‘Celebration’ brings youth to worship together in conference

By Gus Bode

Christ In Youth 7/21 at

As the lights dimmed in the SIU Arena and the sound of guitars came through the speakers, almost 2,000 teenagers sang along Monday night to the Christian music of musician Jami Smith.

The event, titled “Celebration,” was part of the Christ In Youth camp, which is taking place this week on campus.

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The CIY camp occurs three weeks each summer and has been on the SIUC campus for the past eight years. As a national organization, CIY has been in existence for more than 20 years and sponsors different youth camps throughout the U.S.

According to Robin Sigars, associate director of conferences, 1,947 students are attending this week’s camp. Sigars, who has been involved with CIY for 14 years, also said the staff and campers enjoy the atmosphere SIUC provides.

“We have just always developed a real great working relationship with the college and the college seems to enjoy having us here, and that overall atmosphere makes it good for their atmosphere when they come,” Sigars said. “It’s just very relaxed. It’s a very good thing for them.”

This week’s campers are high school students who spend five days attending different lectures that deal with their relationship with God. Each camper has a set schedule, which allows them to gather together in the morning, attend lectures throughout the day and then gather together again at night to attend what they call “Celebration.”

“Every night we have a thing called Celebration, and that is where [campers] will come in, we have a band that plays, we find different speakers for every night and they’ll bring a message, kind of talk to them about different issues,” said Brett Moore, a camp volunteer.

According to Moore, who became a Christian while attending the camp, the idea of CIY is to bring together different church groups to talk about issues that affect Christian youths. The camp also allows them to worship with their peers.

“Our whole idea is to come in and to facilitate youth ministers to help them to reach their students with the programs we do, with the speakers we have at night, with the worship bands that we have, with the different seminars we have in classes, all helping them to grow closer to Christ and what he wants for them,” Moore said.

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Amanda Starkey, a veteran camper from Wichita, Kan., loves the worship part of the CIY camp the most and enjoys the way the staff relates everyday issues to maintaining a Christian lifestyle.

“Worship was awesome,” Starkey said. “We’re digging the worship. They just have a really good way of translating stuff so we can see it and hear it and understand it better.”

Kaleigh Rotha, a veteran camper also from Wichita, enjoys the aspect of relating real world issues with Christian values and way of life.

“This guy talked about the war in Iraq and all this stuff and he said it’s like spiritual war; the war between good and evil, between Satan and God,” Rotha said. “To see how this situation can be related to a Christian situation, I think it helps.”

Rotha and Starkey also believe the effort that the CIY staff puts into the camp and the creativity of the lectures and events makes the camp more enjoyable. Some of the events include lectures about practicing abstinence, understanding the Bible and keeping a positive relationship with your parents.

“They do really creative things,” Rotha said. “All of our youth groups, we got a brick and wrote on it and each night our youth group gets a brick from another youth group and we pray for the different youth groups. They just do unique stuff like that.”

According to Sigars, the teenagers attending the camp expect powerful events.

“They come wanting to worship God,” Sigars said. “They come also wanting somebody to really speak to them on a very relevant level but also a very intense level. A lot of the speakers are very intense and passionate guys. They want passionate people to lead them.”

The camp also offers stands set up by different Christian colleges which give students the chance to gather information about different Christian schools and talk to college students who attend them.

“A lot of different colleges come set up their booths so the kids can get information about Christian colleges,” said Juanita Buescher, a college representative form St. Louis Christian College. “Mainly, they learn how much God loves them. It’s a time for them to come and learn ways to keep their lives on track.”

Two more CIY camps will take place this summer on the SIUC campus and Conference Coordinator Lana Campbell believes the facilities the University has to offer keep the camp coming back every year.

“When they came here eight years ago, they had been going to SEMO [Southeast Missouri State University]. Then they came here and we just developed a great relationship,” Campbell said. “They love coming here. They love the facility, they love the Student Center and all of the options in the food court and of course they love the Rec Center. So those are the things that bring the kids back every year.”

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