High school students from many corners of the North American Moravian world came together for a week of learning, prayer, fellowship, worship—and, of course, fun!—at Convo 2013 in Greensboro, N.C.
Since 1957, Convo has invited Moravian youth who have completed grades 9 through 12 to join together every four years. Relationships forged at each of these gatherings are life-changing and last forever.
This year’s Convo was held at Greensboro College in North Carolina. In addition to group discussions and fun activities on the Greensboro campus, Convo participants learned Moravian history in Old Salem and Bethabara Historical Park, attended a Winston-Salem Dash baseball game and experienced the beauty and fun of Laurel Ridge.
“Convo is not a camp…it is not a youth group…it is Convo. There is nothing quite like it and to fully understand it you must be there,” said Greg Behrend of Green Bay, Wis., one of the Convo 2013 leaders. “We gathered in Greensboro, N.C. for a week of self-learning, watching movies, fellowship, worship, laughter, lovefeast, communion, music, talent shows and building new relationships. We ‘Got Connected’ with each other and we ‘Got Connected’ with God.
“It was a privilege to be a part of such a wonderful week as co-program leader,” continues Greg. “For me the biggest joy that I found at Convo 2013 was the participants that came from all over the U.S. and Canada. What a wonderful group filled with strong, intelligent and fun young adults! From day one I knew that this was a special group of leaders and I look forward to seeing what this group has in store for the Moravian Church throughout their lifetime.”
Convo 2013 was planned by the Rev. Josh Viste, pastor of Millwoods Community Church in Edmonton, Alberta; the Rev. John G. Rights from New Philadelphia Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; the Rev. Doug Rights, director of youth and young adult ministries in the Southern Province; Travis Kerslake from Radium Springs, B.C.; Amy Sue Walter from Lititz, Pa; and Greg Behrend.
We asked Convo attendees to share some of their thoughts about their experience at this year’s gathering. What we received were poignant, heartfelt responses to an event that will impact their lives for years to come.
Cody Wilson, Hope Moravian Church (Indiana)
“At Convo I was able to experience God in a way most people never even imagine possible. The people I met, the things I learned and the experiences I had while at Convo taught me a lot more about what fellowship is and can be, and what it really means to be a Moravian.
“One of the greatest parts about convo is that every person that was there was there for a reason. Every person intended to be there and participated with all their energy. The ‘motto’ for the week was a quote from the movie How to Save a Life: ‘What’s the point of all this if you’re not going to let it change you?’ I am changed. Because of convo I am able to see God working in a new way I hadn’t known before.
“I very much enjoyed learning about the history of the Moravian church. Having visited Bethabara and Old Salem during my trip I realized the impact that the Moravian church has had in the past in building communities and shaping futures. I finally could grasp the potential and ability I have, as a Moravian, to do great things with the gifts and talents God has blessed me with.
“One of my favorite parts of coming to Greensboro was meeting so many new people. In a week I was able to make friendships that will last a lifetime, and I was able to expand my reach throughout the Moravian Church. I loved to get to know every one of them, and I pray I will see them again. The amount of love present within this group, that at the beginning of the week were complete strangers, was unbelievable. Like Moravians tend to do, we spent an amazing time of fellowship, fun, love and worship together, and we finally went our separate ways to repeat the cycle again with a new set of people.
“The last night of convo we went to Laurel Ridge, and I know everyone who came off that mountain came down with four things; a new connection with each other, a new type of connection with God, a new sense of what they thought of themselves and a mission: to share what we learned.”
Adult leader Amy Sue Walter, Lititz (Pennsylvania)
“This was the first Convo where I wasn’t a participant. I think I learned more from the students than they did from me. They opened my eyes to their everyday experiences, hardships and fears…time has definitely changed since I was in high school seven years ago! I encourage the Moravian Church and parents to reach out to the youth around you. If you don’t ask or get involved in what’s going on in their lives…how will you ever know? The theme this year was ‘Get Connected’…it’s our turn to ‘Get Connected’ to our youth!”
Merrit Artim, Bethania Moravian Church
“The week I had at Convo has really shed some light that not all Moravians are the same. The people here have different cultures, come from different places and are all different in their own special ways. Yet through all those differences we are able to come together with love and compassion for one another and praise God together.
“I’ve known these people just a few days and we are already having life lessons together and have learned more about one another than most people know. I am truly blessed to have been here, at Greensboro College, with these amazing people. After learning these many different styles and ways that Moravians can spread the gospel, this has made me go and try to make a difference in my church, my community and my home.
“While everyone has a different way of looking at things, handling situations, a different personality, and a different way of praising God, we’re all one in our hearts and minds. For me, the week I spent at Convo was a beautiful, eye-opening experience! I will treasure the moments I had there, always. The time there was short, but much was learned. I love everyone I met there and will keep this experience in my heart forever.”
Adult leader Tina Morse, Peace Moravian Church (North Carolina)
“The young people of today are amazing They are enthusiastic, intuitive, and what I have learned from this experience is they are proud of their faith and will stand up for their faith until the end of time. Personally, I gained a stronger faith from being here this week. We came here as strangers, but are leaving as one big family in Christ. We shared our tears, our laughter and our personal stories about ourselves. We kept our spirits high even while enduring the rain. I encourage all youth to attend the next Convo. It is an opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime.”
Victor (Tory) Reid, John Hus Moravian(New York)
“Moravian Convo 2013 in Greensboro, North Carolina was a very uplifting, awesome and blessed experience for me. I met lots of amazing, outstanding and unique friends from New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin and Canada. I also tried some new things like learning to square dance and eating Moravian chicken pie.
“Convo 2013 taught me understanding, gratitude and love for all the early Moravian settlers who came to the U.S. and Canada so we might be able to praise God freely. Convo also helped to create a structured devotional time with God through prayer, reading the Bible, meditating or even singing a hymn. And Convo 2013 assisted in increasing my faith in God spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally.
“The main theme was about relationships: relationships with God, relationships with church members, relationships with our families and relationships with our friends. I thank my small group members for all the laughter, tears and personal stories we shared to encourage others and to help us live healthy Christian lives.”
Grant Morgan, Peace Moravian Church (North Carolina)
“To me, Convo was all about connection, whether it be the Moravian Church in North America coming together, or people from different places and cultures being brought together by Christ. The whole week consisted of me learning things about the Moravian Church I never knew and learning about the differences in our culture within our Church. The week never had a dull moment, the program was great all week. Overall I left Convo 2013 with new friends from many different places and walks of life, and feeling closer to God than ever.”
Abbey Vinson, (North Carolina)
“I was skeptical about Convo when I first came. I have been to my fair share of church camps before where I just could not seem to make new friends and ended up feeling a bit like an outsider for the entire week. This is what I feared might happen at Convo. I have never been so happy to be proven wrong.
“From the very first day, I could tell that this was something different, and was going to be an experience like no other. I was genuinely surprised at how welcoming and friendly everyone was. It was not forced or fake. It seemed that we all just naturally loved and accepted each other right from the start. There was none of the awkwardness, drama or exclusion that I had sometimes experienced at other camps. We became a family immediately, especially in my small group. Seeing how we had come together as a family right from the start gave me courage, and I opened up to them as I never have to anyone else before.
“I thought it was simply over-exaggeration when people told me that I would make lifelong friends at Convo. But now, at the end of the week, that is exactly what I have—and more. I found others like me from all over the continent that are going through the same trials as me, that understand me, and I am so grateful for the support that we were able to give each other this week.
“We have built a community this week. And I think one of the reasons that we were able to do so this quickly and so well is because we came to each other with the love of God already blooming in our hearts, before we even met. We built this amazing family on the foundation of Jesus, and because of that, I have faith that our relationships will endure.
“I found many things at Convo; all of them unexpected and wonderful. I found within my new family: love, acceptance, fellowship, friendship, joy, laughter (lots of it), peace and bonds that (to quote the cliché) really will last a lifetime. I thank God for bringing us together and for giving me the profound love from so many people that I never knew I was missing.”
“If you or anyone you know missed out on Convo 2013, you missed out on a wonderful opportunity and I strongly encourage all of the young adults, parents and grandparents from across North America to not let another Convo slip through the cracks,” says Greg. “Join us in 2015 for Young Adult Convo as we journey back to the Moravian roots in Europe. More information yet to come!”
See more photos from Convo 2013 at www.youthconvo2013.org.
From the September 2013 Moravian Magazine