Sunday, July 29, 2012

Youth Week 2012

We just finished our 2012 Youth Week and all I can say is that these young folks came ready to go, and go they did. The normal process is that the first couple of days are uphill, and then we start to get a real flow of worship, the word and their hearts responding to the word.

Usually we start Sunday night with worship and a bit of orientation. Then the youth go on to snack bar and off to their rooms to get to know each other and their counselors. If all goes smooth, we’re off to a good start.

Sunday night worship began, they pushed back the chairs, and almost all of them came up front and they stepped right into worship. It was great! Monday night, after another great time of worship and the word, ten came up to get saved and another twenty or so came up to dedicate their lives more fully to the Lord. Next thing, Pastor Ken Gerry asked them how many would like to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (we usually get there Thursday night) and the Lord filled many of them as they opened their mouths and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit fell on them. It was tremendous! The next morning, Tuesday, we prayed and encouraged them further in the Holy Spirit. One young man in particular got so filled with the Holy Spirit in the 9:30 am service that he was still there until 3:00 pm, speaking in tongues and interceding for many issues in prayer as the Lord just continued to sweep over him. I don’t know about you, but for me that is just down right exciting to witness!

Well that’s not the end; it was only Tuesday morning. I have to confess, I was really wondering how that could be built upon. What the Lord did was to increase the level of His presence and the depth of our worship reflected that depth as well. These young people worship like they had been in a place of free worship all their lives. Pastor Ken and I just kept saying to them and each other how glad we were just to be there and participate with them.

On Saturday morning before they left, we went around the room and each one gave a short testimony. Almost every one of them spoke (that in itself is a miracle) and what they said was how much the Lord had done in them and that they were going to go home and stand for the Lord in their homes, in their schools and in their churches.

In the end, I believe that the Lord strengthened them and set them on fire to be able to go back home and take what they had gotten from the Lord and stand fast in the liberty they had gained.

- Jack Picataggi, President

Testimonies at Bethany

This first devotion is a reflection on chapel at Bethany, written by Brianna Franco. Brianna just completed her first year of the Biblical Studies Program.

“After being at Bethany for a year, I look back at my time here and realize that God has changed me in such a dramatic way. God has used a number of ways to change me, including work duties, living in the dorm, study hours, classes and most of chapel. I can sincerely say that chapel has changed my life.

Growing up, I attended a private Christian high school and I quickly learned that chapel is nothing without God showing up. Any group of people can get together and sing a few songs, but if their hearts aren’t open and receptive and God isn’t invited, then that entire meeting will be nothing more than just a meeting. After attending several Youth Week and Challenge conferences, I always desired to find a place to truly cultivate the worship that I was so passionate about. I came to Bethany as a student fully prepared to dive into all that God had for me. I wanted to take advantage of every possible minute to seek and get closer to God. And chapel is where it all began.

I’m not one to hold back in fear of dancing or singing, but this year God pushed me to the limits of what I thought I could do in a corporate meeting. Once I directed my focus off of “what I can get out of chapel” to “how God wants to use me to give”, then my prayer life also began to change. I truly believe that worship is the door to the heart of God and chapel time was a gateway to enter into God’s heart.

Worship is often a word that we misuse. Worship is not a time of day, but a lifestyle. Through worshiping in chapels, I learned what it was like to worship God in everything that I do. Whether that was engaging in a conversation or a relationship, or working on a specific task during my work duty or setting aside an allotted time during my day for personal devotion, all I desired to do was worship God.

I have gained so much from my times in chapel alone. I have never felt the spirit of God move the way He had during certain chapels this year. Chapels have given me a sense of hope that God is still faithful to move and to encounter us in special ways that people no longer believe Him for. Chapels have been a time of declaring who God is and who we are in Him, for not standing on anything but His word. Chapel, in the beginning of the year, also enabled me to prepare myself for the warrior that I was becoming and ultimately became. Chapel was a place of peace and refuge when the stress of being a student and entering into the stage of adulthood was overwhelming.

One of the things I have learned that has impacted me the most is that God goes where He is welcomed and stays where He is wanted. Through chapels this year, a hunger was cultivated to make a house of devotion in me where God would want to stay so that I can experience Him everyday the way that I can experience Him in a chapel service. I know that God is no where near being done with working in me and I only hope to continue growing in all that God has for me in the future. I thank God for where He has brought me and for the things that He revealed to me. I am beyond blessed and appreciative to be a part of a school such as this where we have the opportunity to worship God and let Him be free to do as He wishes.”

Kaela Norman has attended Youth Week, Bethany’s annual summer youth conference, for the past few years. Kaela will be attending Bethany as a student for the first time this year.

“The first time I ever came to Bethany was when I was fifteen, attending my first Youth Week. I already had a pretty good relationship with the Lord, but had never experienced an encounter with the Lord the way I did there. Walking around Bethany I heavily felt God’s presence, like it was His home. I knew that wherever God was, I wanted to be. That is why I decided that I want to attend Bethany for college. I know that Bethany is a place where God’s Spirit dwells and therefore is the perfect place to get close to Him. I feel as though the Lord wants some time with me, undistracted, so that He can show me His plans before I venture out into the world.”