I’d have gladly had enough to cover my ears so I could discretely wear ear plugs. I’m not a guy to dance and wave my arms, but there is something contagious about that many youth more focused on God than on what this old grandpa might think.
Old school as I am, I’m uncomfortable when guys wear hats in church, especially during prayer. But there was no disrespect in the prayer times when hats were totally forgotten by everybody but me.
One of our own youth has this crazy talent for be-bopping. (Is there a right way to spell that?) He made it to the finals in the “Pitch Has Talent” competition with a huge fan club cheering him on. The laughter and cheering brought a wonderful and needed break from the sometimes intense soul-searching. I’d have arranged things a bit differently, especially giving a longer transition time between those soul-searching moments and the celebration – party-atmosphere times that followed so closely. Yet I find no room for criticism. I saw God touching lives. I heard God speaking into my own life.
It was no great sacrifice for me to go. Our youth are great kids and are worth it. I thought I was going primarily for them and was content with that. But it wasn’t just for them.
Little (perhaps not so little) things stood out. The weather threatened as we packed up to leave Friday afternoon. We drove through rain much of the way. But it was dry as we set up tents, and we had only one light shower during one of the main sessions. Nights were chilly but not freezing. We had times of brilliant sunshine followed shortly by light clouds. The weather was as close to perfect as you could ask for in May when sunburn and frostbite in any 24 hours are very possible. Dynamic speakers gave powerful challenges to these youth, yet still spoke strongly to this grandpa. Words of healing and worth were spoken to the broken and wounded. “Power in the Blood,” one of those old hymns I love, boomed through the tent and beyond with passion I’ve never heard in those words before. I attended one workshop on prayer and found it rich and rewarding, especially as youth crammed into that room when there were a dozen other planned events they could be doing at the same time.
I came home exhausted, but full of hope for our youth and our world – and challenged in my own spirit to give of myself more fully in reckless abandon to God.
Brian Austin is a published novelist, poet, fish enthusiast, and church librarian. He has been an active part of HMC and it’s Resource Centre for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in Durham. [Articles by Brian
*photo courtesy of @pitchpraise on twitter