Two young adults from the Great Plains Conference took center stage at YOUTH2019, July 10-13 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Erynn (Dahlke) Kuehl was the emcee of the quadrennial event, and Abigail Koech was the speaker for the Friday night worship.
Kuehl said she applied to be a member of the design team three years ago and after being selected, volunteered to be the emcee.
“They decided I was cool enough to be on stage,” said Kuehl, a graduate of Kearney High School and Emporia State University.
Kuehl, now youth and young adult director at Great Bend Trinity UMC, was the onstage host as well as one of the interviewers for the YOUTH2019 videos (see links below).
“I really felt it went great, and a lot the behind-the-scenes work went really smoothly,” she said. “If things were problematic, they got taken care of right away.”
“Love Well” was the theme of the event, based on Romans 12:9-10. The event was sponsored by Discipleship Ministries.
Kuehl, who is taking online classes this fall from Iliff School of Theology with a goal of becoming an ordained minister, said one of the highlights of the week was seeing several of the bishops who attended interact with the youth, even engaging in one-on-one blessings in the prayer area.
“That was such a great opportunity that the bishops were willing to do something like that for our youth,” she said.
At the end of the four days, Kuehl said, she had a positive vibe about The United Methodist Church.
“At a time when the church’s future is so uncertain, I think it’s refreshing to see all these youth come together and see the church now, and in the future,” she said. “We’re here and we’re excited about what’s coming. We’re committed to the church and we’re committed to loving well.”
Also on stage in front of the 3,100 youth and their leaders was Koech, a Russell High School graduate who will attend the University of Kansas this fall.
She was the main speaker in a session on loving the unknown in your community.
“I talked about how we should love each other regardless of whether we know each other,” said Koech, who applied online to be a speaker.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking, but I thought it’d be a lot worse,” she said of her experience. “As a speaker you have to understand that most people are not looking for something wrong that you’re saying, they’re seeing that you have a positive mindset.
“My main goal was to impact them and make them think about some things differently,” she added.
Koech, elected as a laity delegate to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference for 2020, said she expects a lot from the youth who attended in Kansas City.
“I have friends who went to YOUTH2015, and they said it really helped them and changed how they go to church and their involvement in church,” she said. “Hopefully this will change peoples’ lives.”
Among the Great Plains youth who attended were 11 from Wichita College Hill UMC.
Brian Sutton, director of youth and outreach ministries at the church, said his youth enjoyed the outreach ministry portion of YOUTH2019, including packaging food for nonprofit organizations in the KC area.
“They really enjoyed the speaker for the evening worship (author Romal Tune) and what he had to say about taking care of each other and being a part of the church,” Sutton said.
Sutton said the College Hill youth were skittish about interacting with others not from their church, but the event forced them to meet new people beyond their church walls.
“By the third day and we’re ready to leave, everybody’s crying because they met their next best friend. They shared their Snapchats and their Instagrams so they can stay in connection,” Sutton said.
“That’s what’s fun about this event, they get to connect with other United Methodist Christians throughout the United States,” he added.
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