For the past week or so, 16-year-old Nicole Kirk from Trinity United Church of Christ in Wooster, Ohio, has been getting a lot of sleep. "I wanted to be fully energized," she said.
Kirk, along with more than 2,000 other youth, are at Purdue University this week for the UCC’s National Youth Event (NYE). "I knew there would be lots of stuff to do," Kirk said on Tuesday, looking forward to three full days of workshops, service projects, worship and fellowship ahead of him.
The "extravagant welcome" waiting for the arriving youth and their chaperones at Purdue included face painting, outdoor games, and snacks to unwind after a long trip to western Indiana. Jacob Morey, who from drove three hours with his church group from First Congregational UCC in South Haven, Mich., said that having his caricature done was the first order of business. This is his first youth event and, while the schedule looks busy, he hopes to strengthen his belief in God.
NYE, for youth ages 13-18, is held every four years and draws young UCC members from around the country, and often includes other youth from around the world. This year, a group from France is present, hosted by three Maryland churches. A group from Germany also is attending, hosted by Trinity UCC in Chicago.
For Yolanda Medina, 18, from Millburn Congregational UCC in Guernsey, Ill., meeting new people is one of the best things about NYE. One of the people she may meet this week is 15-year-old Elias Lingnau from Bonn, Germany. He and a group of youth from the Evangelical Church of the Union are looking forward to a "great new experience of faith," he said.
Catherine Curtis, Director of Christian Education at First Congregational UCC, Glen Ellyn, Ill., brought several youth from her church along with youth from four other Illinois Conference churches. The conference held a "mini youth event" for in May to get ready for the event. "This event is brand new to most of us," she said. Curtis hopes the conference can build on the youths' experience and strengthen its youth programming.