Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sevierville! Dollywood! Gatlinburg! Pigeon Forge!

If Sufjan gets to his Tennessee album anytime soon, that has to be the title of the first song.


Knoxville treated us with justice. CHIC 2006: No Ordinary Day was the name of the youth conference which I and seven of the Sr. Highers from Hope attended from July 16-21, along with 5,600 of our closest friends from all over the country. It took place in the Volunteer state, on the Volunteer's campus. The orange began to burn my retinas, but in a good way.
Here's the rundown:

  • We left Indy at noon sharp on Sunday, less than an hour after I had arrived back in the circle city (see previous post).
  • After stops at Arby's, Mobil, and a Kentucky rest area, we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Knoxville around 6:45 pm.
  • By the time we got checked in, etc., it was 7:30, and they had stopped serving dinner at Smokies, which was our dining hall for the week. Smokies treated us with justice throughout the week, but on this evening, we were forced to venture to McDonald's. We had the darndest time figuring out the transportation system, so we walked.
  • After scarfing down our McDonald's, we were left with the task of making it to the evening worship at the Thompson-Boling Arena (a gigantic shrine to the color orange) by 9pm. Once again, we hadn't figured out the transportation system, so we took the long walk. I was in a pissy mood, since I was going on an hour and a half of sleep, and I was more frustrated about the transportation thing than I probably should have.
  • Once we made it to the Arena, they were just starting the worship set. It was powerful. At some point during the service, I realized that I didn't need to be poopy any more, and that God had this trip under control. Sadly, this realization would only come and go throughout the week.
  • The speakers on the first night were Judy Howard Peterson, Efrem Smith and Don Everts. They were excellent all week. The theme for this first night was "No Ordinary Man," in reference to Jesus. The fourth speaker throughout the week was Bart Campolo, but he didn't speak until the next night.
  • We walked back to the hotel again, again inept at figuring out the transportation system. Once again, I got frustrated, and sleep awaited me. I got the students to bed and laid in bed myself. You'd think I'd fall right asleep, right? Well, I was too stressed, so I called Marcie. I poured out my guts to her, she listened and told me to go to bed and that I would be renewed in the morning.
  • Of course she was right. The next morning brought good things. We figured out the transportation system, had a good breakfast at Smokies, went to small groups and focus groups, missed lunch, and went to the Nascar Speedway in Sevierville. And as Tony Stewart says, "If you can't have fun here, you can't have fun anywhere." Thanks, Tony.
  • After Nascar, we went to dinner and hung around awhile before going to the next evening's worship time. The theme for the second night was "No Ordinary Teacher," also referring to Jesus. I believe this was the night that Don and Bart were the speakers. Don's message was basically this, and it was absolutely gripping. Do unto others, indeed. Will, one of the guys from the youth group was really impacted by the message, and has been doing his best to live it since.
  • I won't run through all the details of each day...picking up the pace!
  • Tuesday's highlight was definitely "saving lives one scoop at a time." Scott, one of our youth, came up with that catchy slogan. One scoop at a time, we packaged nutritious dry meals to be sent to Sudan through a ministry called "Feed My Starving Children" out of Minneapolis. All in all, the youth of CHIC packaged almost 600,000 meals, which will literally prolong the lives of thousands of people who are starving each day. It was truly touching to be a part of this. Amazing. Aces. Read more about it here.
  • Tuesday's theme was "No Ordinary Healer," referring to (guess who?) Jesus. The service was a service of healing. There was much confession, confrontation and prayer in the service. There were a lot of tears and a lot of mending of broken relationships through Christ's power.
  • Wednesday we went to Dollywood's Splash Country. What a blast! But honestly, we were in Dollywood! How amazing is that?!? This was truly No Ordinary Day.
  • That evening, the theme was No Ordinary Death. Jesus lived with ordinary people and loved ordinary people, but there was nothing ordinary about his life and death. Students who did not know the saving power of Christ had a great oppportunity to get to know Jesus Wednesday night. The great thing is that the students came with church families, so they will not just accept Christ and go on with their lives exactly as they were. They have the built in daily influence to help them in the process of lifelong discipleship.
  • Thursday, we did all the regular stuff (small groups, focus sessions, evening worship), but we had free time all afternoon. I watched Zach, Seth an Scott do some skating at the skate park, ate some free snow cones, and took a nap on a park bench. It was nice.
  • The final night's theme was "No Ordinary Life," which went right along with the "No Ordinary Death" of the night before, because as many of us know, Jesus' death would have been pointless violence had it not been for the resurrection. We get to live resurrection lives in this world, right now, as we work for the kingdom, and for that which we pray--"thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." It's not just old sounding words...it is reality, awaiting final fulfillment.
  • We found out some great news on that last night. We found out that the youth of CHIC donated an incredible sum of money to Covenant World Relief's projects in Bentiu, Sudan. These high school students, 5,600 of them, donated over $100,000 to go towards a medical clinic and school and even more in Bentiu! That's over $17 per student, which I find quite impressive for a bunch of high schoolers who don't have jobs. It excites me to no end to see this generosity coming from the youth of the Covenant Church.
  • We left on Friday morning at 8am. Tim was picked up by his mom, so he didn't get to experience the trip home with us, but it was good. We had some McDonald's breakfast (mmm...McGriddles), and got some Skyline Chili in Cincinnati for lunch (amazing). We made it back to Indy at 3pm. Game over.

I also have to mention that it was great seeing so many people I hadn't seen in a long time. North Park friends, Libertyville friends...I love you all and miss you tons. It was great to see all of you. I'm glad I got to experience this event with so many close friends from all different stages of my life. There was much joy and love in just running into so many familiar faces throughout the week. And to everyone...

May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you His peace.

Rock on.

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