By Stan Friedman
COARSEGOLD, CA (August 12, 2014) — When a music group scheduled to lead worship at Connect 2014, a Pacific Southwest Conference camp retreat for youth ages 12-19 pulled out of the event two days before it was scheduled to start on August 1, organizers weren’t sure what to do next.
“What I did know was that God was going to give us something better, but I did not know who it would be,” says Michael Jordan, pastor of La Viña Covenant Church in Kerman, California. He thought maybe it would be made up of a “ragamuffin” band of adults and campers.
But he texted Fil Nesta, pastor of Nueva Esperanza Covenant Church in Antioch, California, and asked if he had a worship team that also could minister in English at the camp, which consisted of students from small to mid-sized multiethnic and Hispanic congregations. Nesta didn’t but he knew of a worship group from a non-Covenant church that did.
Contact was made with that worship team from Nueva Vida Church in Antioch, and on the evening of August 31—the night before the retreat at Camp Oakhurst was to start—arrangements had been solidified. The band also agreed to participate for free.
“What was so special about this band and what made them the band for us was that they represented almost, if not all, of what we were trying to transmit to our kids and the adult leaders,” Jordan says. “All but the adult lead singer and guitar player were children and youth. And these kids were awesome! Our kids could identify so much with them, which inspired them to be more and do more for the kingdom.”
The band also reflected a second value the camp was trying to instill. “Here were two adult youth leaders in their church that were discipling these kids as they were sharing life together,” Jordan says. “This is what we have talked about and wanted to do! And here is a living, breathing, loud example of this value.”
Jordan adds, “In reality, this was the ‘ragamuffin’ band that God put together with adults and youth; it just wasn’t who we expected.”
Until last year, the camp was just for Hispanic churches, but Jordan and Tim Hawkinson, associate pastor for youth and families at Turlock Covenant Church, had worked together to transform it into a multicultural experience. The camp also was open to smaller churches that might not otherwise be available to experience a large retreat experience.
This year 195 students from 14 churches attended.
Phil Skei, pastor of On Ramp Covenant Church in Fresno, California, said afterwards, “Our youth do not come from Christian homes and are new to church, but felt very loved and embraced by everyone there.”
Jason Kiesel, pastor of Hilmar Covenant Church in Hilmar, California, was one of the speakers. He said the success of the camp was a sign that “God is on the move to unite multi-ethnic churches.”
Sarina Quintero, leader of the worship band, shared that the experience inspired his team as well.
The Pacific Southwest Conference and North Park University served as sponsors.