Saturday, July 28, 2012

Youth Conference 2012

Our theme for Youth Conference
Late Thursday night I got home from spending two amazing days with the youth of our church.  I love how rejuvenated I feel spiritually.  It began with an early Wednesday morning as we had to meet up at the church and drive to the University of Missouri (Mizzou) campus.  I had a carload of kids who chatted the entire way.  It was a lot of fun though, they really had me cracking up.  What I enjoyed most was that all the talk was kind and fun, not vulgar or inappropriate which has been the case when driving with other youth to sports events or other school events.  That was a reminder to me of what the next couple days would be all about.  All of the kids (or most, we did have some kids there who weren't members of our church but who came with kids who were) were members of our church.  It was nice to be around 600 kids who all had the same standards and values.  Of course, kids are kids and I would be lying if I didn't say I ran into a few youth who were rude, but people are people.
I was asked to attend the conference as a photographer and I had a lot of fun with that.  Of course I felt a bit like the paparazzi but I'm glad to have captured some fun moments for our kids.  I especially loved spending the day with our two older boys.  Granted, I did not really see them much as I tried to not be all in their personal space but it was nice to be there knowing what they were learning and seeing them interact with kids from all over Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.
The kids had a lot of fun, they played sports and games most of the first day and then ended with the longest dance EVER.  Their youth dance was 3 1/2 hours long...even some of the kids complained that it was too long and they were tired (of course it didn't stop any of them from getting their groove on!).  What I loved most about the dance was that everyone danced, no one was left out.  If anyone was a wall flower it was by choice.  Everyone is encouraged to dance with as many people as possible and get to know each other.  All of the kids were 14-18 years old.  There were also lots of fast songs to dance to and plenty of line dances.  It was really neat watching some of the kids that are usually reserved just break out.
I caught myself getting choked up quite a bit when I would see someone who was just a little different out on the dance floor.  It really was beautiful to see no barriers, everyone being accepted for who they are.  It was a great lesson for all us taught by the youth of today.
The second day was filled with different spiritually charged lessons.  I only sat in on two of them as I was taking care of one of the girls who had gotten injured but they were both pretty good.  One was actually pretty amazing.  I can't even convey into words the impact it had on me but overall it was a great reminder of what my Heavenly Father is capable of and how aware He is of us individually.  The afternoon was closed out with a testimony meeting where the youth were given the opportunity to bear their testimonies of the gospel and anything they felt they learned.  I cried...a lot.  I was so proud of our kids.  My own two boys bore beautiful testimonies, my heart was filled with so much love.  We then closed out the meeting with the kids singing a beautiful hymn a cappella.  If you'd like to hear the last verse that I recorded, you can click Here.
The evening was closed out with another dance (only 2 hours this time).  The kids were pretty exhausted at this point.  I don't think I mentioned that they had to walk to all the different locations where the events were in over 100 degree weather.  Some of the locations were a pretty good distance away.  So you can imagine how tired they were.  I loved watching them dance and again seeing everyone included.
I love our youth, when I see them in a collective group at events like this I think to myself..."what a great future we have, we are leaving it in good hands."  I find great comfort in that.

Here are just a few snapshots of our two days at youth conference.

Neil trying his hardest at tug-o-war, unfortunately the other side had double the amount of kids

Michael participating in the human knot

Playing the human accordion game, Michael was at the end.

One of those line dances I mentioned

 I love the series of pictures below.  It was the last dance of the conference, Shout!  These kids were getting down.  It just made me smile.

PAUSE!  Is the dance over?

Oh no, it isn't!

I Like to Party line dance

More of that line dancing stuff

The boys commented on how short a lot of the girls were, lol

And last but not least a small video for your viewing pleasure of a few of our boys trying to learn a new line dance that was taught by one of the other stakes.  Lots of people were confused, lol.

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