During a sweltering heat wave in June, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Youth Triennium was held on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. For five days, high-school-aged youth took part in conversation, recreation, learning, worship – and, of course, fun. The theme for this year’s Triennium was “Here’s My Heart,” which organizers hoped would help participants to re-enter their lives with a fresh sense of inspiration grounded in the context of personal and communal worship.
An estimated 4,000-plus youth and their chaperones from around the world descended on this Midwest college town, including several hundred from the Synod of the Trinity region. Many of the Synod’s presbyteries were represented by a team of youth at Triennium. What follows is a recap from some of those who made the trip west:
Presbytery of Philadelphia
(more testimonies available here)
LILIAN, Youth Delegate – Something that touched me during the conference was the worship and the preaching. This whole experience felt different to me because it’s not something that I’m used to, but it was a fun experience.
PEARL, Youth Delegate – Coming to youth triennium was a wonderful experience. Not only did I strengthen my faith in Christ, I also made a lot of friendships.
FRANK, Youth Delegate – I learned that making new friends from across the country is as easy as making friends who are from your home state. I learned that God is everywhere and is always watching.
REONA, Youth Delegate – Something significant that I learned from the conference is that our lives are a song and that there are different parts of it and that even though we may be going into obstacles doesn’t mean it’s the end of your song. So, you must have faith and keep pushing through.
TRINITY, Youth Delegate – Something that touched my heart was learning new ways to accept God especially when I have different values and beliefs towards his words.
EVELYN, Youth Delegate — The opportunity to meet new people and interact with others of different and similar people. Also, the ability to see how much others love God and being exposed to the reality of people’s lives through new perspectives. The theme of being lost and found while keeping your values is neat and inspiring.
LAUREN, Youth Delegate – I met new people that have truly changed my life and my view on my life. Specifically, they encouraged me to worship God in new ways.
DANIEL, Youth Delegate – The most significant part of the trip to me was the sermon spoken on Wednesday. It related to us teenagers, and it acknowledged how the world we live in now is much more different than the world our parents lived through.
LAURA, Youth Delegate — During Triennium, I learned that in order to love others, you must first love yourself. I find it hard to love myself sometimes, yet at Triennium, I’ve found that God’s been hinting at me to treat myself with kindness and stop stressing myself out. We’re so easy to focus on the negative, but Triennium has taught me to focus on the positives and love life.
Presbytery of Carlisle
BRI, Youth Delegate – My biggest takeaway from the week was something that the pastor on the second day said, which is that “We are not what we do, or who we hang out with. We are much deeper than that.” I think in high school it’s hard to not want to fit in and be yourself. So, when you really take that quote to heart, you can see how much it really doesn’t matter. Worship is most likely what moved me the most. It was really cool and felt really special to be worshiping with over 4,000 other kids and adults. As the weeks after Triennium go by, I find myself continually talking about Triennium and the things that happened there, even if it’s super small and minuscule. I learned many lessons and gained a lot of insight from going, and I think it is something that I will carry with me for years to come.
DONNA, Chaperone – This was my first trip to Triennium. I found the event to be well organized and created well with high-schoolers in mind. I loved watching my youth experience God in a profound way through worship with their peers. Triennium helps youth see that they are not alone, that other people their age believe, and that they can grow into adulthood with confidence in their faith and Savior.
Presbytery of West Virginia
SUSAN, Chaperone — From my perspective as the lead adult and from interaction with our youth, it was an awesome week for meeting new people, reconnecting with friends from a lot of places and times, growing in faith, being touched by the leading of the Spirit, and getting reenergized in our faith journeys. Youth and adult participants were asked to share their reflections on the week in pictures and words. Here is what some of them said:
- My favorite parts were trading pins and seeing the wall of balloons (small groups had each blown up balloons in particular colors and added them to a frame that was joined together for Friday evening worship); the pins remind me that while we are all far apart, we are also close because of our faith in God, and the wall was amazing because I could look up there and say, “Hey, my prayer is up there, along with 5,000 others.”
- Guacamole shoe roll brush handlebar mustache.
- My favorite part of the week was hearing my hope and dreams and struggles with the church echoed in the stories of so many others. I needed that reminder that I am not alone. As one of the pastors said over the communion table, “You are welcome at this table. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. And more than that, you belong here.”
KD, Youth Delegate – I went to the last Triennium and loved the experience. I was looking forward to having another fantastic and fun experience. My biggest takeaway from Triennium is definitely meeting so many different people and the overall energy at Triennium. There is an excitement in everything we do from small group time to worship to just wandering the campus. I loved getting to know the people from my presbytery but also meeting people from all over the world.
I was very moved by the messages of Christ during the sermons and worship services. They have helped me stay grounded in my roots. All the sermons were great, but the sermon on the last day was fantastic as a reminder to go and share. The trip may have included long bus rides and trying to sleep in rooms with no A/C, but in the end, it was worth it. I believe the experience has helped me to become a better person towards others and appreciate God’s work more and more.
KAIYA, Youth Delegate – I enjoyed the sermons a lot, but I think my biggest takeaway from this trip was a particular sermon that expressed itself to me in the manner of not giving up no matter how hard things may get. I’ve experienced a lot of hardships that week that I could have easily given up on, but because of that sermon, I heard God say, “No, not yet!” What really moved me most of all was delegation with my group. I was stuck at a point in my life that i couldn’t get past, and one of the leaders said to me, “Maybe you should pray for abundant clarity.” So, I went home and that’s what I prayed for. It brought me pain and also joy, but most of all it brought me the clarity I needed. In the Bible it says, “Love your neighbor,” but we let our differences get in the way. The community I live in is blinded by hatred due to differences. I want to be able to try and give them that sight and clarity that I was able to receive.
EVAN, Youth Delegate – Going into Triennium, I was extremely tired, not only because of the 12-hour bus ride but also because of having done a work camp in the same state just less than two days prior to going to Triennium. When I got on Purdue’s campus, I immediately forgot my tiredness and was able to meet many people from the United States and other countries represented with pin trading.
The worships moved me the most because of the excellent speakers and their messages that they shared with us and how they connected it to the day’s topic. I realized that I should tune my heart first by being myself and by going with decisions that are healthy for me and my relationship with God. Going forward, I’m going to try to be active in being involved with decision-making inside the church, such as joining a committee, then eventually spreading my knowledge and love as I go forth into the world with college and my adult life.
In conclusion, I will take what I have learned from the sermons by having my heart tuned to God to then serve my church and spread my knowledge and love of God.
What was the biggest takeaway?
- “Even the simplest Bible stories could have messages that I never thought of.”
- “The Christian family is so big, and when we come together great things happen.”
What moved you the most?
- “Seeing the kindness that everyone showed toward one another.”
- “Hearing thousands of people sing to God.”
- “It really was amazing to be able to communicate with strangers and connect with them on a level that only God could have done.”
- “The band inspired me to worship and celebrate God.”
- “The preachers were really good at being able to relate Bible stories to things that people struggle or relate with today.”
What will you do with the information and experience?
- “I will do my best to apply it to my normal life and I will try to do more community service.”
- “I will take this information and share it with the younger youth in my church to get them excited about their faith and things the church does.”