IYC2022 Spurs Students toward Spiritual Awakening in San Antonio
By Carl Stagner
From the last day of June through the third of July, students who descended deep in the heart of Texas for the International Youth Convention of the Church of God traded in old habits, past hurts, empty pursuits, false identity, and meager faith for a Texas-sized upgrade. Spurred toward spiritual awakening, youth groups and their leaders responded in a variety of visible ways to the personalized life change tailored to each soul’s specifications. Speakers of the highest caliber, worship leaders in tune with the Spirit, and practical application of the gospel on the streets of San Antonio—all on the heels of a pandemic-induced hiatus—surely contributed to an IYC for the ages, a catalytic experience continuing to transform those who witnessed all that would transpire.
“Our team feels an overwhelming sense of joy,” Adam Rentas, IYC director reflects, “and we’re so grateful to have gathered with students and leaders from around the country to worship, grow, and serve together. For me personally, it was wonderful to see leaders connecting with leaders they had not seen since IYC2018.”
Of all the moments created at IYC to foster life change, there was one that especially stood out for Adam. “The one moment that is engraved in my mind, personally,” Adam explains. “is the Emerging Leaders Gathering. This year we shifted the focus of this staple event of IYC to be for students who felt a specific call to ministry (pastoral, missions, and para-church) rather than general leadership. Our team was praying for twenty students to show up, but ended up having over 200! In speaking with our convention center contact to request the air conditioning be turned colder in the room they were meeting in, I was told, ‘We are at capacity for that room!’ What a wonderful problem to have!”
As you can imagine—or as you experienced if you were there—the energy was often high, the excitement frequently palpable, and the volume generally loud. But then there was the Silent Walk. Nearly two thousand teenagers walking a considerable distance without saying a solitary word? Now that’s hard to imagine! But the spiritual experience, coupled with the public witness, spoke volumes. Meanwhile, the still small voice of God could be heard by students all along the River Walk, drawing them closer to him.
Through Impact San Antonio, youth groups put their faith into action and completed a wide variety of service projects to leave their convention host city better than they found it—and plant seeds of the gospel. Through Spread the Word offerings (and a 5K fundraiser), Church of God students flexed their generosity muscle by helping to support Children of Promise. North Point Worship (and the IYC High School Band!) inspired everyone’s praise heavenward, while special artists like Hulvey got worshipers’ hearts pumping and hands clapping. Besides the amazement and gripping testimony of acclaimed illusionist John Michael Hinton, four featured speakers connected in profound ways to students in ways that only the Holy Spirit could make possible.
One year after Hosanna Wong wowed pastors and lay leaders at the Church of God Convention in Denver, Colorado, she was back with the Church of God—students, this time! Through traditional prose and spoken word, Hosanna articulated precisely what so many needed to hear: “When you stop answering to all your old names, they will stop having power over you.” Followers of Christ are, after all, children of God—chosen, loved unconditionally, and designed masterfully!
Geremy Dixon offered far more than a pep-talk; his message to students and their leaders alike was one of invaluable reminder. His words were about reaffirming God’s purpose in each listener. “This culture needs your voice, your grit, your ingenuity, and your creativity. It needs you!”
Insisting that work in God’s kingdom must not be about self, but about reaching and showing the world who God is, Chip Taylor asserted that “the one thing that will determine and keep you from having maximum kingdom impact is if you make it about you.”
Gretchen Dedina posed the question, “Will your life be the praise you were created to be?” Noting the connection between true transformation our active participation in the process, she called students to live the words they say and the beliefs they embrace.
Lives won to Jesus Christ. Teenagers rededicated to the Jesus way. Baptisms in the hotel pool. Even a marriage proposal! IYC2022 has come and gone, but the impact is only beginning to be felt.
Feature (top) picture: North Point Worship leaders worship at IYC2022.