`51°02'46"N by 114°03'45"W <http://maps.google.com/maps?q=51%C2%B002'46.1616%22N%20114%C2%B003'45.828%22W&t=h>`__
Well, I've heard so much about Canada Chinese Christian Winter Conference, and this year I finally got the chance to go, as a workshop speaker for the teens. This year (and last year, and next year) it was at the Hyatt in beautiful Calgary, where it's sunny and ten-below-zero (Celsius). Here's a view of the neighbouring Calgary Tower, seen from the 18th-floor indoor pool. I hardly left the hotel, though -- I was there for the kids, so everything I wanted to see was inside the building!
CCCWC has been going on for 47 years now, sometimes as big as 1600 people, sometimes much smaller. I had heard that in the past it had had financial issues, political in-fighting, a penchant to drain and burn-out coworkers, and a reputation for being a bit of a meet-market amongst the teens and young adults. But I had also heard that it had changed so many lives, connected and united fellow Christians, and dozens had started their path to full-time ministry at WinterCon.
Did it meet my expectations? Yes, and then some -- in both good and bad ways! I had strategically declined any sort of administrative responsibilities, so I was distanced from the politics, but in chatting with the coworkers, I could hear the stress imposed by competing expectations. The teens' side went pretty much as I expected -- fun and passionate and full of crises and breakthroughs, just as life is for teenagers! Youth retreats are still rewarding every time.
The English adults' side was curious for me to see, quite slick and "HK cool", I thought. The worship times felt a lot like TWU praise chapel, which I suppose shouldn't be surprising since most of the crowd was college/university age. I was pretty disappointed with the messages: the speaker was a seminary prof who had lovely lyrical poetry, but very little to say of practical depth. I would often pop in for the worship but head over to the youth side for the messages and altar-call follow-up. If I had to sum it up in a word: "comfortable".
With teens, the crises are so often visible right on the surface -- they wear their hearts on their sleeves. When a four-year-old is bored, she will let you know (very loudly, if necessary!). When a fourteen-year-old is mad at God, he will let you know -- destructively, if necessary. As a result, I've found that particularly in youth ministry, one tends to feel perpetually on the verge of catastrophe. But it is this urgency that propels us forward, drives us down to our knees, and keeps us ever-vigilant, never-stagnant.
I had a dream recently that I was back in resident youth ministry -- as an incumbent youth worker, a lay youth pastor, for a group of 30-40 kids at some small Chinese church. We had a special all-church event, and the children were presenting a song, and the teens were supposed to present something, as well. We were practising in a different room and needed to get over to the main sanctuary, so I sent the kids over ahead of me single-file -- but then I needed to run ahead of them, to make sure the adults were ready for us, make sure the kids didn't sit in the very back, make sure there were enough chairs for them, etc. The overriding feeling I had in my dream was that I needed to run as fast as I possibly could -- and even that wasn't fast enough. I get that feeling a lot in youth work! :) But it isn't a demoralizing, guilt-inducing feeling; rather, it's fun and exciting and keeps me constantly in prayer, leaning on God's strength instead of my own.
The CCCWC theme this year was "Finishing the Race: Our Challenge and Our Crown", and I just realized as I was typing this that it applies exactly to my dream and that feeling of running as hard as I can: to provide for the kids, to serve God, to pursue the goal. There is a restful peace when I know I've put my whole effort in, and there is a revitalizing energy in knowing that there is ever more that God is doing, far beyond what I can ask or imagine.