NYC helps students encounter Christ
Last updated 6/23/2022 at 8:51am
BUSBY, Alb.-On May 19-22, 2022, more than 150 youth gathered at Camp Nakamun in Alberta, Canada for the Native Youth Conference (NYC). The students came from eleven communities between British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskachewan.
"We didn't even know if kids were gonna show up," said Chris Steinhauer, one of 11 NYC committee members from 4 communities and the Native churches, who helped plan the event. "And then to see over 150 kids show up blows my mind. Especially after being shut down for two years. Our native youth need the gospel more than ever, you know. There have been too many deaths on all our communities and they need hope."
To give the teens that hope, speakers Steve Keesic, Peter Constant, Mario Swampy, and Venus Cote talked to the kids about nuances of John 1:5, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it." They talked to the students about developing godly wisdom and serving Christ.
Participants also had opportunities to enjoy activities such as games, horseback riding, a zipline, grafitti wall, paintball, a talent show, and other pasttimes. Music for the event was provided by Enderby Worship from Saskatchewan.
NYC started in 1992; this is their 28th annual event. When asked why the NYC was started, one of the founders, NEFC director, Kene Jackson said, "I saw a tremendous need for spiritual ministry among native youth. When you look at the percentage of native population, the youth make up 75 percent of the native populus under 25. Boy do we really need to reach our youth."
And the spiritual ministry of the event hit home. On Sunday, the last night, Steve Keesic talked to students about when he let the light of Christ into his own life. He encouraged teens to understand that their decisions and choices at this time in their lives matter. "Make the decision to let Jesus in and illuminate your life," he encouraged students. Sunday he gave the youth an opportunity to make the most important decision of their lives. Twenty students and one adult responded to the invitation to give their lives to Jesus.
Besides salvation, students reported other benefits they received from NYC. One student talked about the self-confidence boost she received from attending the event. She explained that she was told she was stupid, worthless, and would never amount to anything. But now she has a message for other students; she wants her fellow teens to know they are worthy and smart and can accomplish more than they think. "If anyone tells you you can't, do it anyways," she recommends, "because you're dreams are worth pursuing."
Mario also wants his fellow youth to see their worth and be world changers. "Instead of always listening to what others think about you, focus on what God says about you," he says.
Peter appreciated the event for the reminder that "Christ is our guide and the light. When we receive Christ we receive his light and then our relationship with Him begins."
Ladaiya said, "I came to NYC for 4-5 years now and I stopped coming that one year because COVID hit. I fell down on a bad path that year. Something told me to come to NYC [this year]. So I came and I'm meeting people, and I'm having a voice . . . I'm not having that feeling anymore like where I'm being constantly judged." She noted about the other students and volunteers, "I was able to connect with people who went through the same experience I went through. It's very helpful for us to talk to them about it and listen and hear what they have to say."
Volunteers attending the event also attested to how they came to serve but walked away blessed.
"Engaging with the youth and hearing their stories is why I am here," said Krystal Wawrzyniak from Indian Life Ministries, which helped with the event. "As students were given space to tell their stories, you could see weight being lifted off their shoulders. It's beautiful. And then to see them make decisions to recommit to Jesus is the best."
Wawrzyniak encourages other people to get involved in the ministry. She specifies, "First of all, pray. Pray for the youth that are here; those who chose to follow Jesus need prayer to continue their walks as they come from communities that aren't always the best situations. And pray for us as a committee as we plan for NYC 2023."
Wawryzniak says those who can help provide finances so more stundents can attend can go to Indianlife.org and click on the donation page. She said that 100 percent of NYC-designated donations go to build NYC 2023. Adults can also learn more about how to help at the event by emailing: email@example.com.
Kene Jackson added "A highlight this year was to see NYC survive after the COVID-19 shutdown, and to watch how it continues to be impactful on native youth." When asked how people can pray for NYC, Jackson said, "For the deep needs that young people have in this life and their homes-that somehow God would reach those needs so that growth and healing would begin."