COVID-19 caught much of the world unawares, escalating from a distant headline to causing mass lockdowns almost overnight. The RP youth retreat to which I had been looking forward was abruptly cancelled. Youth retreats being the highlight of my year, I was thoroughly disappointed. Since then, the church has had to adjust in a variety of ways. This past week, for example, the RP retreat came back in the form of a weekend virtual youth conference.
While it was hosted by the Pacific Coast Presbytery, the short conference gathered young people from all over the RPCNA. Around 50 individual “screens” were present (another unfortunate reminder of the technology to which we’ve been relegated) as we gathered together to hear the Word, pray, and enjoy a few games.
The conference opened with a brief round of introductions, as each attendee indicated his or her home congregation. Next, Keith Mann, the new head of RP Missions, gave a brief report of the various short term mission trip opportunities available to the denomination’s youth.
The Root of Complaining
Pastor David Hanson, from Southside RPC, was the keynote speaker. He preached a message entitled “Avoiding Complaining in Difficult Times”. The main text was Numbers 11, an account of the consequences God’s people face when they fail to be grateful for His kindness. The lecture was particularly applicable given the disappointment we’ve all had to deal with over the past year. The root problem with complaining, Pastor Hanson explained, is that we are blaming God. Our duty as Christians should be to instead trust God Who protects us from our own desires. The reality is that often what we want is what’s most dangerous to us.
After a final exhortation to contentment, the facilitators led us in a time of discussion and prayer regarding what we’d learned. We then broke up into smaller groups for a few hours to play the newly popularized and light-hearted online game Among Us. In conclusion, while in-person youth retreats are certainly missed, this past week’s virtual conference succeeded as a time of spiritual encouragement and fellowship with other youth.
Samuel Ward is a 17-year-old homeschooled senior who attends the Ottawa RP Church. He enjoys reading, writing, and learning new languages in his free time. Having grown up in Africa, he hopes to return to do mission work there in the future.