Our second night felt colder than the first at Noah’s Ark. The fresh rain and increase in dew point brought much needed water to the Colorado area, but it made for a colder than expected night. Three of our girls had decided to share their bed space and blankets in an effort to stay warm. This would have been a great idea if the girls had connected their air mattresses or even slept parallel with on them. Instead they slept perpendicular and the air mattresses slowly slipped out from underneath them throughout the night. This created drafts of cold air coming in underneath them, making their sleep less than desirable. Once we were packed and breakfast was in our bellies, we loaded up the van and made our way to St Elmo.
The drive up the mountain was great. There was a scenic overlook for a waterfall feature, so we took the time to take it in. At first we settled for a group picture from the overlook, but the water and rocks were calling out to us. We had to go down and see how far out we could get. Most of us took off our shoes and experienced the cold snow melt water rushing over our feet. Our adrenaline kicked into full drive as we climbed out to the rocks in the middle of the Chalk Creek. Timothy, our only boy on the trip, ventured out the furtherest. He had the advantage of being 6’4″ so his legs allowed him to stretch beyond that of the rest of the group.
After our time at the scenic overlook, we continued up the mountain to the tiny town of St. Elmo. Today, it’s a little more than a quick tourist spot, but at one time it was bustling with mining activity. We ventured off into the woods, taking in the trees and stream. Being from the desert, it was too tempting to pass up this magnificent ecosystem.
Timothy took the lead on a lot of our exploration. As a Boy Scout with the rank of Life Scout and preparing to earn his Eagle Scout, he was more than excited to explore. Additionally, Timothy had just returned from hiking two peaks near this exact location. His adventure spirit was in full swing. It turns out, he was a bit too adventurism as he made his way into the foliage alone and slipped while crossing the stream. He was well ahead of the rest of us, so when he slipped, and his wallet fell out of his pocket, he was left to search for it on his own. Unfortunately, it was lost.
After making our way back into the center of the town, our teens took the time to feed the chipmunks. Without a doubt, these furry little guys were the celebrities of the town. Kids and adults alike were gathered around with handfuls of sunflower seeds, feeding the chipmunks by hand. Our girls loved this! By all accounts, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and the rest of the chipmunks were big fans too. After picking up a few souvenirs, we were on our way to Denver. My memories of the event were free, but for Timothy it cost around $35.
The drive to Denver was uneventful, and very enjoyable. Being surrounded by the mountains, snaking our way up and down their sides, provided for some great views. When we reached the Sheraton Hotel in downtown, we were all anxious for a hot shower!
The IYC sessions began that night. The conference is as much a concert and pep rally as it is a family reunion. Many who attend the conference attend it every two years. Half of our students had been to the conference in Orlando so they more or less knew what to expect. I was as excited to see my fellow MACU alum as I was to take in the great music and speakers we had paid to see.
The Matt Papa band opened the night up, leading us in worship. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar with Matt Papa coming into the conference. As the band lead us in worship, it became apparent that they were not just worship leaders but lead worshippers. Their songs featured powerful lyrics straight from scripture reminding us of the power and victory of Christ over sin and death.
Zane Blackwas the featured speaker and was tasked with help us see through Christ we are free. Zane shared his personal story and testimony of Christ freeing him from a life of addiction and recklessness into a life of passion and purpose. Zane illustrated his full story through a smaller story in his life. An avid snowboarder, Zane was out with his friends on day after a series of record breaking snow storms had come through Washington. He and his friends would challenge each other to go the extremes. On this particular occasion, Zane and his friends saw an area that had caution tape placed around it. Rather than obeying the warning, Zane chose this area as his new playground. His friends elected to find a different area to play. After jumping one of his more intense cliffs, Zane was very excited about his new playground, until the avalanche.
Zane managed to free himself from the avalanche, but he then witnessed another man struggling to free himself. The man nearly died. Had it not been for the rescue efforts of others and the life saving CPR administered, Zane indicated the man would have most likely died. Zane’s escape and the rescue of the man helped Zane illustrate the need each of us has to escape the avalanche of sin in our lives. Our freedom from this avalanche of sin comes through Jesus Christ.
Zane was careful to note that not everyone in attendance would have an avalanche of sin in their lives. He reminded us that sin, by its very definition sin is not something overwhelming, but merely the idea of missing the mark. In the Greek, sin is associated with archery or target practice. Whether you missed the bullseye by an inch or a mile, you still sinned. You have still missed the mark. Spiritually, you are still in need of Jesus, even if you sin is just a little off the mark.
As the Matt Papa Band returned to the stage to lead the crowd in worship and response, I made my way to the prayer room to work as a counselor. After Zane’s message of personal addiction and struggle, I wondered what the response might be like. I was privileged to pray with a young man who expressed his desire to stop drinking and smoking marijuana.
When the service was over, we made our way out of the convention center, hitting the streets of Denver right around 9pm. As we came out, the streets were full with people celebrating the 4th of July, including a bicycle parade. We were a bit surprised by the parade as it consisted of all sorts of people riding their bicycles in celebration of America. The levels of freedom expressed were diverse. Some were dressed in costumes like Captain America, others in everyday clothes, and their was at least one person who was naked (minus the strategically located stickers).
When we got back to the rooms, our Sara-duo lead us in a devotion and it was lights out! The beds were great! The air mattresses were effective but these beds were heavenly.
Check out this official Day1 highlight video of the conference.