–By Emma Johnson (Central Anderson)
This past July, I was given the opportunity to go to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium at Purdue University. Going into the week, I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I had heard about Triennium is that it was like Montreat, but it was bigger and better. So from the beginning, my expectations were high. If people were telling me it was better than Montreat, Triennium had to be something special. My experience that week exceeded these expectations. It was truly a week I will never forget.
When we arrived on the Purdue campus, I was immediately blown away at how many people were there. Our group had been told that 5000 people would be in attendance, however, a number that significant is hard to imagine until you are all in an auditorium together. The first worship service left me speechless. It was incredible to be around that many students my own age praising the Lord. It also shocked me how far people came for this event. I had no idea that there would be lots of groups from outside the United States. That week, however, it did not matter where we came from, we all became a community in Christ.
The theme of the week was Here’s My Heart. It was based off the popular hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, and each day was centered around a different lyric. Each night, we had a new speaker come and talk about love: loving others, loving God, and opening our hearts to be loved by God. This message was relevant for so many reasons. For example, our small groups were full of diversity. Like Montreat, we did not have anyone from our home church in our small group. The main difference was instead of just being from a different church, everyone was from a different state. I had people from Ohio, California, Georgia, New Jersey, and Indonesia in my small group. Obviously, all of these places are very different. It was fascinating to get to know people with such different backgrounds. Despite our very different upbringings, we had one thing that connected us all, our love for God. Because of these small groups, we got to grow in God’s love together, and we also learned how to love people that were different than us. This week taught me that I should strive to love everyone as Jesus did and that regardless of where they come from and what they have done, God would want us to love them. We also learned that God loves us right where we are. In a world that tries to make you change to fit the mold, God made you the way he wants you, and He loves us as we are. We don’t have to change ourselves for Him. This message is very powerful in today’s world where things like social media push you to be something that you are not. The things I learned and experienced throughout that week changed me and my outlook on life.
Outside of small group and worship, there were organized recreation events which allowed for lots of time to fellowship with our home church and others from around the world. We attended a concert put on by the Chicago Children’s Gospel Choir. It was so much fun. We also got to participate in a drum circle, yoga, a scavenger hunt, watercolor paintings, making first aid kits, and other fun team challenges. There was also a room dedicated to prayer and reflection. Inside, you were given a quiet space to pray, go through a labyrinth, listen to Come Thou Fount and reflect on the lyrics, make origami hearts, or do whatever you needed to decompress and talk with God. We also had free time, where we did things like play ping pong and foosball in the lobby of our dorm. One day, our group went into West Lafayette, rented electric scooters, and spent our free time scooting around town! One big thing we did that week that helped us make lots of friends was pin-trading. Most churches brought pins that represented where they were from, and we brought bracelets! We spent a lot of time meeting people, trading pins, and competing to see who could get the most. Additionally, our entire back home group decided to join the conference choir. This was super rewarding at the end of the week when we were given the opportunity to sing in front of all 5000 people!
This week was rewarding in so many ways. I grew in my relationship with God and my fellow youth from Central Presbyterian. I built relationships with people around the world. I learned about love, and how to love others as God loves us. I am so grateful that the presbytery provided us with an opportunity to go to Triennium this year. It was truly an experience I will hold in my heart forever.
Emma Johnson serves on the Foothills Presbytery Youth Council, is a Senior at TL Hanna High School, and an active member of Central Presbyterian, Anderson. Emma was one of 12 who traveled with the Foothills Delegation to Purdue University for Triennium.