That Youth Would Encounter Christ: A Conversation with the NYC Coordinators

Photo by Glenn Riegel
The NYC coordinators with Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. From left: Tim Heishman, Katie Cummings, Becky Ullom Naugle, and Sarah Neher.

Tucked away in the coordinators’ office at National Youth Conference, Katie Cummings, Tim Heishman, and Sarah Neher took a few minutes to chat with me about the week so far. Between chirps on the walkie talkie and bites of gluten-free oatmeal, they caught me up on their unique perspective of this long-awaited event. We talked about what it has meant to be a part of NYC, and how it will affect their lives on the other side.

You’ve been working to plan this conference for over a year. Is it meeting your expectations?

Tim Heishman: I hoped that youth would encounter Christ, grow in faith, and experience spiritual renewal at NY. Watching that happen this week has been exciting and inspiring, and it means the world to me.

Sarah Neher: One dream of mine for NYC was to have the message that we can all be different but still have unity. The worship sessions have done a great job doing that, and the speakers have come from all different points on the spectrum.

Katie Cummings: When Rodger Nishioka preached that church should be different from the rest of the world–a place that we can belong and feel safe, I remembered how much that concept resonated with me in high school. I was often singled out because of my pacifist beliefs, but church was the place where I felt most alive–most my true self.

Heishman: I have taken to going to the Moby arena early for worship. There’s not much greater than when the tech crew announces “Doors open!” and everyone charges into the arena. After 18 months of planning, there’s nothing greater than seeing 2,400 people that excited.

What is something that has been especially moving to you this week?

Heishman: When I sense the Holy Spirit, it manifests in tears for me–and that has happened about 20 times per day. But I don’t think I will ever forget the view near the end of the anointing service on Tuesday. Most everyone had taken their seats and was facing me, singing, full of emotion; it was powerful.

Neher: Anointing was really powerful for me as well. The look in their eyes as they came forward, knowing what a powerful moment it was for them, and being able to be a channel for the Spirit was powerful. Some youth even came to thank me after the service, and that was so humbling.

Cummings: I cried when Ken Medema wrote and sang the song following the speech contest winners. It made me remember high school, and how significant NYC was for me as a youth.

What is something significant that you’ve learned through this process?

Neher: When Jenn Quijano preached about Esther on Tuesday morning, I was reminded that NYC would have happened without me, and it would have glorified God. But it has been amazing to jump on this ride. I feel completely blessed and humbled to be chosen.

Cummings: There have been humble reminders like that all week long. Reminders that even though I’m a coordinator, it’s not about me. Sometimes I get anxious about logistics, worship, timing, all kinds of things–but then I remember that it’s about God working.

Heishman: There have been times this week when I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I never thought I’d be able to have the stamina to make it through on four hours of sleep per night, or the grace to handle the pressure. But when God calls you, God equips you. There’s no need to worry because if you claim your call right now, and accept the struggle, you can live on the journey.

Now that NYC is wrapping up and your time as coordinators is drawing to a close, what is on your mind as you prepare to leave this place?

Heishman: Over the past 18 months, we were regularly reminded of the hundreds of thousands of people who were praying for us all year. Without that, this would have been impossible.

Cummings: When we first started planning NYC, I had doubts about my own abilities, but the last year has been an affirmation of my call.

Neher: A thing that has been terrible and awesome at the same time is that, over the past year, we have had to embrace the NYC theme in every aspect of our lives–at the BVS house, in our work, everywhere. And I will be able to draw back on it for the rest of my life. Right now, called, struggle, claim, live, journey–it’s a cycle that will never end.

— Mandy Garcia is a member of the NYC News Team.

NYC 2014 News Team: Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services. Eddie Edmonds, NYC Tribune editor. Photography: Glenn Riegel, Nevin Dulabaum.Writers: Frank Ramirez, Mandy Garcia. Question of the day: Britnee Harbaugh, Maddie Dulabaum. Web and app support: Don Knieriem, Russ Otto.

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