Isabella Gomez was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas right along the border of Mexico, and is currently attending The Science Academy of South Texas. She is planning on studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall to become a bioengineer. Isabella loves science, and spends her time off swimming and reading lots of books. She also enjoys leading worship at Buenas Nuevas Mennonite Church.
I practically grew up at convention. The day before I was born my mom was helping the youth wash cars to raise money to go to convention, and exactly one month after I was born my mom got on a plane to Orlando, Florida to join my dad and the rest of their youth group at the 1997 Mennonite Convention. I grew up with her stories of Dutch Blitz, wonderful worship services, tons of amazing people, crazy games and most importantly finding God. Convention for me was a magical place where people who explored Jesus-following the same way I did, with peace and justice in mind, all came together in one location. It’s been a place for lots of giggles, and also some tears (don’t worry the good kind).
Let’s start by saying that there is an enormous amount of energy surrounding the Mennonite Youth Convention. At the 2013 convention in Phoenix, Arizona we succeeded in breaking two doors and almost jumped straight through the floor (not your normal morning church service). As soon as you reach the city where the convention is, you feel like the atmosphere is somehow different. Everyone is laughing and hurrying and pointing at things excitedly. There is this wonderful feeling that you have reached home. A special agreement that perfect strangers wearing convention t-shirts are somehow your family, and that’s because they are! Convention is where tradition meets the diversity and modernism of the Mennonite community. It’s a place where people discuss what it means to be a Mennonite – which is especially interesting when you live in a place where Mennonites are few and far between. I could say that convention was the place where I learned that being a Mennonite is pretty awesome. At convention you get to see a plethora of different cultures represented; hearing the Lord’s Prayer in English along with Spanish and Hindi is so refreshing that you can’t help but feel so amazed at the community you are a part of. It really is magical – feeling God’s presence in so many different ways.
Now, understanding that you will feel God’s presence in so many ways means that you will need to be able to be there to receive God’s presence. This means that approaching convention you should be as open minded, and determined as possible. Notice I didn’t say outgoing, I know that outgoing can be difficult for a lot of us – me included. This is why I used the word determined, you must be determined to fill your time at convention with all that convention has to offer. You may not get much sleep, and there is definitely a lot of walking, but hey, it’s only a week – make the most out of every moment. Go to the concerts, the seminars, the workshops, and the worship services (trust me you wouldn’t dream of missing one once you’ve experienced it). Next on that list: talk to people from other youth groups. This one can be a challenge, it is extremely easy to just stick to your group and your best friends, and never have any interaction with people you don’t know. Convention is not there for show, the Mennonite Youth Convention is there as a learning experience. You can worship with your best friends back at your home church any time. Convention is a time to learn about how Mennonites everywhere lead totally different lives, but they are somehow wonderfully united and are determined to learn from each other. Therefore, be open minded to many different experiences, and take your determined attitude with you. I promise you will gain more if you are intentional about getting the most out of it, and you will see God in the most unlikely and wonderful places.
This year the theme for the convention is “On the way” or “En el camino” based on Luke 24. This passage contains the beautiful story of the resurrection of Jesus. The verses I would really like to focus on are Luke 24: 46-49. In these verses Jesus explains how he has suffered and now repentance and forgiveness will be preached in his name. He then sends the disciples on their way to spread this message. This exchange embodies the purpose of Christ, he was sent to give himself so that we could experience redemption. It changes everything, we are now allowed to acknowledge that none of us are perfect and sometimes we have to forgive in both big and small ways. We are on our way to preach to the world the most beautiful part of love – forgiveness.
I can’t wait to see all of you at the 2015 Mennonite Convention with your open hearts, open minds and determined attitudes to learn about redemption so that we may be rejuvenated on our path to share the love of God.
Vamos (let’s go).