200 youth gathered from 15 northwest Vineyard churches
55 willing youth leaders
Bushels of prayer, stirred continuously
Pack youth in a 109 year old church located in the most feared section of Yakima
Sprinkle the leaders, evenly amongst the youth
Bake at 100 to 109 degrees, during a record breaking heat wave. Do NOT add air conditioning and use fans in moderation.
Hydrate with 170+ gallons of liquid – water, Gatorade, assorted sodas.
Simmer with constant prayer.
A recipe for a hot mess… right?
“Are you having fun?” I ask, a flushed faced Seattle youth, acclimated to dewy, mist inspired weather.
“Oh yes! It’s awesome!” they answer, racing off to join the others downstairs.
As it turns out, “awesome” is the agreed upon adjective for Anthem Northwest.
It wasn’t the food…
“It was nasty!”
Food received a unanimous thumbs down for content and quantity.
“Snacks saved lives!”
It surely was NOT the 5-star accommodations…
Third floor 8 x 10 rooms, sleeping bags and assorted bedding jigsawed across the floors, youth knitted together, a human Afghan, fans whirring, blowing hot air, swirling the scent of sweat and fruity hair gel products.
So, what then? What kept 200 sweltering teenagers content for three days and nights?
“God was in the house!”
Amazing how God’s presence can turn a potential whine-fest into a powerful encounter. As the heat collected in the stuffy rooms at night, the youth partied downstairs in the basement. Upon entering the dark room, lights flashing, guitars blaring, you see jumping bodies with arms waving… you might think you’ve found a mosh pit. But then, you see, you feel, you know…
Jesus is the life of this party!
“As far as the worship and time spent together, it was the most genuine conference yet.”
Two worship teams rocked, Holy Spirit style, morning and night. Morning worship, led by an impressive 14 year old, may have replaced the flashing lights and volume with an acoustic guitar and Djembe, but it was just as powerful.
“Worship was so loud, people from the neighborhood were texting asking what’s going on at the church.”
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1
Free time, intimate gatherings and workshops followed up with one on one prayer and discussion, preparing many young hearts to receive healing from feelings of rejection, unworthiness, and hopelessness, wiping away the lies of the enemy, granting freedom to answer God’s call.
Many youth enthusiastically named the outreaches as the most powerful part of the conference. The outreach (service) portion took place on the first day during the suns peak performance, beginning around noon. Three groups CHOSE to do yard work for local homes. Others visited a retirement center, interacting with residents, playing games and visiting.
“I visited with a German immigrant for an hour and a half and played piano… Moonlight Sonata reminded her of songs from her past.”
Still other groups pounded the sizzling pavement, picking up trash and seeking anyone in need of a kind word or prayer, trekking through sections of town best left uncharted. One group came upon a coffee shack, named Dream Girls Espresso. As they approached, open to serve in whatever way God led them, they noticed the pictures on the building were short a few articles of clothing.
Collectively, these groups picked up litter and prayed for individuals and businesses, leaving Yakima’s streets blessed and enlightened. Imagine yourself having a bad day, when one of these bright, holy spirit filled youths approaches, asking if there’s something they can do for you, or sharing a word from God, or blessing your business. What day wouldn’t be improved by that?
I’m convinced the success of this conference is a miracle. Picture any group of teens you know… now plop them into the setting described above, stifling hot, cramped quarters, small portions of teen dubbed “nasty” food and void of expected creature comforts like beds. Not a pretty picture?
Then why is it that these youth describe this experience with words like energetic, best ever, and awesome?
“It was great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.”
“You know those old time tent revivals? It was like that… watching God at work.”
In conclusion, I admit astonishment. First, who does this?
Who says, “Hmmm, let’s host Anthem Northwest, here in Yakima. We’ve never done it before, but if God wants it, it’ll happen.”
Who does that?
Surely not a young couple with two pre-schoolers… currently very (extra very) pregnant
And if they wanted to host their first youth conference, wouldn’t they do a small test drive first, or at least choose the winter camp over Anthem, a conference reputed for huge turnouts?
Truth is, I’ve watched this couple pull off “dumb ideas” before. How? Simply because they’re not stupid, they’re God equipped, with a brilliant faith. Motives pure and sweet, wanting only to bless the Vineyard youth, they trusted God to take care of the impossible ever-mounting details, rolling up sleeves to do the tasks He put before them. They trusted there would be help… and there was. They trusted the youth would be safe… and they were. They knew God would show up… and He did.
What I want to take away from witnessing this experience is this:
When God is included on the invitation list, you can expect a miraculous party.