By Rosella Abenio

21“It has been 3 years already since I first joined the youth conference and I am still in awe of how it affected my life. Call it a ‘life-changing experience’, but those aren’t enough to describe the feelings. This year, I am excited what kind of wonders God will do through this camp!” said Meryl Dominguez, one of the 139 participants of the NexGen Youth Conference in Northern Mindanao.

Themed “Making Disciples, Planting Churches”, the focal point of the youth camp was the commitment to take part in sharing the redemptive grace of God by making disciples and planting churches all over Northern Mindanao.

When Mabel B. Sanchez, another 16-year old sister from Lala section, was asked about how she felt joining the EFC youth camp this year, she honestly confessed that there were doubts in her heart. She feared that as she commits to do God’s works, she might not be able to overcome the challenges that would arise after the camp.

Despite all that, Mabel was strengthened as she pondered on John 16:33 which was shared in one of the camp’s session, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world!” Assured by these very words of Jesus and challenged by the testimonies she heard from fellow campers, , she devoted herself on that day to fully serve God.

“My favorite part of the conference was attending the worship every night and listening to powerful, anointed preaching, “said Jacquelyn Tablada of EFC-Cagayan de Oro, who was weakened spiritually but desired to rekindle the fire in serving God.   “Pastor Roberto Padinit was enthusiastic and spoke straight to the point.  I received correction from God through the sermon and learned to recommit myself in volunteering to outstation works.”

“…Grabi ka maayo ang Ginoo after sa youth camp, paghatud nako sa akong girlfriend sa Gitagum, Misamis Oriental napadawat nako iyang mama sa kaluwasan ug na surrender pa jud and ilang mga image sa idolatry. Praise and glory to God. Si God jud and namuhat atong tanan. Iya rakong gigamit,” Marco Pelias testified. (After the camp, I accompanied my girlfriend to their place in Gitagum, Misamis Oriental. When we get there, I shared to her Mom and she accepted Jesus as Her Lord and Savior. Her mom even surrendered all images of idolatry in their home. God did that, and He used me.)

Meryl, Mabel,Jacquelyn and Marco were among the youth, pastors and leaders from the various local churches in EFC Northern Mindanao Section who hungrily sought the Lord during this year’s Next Generation Youth Conference. The three-day summer camp was held last March 21-24, 2016 in EFC-Cagayan de Oro.

The Welcome Afternoon signaled the beginning of the Youth Camp. It featured the  camp’s do’s and don’ts, fellowship and creation of teams by mingling of participants from various churches.

Roberto Padinit, Assistant Pastor of EFC Cagayan de Oro, delivered the first message in the camp. In his sermon titled ‘Delivered Disciples Deliver Disciples,’ he discussed the significance of making disciples and planting churches.  He went on saying, “God did not only save you but called and chose you to be His disciple. To be His disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ.” A disciple is both a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we commit to make disciples, we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow Him and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives. It was a very convicting message for young people who have been complacent in their Christian walk. Pastor Robert also stressed that it is God’s will for every Christian to take part in the propagation of the gospel. It is fundamental to the Christian faith, and it is what the “mature” do, he said.

Early morning of the second day, the campers went back to church for their morning devotion.  Pastor Bismark Buendia from Manticao section shared about the life of Joshua. Everyone was once again reminded with Joshua’s Biblical experiences as he faced battles.  As Joshua honored the LORD and served God sincerely and faithfully, young people ought to do likewise. The morning devotion was also a venue for an hour of prayer and worship that renewed the campers daily.

On the morning session of the second day, a timely message was heard when Pastor Reynaldo Cornel shared the message titled ‘Suffering in God’s purpose.’  The emphasis of the message was 1 Peter 4:12-19. The youth learned that it is an honor and privilege to suffer with Christ. They must expect be treated by the world the way it treated Jesus. Later in the afternoon, Bro.  Jeff Ouano, challenged the campers to desire the things that are of God’s, which are eternal and far greater than material and temporal things. He beautifully described how God transformed and changed his life. He was once backslidden. Now, he is leading others to Christ.  All campers were blessed with his testimony.

During the evening session, Pastor Vic Pacana shared with deep conviction on “Spiritual Attack”. He started enumerating the attacks of the enemy such as losing appetite to serve God, physical fatigue, lack of resources, weak prayer life, hopelessness, old lifestyle resurfaced, and wrong relationships.  The discussions were so lively because that sermon became an eye-opener for the all the young people that night.  Being vigilant in their walk with God will help them thwart the attack of the enemy.  God indeed filled every heart again. Souls that were weak, God  strengthened. The hearts that were doubting, God gave assurance. The spirits who were sleeping, God awakened fully alive to serve Him.

On the morning devotion of the third day, everyone was listening eagerly to Pastor Ronilo Tapal from Balingasag section as he shared about the ‘Joshua generation’. The scripture taken from Joshua 1:8 talks about keeping God’s word always on your lips, meditating on it day and night, and carefully following it. “We are living under Joshua generation. God wants to use this generation to do mighty works for Him,” said Pastor Ronilo. “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”, Pastor Ronila quoted Joshua’s commitment.

“Amazing Race” was the highlight during the third day activity of the camp.  It is a race aligned with the theme of making disciples and planting churches, with five major obstacle courses or stations, designed to challenge the groups to apply everything they have learned during the camp.  The  five obstacles were Memory Verse(Obstacle 1), where each member must memorize the Great Commission and the order of the New Testament books(Obstacle 2), Where you go I go(Obstacle 3) where the groups played a game to understand the importance of partnership with God; Gospel Sharing(Obstacle 4) that challenged the groups to share the Gospel to the community; and Verses in a Jar (Obstacle 5) the final challenge where each participant must share the Bible verses to strangers.

“My favorite activity during the amazing race was the sharing of the Gospel in Mac Arthur Park.  I am really shy and fearful when it comes to sharing and talking to strangers.  This activity broke my shyness and allowed me to boldly share my faith to random people. What a breakthrough!”, shared Varvie Mayake.

Campers participated in variety of activities inside the church, in city streets (Rotonda), Gaston and Mac Arthur Park and Gaisano mall (areas).  At the end of the race, all the groups were gathered at the church to share their experience on the field to their fellow campers.

“God has done incredible things in the lives of the young people, said Pastor Roberto Padinit upon hearing their testimonies. “What struck me most was the testimony shared to us by this courageous, young man named John Paul Cornel, son of Pastor Reynaldo Cornel, during his experience in the race. “

In John Paul’s testimony to the groups, he said that he had a terrible stomachache and it would be impossible to join the amazing race due to the pain. Despite the fact that he is not physically fit to join, his heart longed to do the said activity. He earnestly asked God to heal him because he is going to join the race no matter what. And God miraculously healed him! The pain was totally gone!

“When we totally commit ourselves to God, to do His work, to serve Him, He will honor that desire and enable us to do His will. All we need is to wholeheartedly offer our lives to God, and His anointing will just flow through us.” Those were the exact words coming from the mouth of a 15-year-old boy in the camp.

This “Amazing race” turned out to be more than just an exciting experience; instead it was a deep and enriching spiritual ride where God has given breakthroughs in each of the campers’ lives.

It was the third night in camp, when everyone sat motionless in their chairs, listening to Pastor Roberto Padinit give his sermon entitled “Called into Service.” Christianity is not just a mere lip service, or Christians are not just ornaments for display but rather called to be His disciple and to plant churches. That night he asked the young people this question, “Why should we be filled by the Holy Spirit?”  Witnessing for Jesus requires a divine power not just a good technique.  The power of our witness is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who transforms a life and a transformed life is evident to all. “As we witness, we should spend much time in prayer, appropriating the Spirit’s power so that we are enabled to let our light shine in such a way that others will recognize the power of God in us,” he added. At the end his sharing, Pastor Roberto Padinit urged the youth to “testify to everyone what you have learned and seen in the camp.”

The last day of the camp was spent at Marvilia Beach, where everyone was so excited to perform and see the cheering squad of each team.  Prizes for winners for every games and activities were given. Indeed, God used this camp to change and transform many lives, encouraged cold feet to start walking by faith, and burned every frozen heart to be blazing to do His will- making disciples and planting churches!