Echoes of IYC Reverberate Far Beyond Host Cities, Teen Years

 In All Church of God, CHOG, IYC: International Youth Convention, Leadership Development, Youth Ministries

By Carl Stagner

When Erin, Jenny, and Joe left their hometowns for the International Youth Convention of the Church of God in 1996, they couldn’t have dreamed what God had in store. This summer in San Antonio, neither Justin Brown nor Darah Martin could have imagined what would unfold. But in the time that has passed since, it’s become abundantly clear that God had sovereignly set into motion a series of circumstances that would bring him great glory and leave behind lasting life change. Their testimonies are but a few chapters among the volumes amplifying the echoes of IYC that reverberate far beyond host cities and the teen years.

A young woman from Monroe City First Church of God in Indiana was scheduled to fly out to basic training when IYC2022 was scheduled to end. Considering the distance between Texas and Indiana, she had resigned herself to the conclusion that the International Youth Convention was out of the realm of possibility. But when the youth pastor, Darah Martin, discovered the dilemma, she took an unusual step of faith. Purchasing a one-way ticket from San Antonio back to Indianapolis at the earliest opportunity post-IYC was a risk, but one she prayed the Lord would work out on the young woman’s behalf.

“Darah did this, not knowing if it would even work out, but prudently delivered the gift within the twenty-four-hour refundable time frame” Justin Brown, lead pastor, recounts. “And, it was all worth it. The young woman accepted the ticket then, after traveling with the group to Texas, interacting with the students at IYC, absorbing the messages, and open conversation with fellow students and her leaders, realized what she was hearing through the entire experience was Christ calling to her. [So] she chose to acknowledge that she wanted to follow him.”

Baptism at IYC hotel pool.

Plans to proclaim her faith publicly didn’t come to pass smoothly, but early the next morning, the young woman was baptized in the hotel pool by her youth pastor, her close friend alongside, and in the company of the youth group from Monroe City First Church of God. “She is now at basic training, meaning our communication with her is next to nothing,” Justin reports, “but our prayers for her have not let up in the slightest. The Spirit has brought her a long way from someone who had little to no connection to the Body a year ago, to someone following Jesus today.”

Life Change Reverberations

Erin Taylor, Jenny Mihsill, and Joe Webb didn’t know each other in 1996, but share a common thread today. For them—and doubtless many others, too—IYC1996 was a turning point they’ll never forget. The Phoenix, Arizona, event attracted thousands upon thousands of students in anticipation of time away from parents, overnights in fancy accommodations, and popular Christian bands. In that high-octane environment, the Spirit got ahold of these teens, and many others, revealing the call to ministry.

“My experience at IYC was energizing, inspiring, and life-shaping,” Erin explains. “I remember feeling so amazed at the number of youth who were making decisions for Jesus. In my experience, these kinds of settings can be catalysts for encounters with Jesus. I’m celebrating how this is still happening through IYC today. I’ve returned to IYC a few times as an adult. One year a led a workshop for students exploring a call to ministry.”

Erin Taylor

Erin went on to serve as teaching pastor for Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis for thirteen years, and has since served as senior pastor of Alma Church of God in Michigan for four years.

Jenny and her husband Bobby Mihsill are well-known across the Church of God movement today for their influential ministry as missionaries to Côte d’Ivoire. But long before their ministries were established, IYC was an instrumental part of the picture.

“I loved the time our youth group had together driving from Oregon to Arizona for the 1996 IYC,” she recounts. “The road trip memories and times of bonding were unforgettable. The most impactful event that took place for me at IYC was answering the call to full-time cross-cultural ministry at the 1996 IYC. I then followed up with a mission experience that was advertised at that IYC and went on my first mission trip the following summer (1997) to Jamaica, with a group of Church of God youth from various states. That mission trip really confirmed my call to serve in cross-cultural ministry.”

Jenny and Bobby with their children.

Jenny adds another memory: “One of my other favorite memories took place at the 1998 IYC in Cincinnati, Ohio. I had just graduated high school and had been paired with a freshman roommate that fall through AU whose name I had been given, but I hadn’t met her and didn’t know what she looked like. I looked at the name tag of every high school girl at IYC to see if she was my future roommate (Krysta Dancy-Cabeal), and we found each other in the bathroom at IYC in Cincinnati! I believe IYC is valuable for students because it is a unique opportunity for students to gather and hear from the Lord, as well as be encouraged by worshipping and learning alongside Church of God youth from many states and backgrounds.”

Jenny and Bobby, who served as volunteer youth leaders for South Meridian Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, have also been back to IYC since that pivotal year.

Joe Webb

Joe Webb describes IYC1996 as a “definitive moment” in his life, one that “steered [his] path concretely,” and “probably one of the fondest moments” he had as a student. He cites the missions experiences held in conjunction with IYC—something many youth groups take advantage of—as a tool the Lord used for shaping his life profoundly, as well. Now having served as worship pastor at McDowell Mountain Community Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, for thirteen years, he has been to several IYCs as a youth pastor, served on the Youth Network Team, led a breakout session, and rejoices that his own sons went to IYC2022.

“I think one of the most valuable aspects of IYC is giving students an opportunity to worship God with thousands of other teenagers in a way that most of them have never experienced,” Joe reflects. “IYC and camp experiences do a great job of focusing a student on God in a way so many of them never get anywhere else. For a few days, they and their peers are all on the same page, hearing the same messages, having the same conversations. It’s an intense few days for them to pour into their spiritual life.”

As these pastors demonstrate, the echoes of life change at IYC can still be heard week after week as they invest in people of all ages in their local spheres of ministry.

Learn more about the youth ministries of the Church of God at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/chog-youth/.

Feature (top) photo: North Point Worship leading at IYC2022 in San Antonio, Texas.

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