Once again The OneEvent was a memorable weekend of celebration, worship, learning and fellowship for Great Plains youth and youth leaders. More than 1,200 people braved harsh winter weather to gather in Grand Island, Nebraska, to kick off the new year Jan. 3-4.
Eihusen Arena was rocking to the head-banging sounds of Colton Dixon and worship led by The Digital Age, a four-piece band from Waco, Texas. Ground Zero Master’s Commission kept the attention of youth and adults with their innovative skits and stomp routines, bringing the East coast to the Great Plains. Illusionist Danny Ray took the stage with his own cameraman to capture the mysterious sleight of hand he fits between jokes and bit of Christian teaching that kept everyone on their toes. “How did he do that?” was a common question about his mind-blowing illusions.
Keynote speaker Rev. Kirstie Garnes of Saint Mark UMC in Wichita brought The OneEvent theme to life with her insight on dealing with fear. Click here for a recap of her powerful message. “I know that God is going to move in an exciting way,” said Garnes at the beginning of the weekend. She was spot on.
Smiling, sweaty faces filled the exhibit hall from one end to the other in between sessions. Youth engaged in creating art, bouncing on inflatables, challenging each other in games, snapping pictures in the photo booth and decorating themselves with body art. They could learn about Kansas Wesleyan University, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Southwestern College, CCYM, Youth Service Fund, Great Plains Camps, campus ministries and leadership development opportunities.
Breakout sessions Saturday afternoon gave OneEvent participants the chance to attend two workshops out of six options. Bishop Scott Jones chose the title “Change the World the Wesleyan Way” for his session on how United Methodists transform the world through love of God and love of neighbor, addressing topics like climate change, racism, public education, poverty and health. “The world has a lot of problems in it. God is interested in loving the world, which means God is interested in fixing the problems and has a strategy,” said Bishop Jones. Christians help God fix the world by obeying God’s law and following the teachings of Christ. Read more about the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church.
Ground Zero Master’s Commission led two workshops. One took a candid look at the toxic messages from today’s media, putting them under the scrutiny of God’s Word. The other considered effects of divorce on everyone in families, not just the parents, and considered how God’s help can be a source of strength and help.
Illusionist Danny Ray’s workshop, “Unlocking Your Awesomeness,” challenged youth to think through who God has designed them to be and make their teenage years matter. “Our lives can be marked by many painful experiences, but God can help us unlock our awesomeness and live a remarkable life,” said Danny Ray.
Other workshops included a question and answer session with The Digital Age on incorporating electronics and technology in worship even without the fancy equipment of a touring band, and a session for adult leaders on identifying, equipping and encouraging youth who are hearing a call for ministry. Led by the Rev. Ashlee Alley, coordinator of clergy recruitment and development for the Great Plains Conference, that session gave adults practical tools to teach youth how to hear God’s voice, identify one’s gifts and how to respond to God’s call in their lives.
Cindy Laluk and her 7th-grade daughter came up from the Kansas City District with 16 other youth and at least three other adults in two 15-passenger vans. Their group represented Aldersgate UMC in Olathe, Shawnee UMC and Bonner Springs UMC.
“We’re having a great time,” Laluk said at the mixer Saturday night at the Holiday Inn where their group was staying. Late-night mixers were a feature for those staying at hotels. Groups lodged at local churches, a nearby camp or the Grand Island YMCA did not require an organized mixer to facilitate socializing. Kerry Stumbough from Bonner Springs agreed with Laluk that the weather presented challenges, but the event was worth the drive. “We’re blessed with a lot of musical kids,” Laluk noted as someone pulled out a small banjo and began to play. “They are loving the music at The OneEvent.” Laluk said she was particularly entertained by Danny Ray who never ceased to amaze her.
In 2016 The OneEvent will be held at the Heartland Events Center again. “Now that we are familiar with the location, the vendors, and all that entails, it will be so much easier to organize the event next year,” said Great Plains Youth Coordinator Shane Hinderliter. However the event will be the last weekend of January rather than the first. “Coordinating last minute details over the holidays proved to be a stressful challenge, and many families schedule vacations during the school break. Hopefully this change in date will allow more people to attend and more people to volunteer,” said Hinderliter. When details are available, they will be posted at www.GreatPlainsYouth.org.