December 24, 1999 to January 2, 2000
My first sight of Elim Heights Youth Camp was as we drove in and were greeted by dozens of kangaroos hopping away in every direction, their eyes beaming back at us as the car headlights shone on them. These uniquely Australian creatures were to be our companions during the convention, venturing out of the bush at dusk to graze on the fields around the edge of Camp, while peering cautiously at the occasional passerby.
Earlier in the evening I had arrived at the Sydney airport, and brother Paul Southwell provided transportation to the camp. “So this is Australia,” I thought to myself as I prepared for my first night “Down Under.” It was to be a real adventure.
One of the main highlights of my stay in Australia was to attend the Youth Convention, held every two years at Elim Heights.
The 1999-2000 Youth Convention began on Friday evening, December 24, with evening worship. Brother Harold Kraus was to be our coordinator and announcer, and he introduced himself to everyone. He welcomed us all warmly, distributed song sheets and folders for our papers and, after covering the code of conduct for the camp, he wished us all a happy Sabbath and a good night.
Elim Heights Youth Camp is located about 1 1/2 hours’ drive northwest of Sydney, near Colo Heights, New South Wales State. Situated atop the Melong Ranges, it is surrounded by thousands of acres of national park land. The camp itself is quite large, about 400 acres.
The camp is about 20 km from the nearest electric utility power, so it is supplied electricity by a large diesel generator. This had to be started by someone every morning, so that we would have light in the buildings, power for the sound system, irons, computers, and other things we all usually take for granted.
Another interesting point for those of us not from Australia: the water supply comes completely from rainwater. The buildings have metal roofs, and rainwater is collected and stored in large holding tanks. It is filtered and gravity-fed into the water taps for use.
Mornings began with the camp bell ringing at half past six. Worship was at half past seven, and breakfast at eight.
After breakfast, there was cleanup. Kitchen and dining hall cleanup was divided among teams, which we had chosen at the beginning of the convention. Each team was responsible for several mealtimes during the week. We learned teamwork skills as we cleared tables, swept floors, and washed dishes together.
At 9:30 a.m. we gathered together for presentations on our theme, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Different groups of youth from around the Australasian Union each took turns presenting a portion of the book. After each presentation, we would discuss the spiritual lessons we had learned.
The groups were very creative in their presentations. Some used props to help us visualize the things described in the story, and others did narration with different hymns played in the background, according to what was happening in the story. Everyone enjoyed all the presentations, and we learned many valuable lessons that will help us in our Christian walk toward the Celestial City.
Lunchtime came at 1 p.m. We were all ready and eager to eat, after our morning activities.
One of the memories we will all keep is of standing in a queue (line) at mealtimes. Besides enjoying talking to each other while waiting there in line, we also had something else to keep us busy: bush flies! They were everywhere, but they seemed to like pestering us there right outside the door of the dining hall. Some of us were introduced to what is known as the “Australian salute”—swatting at flies!
At 2:30 p.m. we came back for a workshop. Workshops covered various topics, including careers, first aid, health, and also some forums on relationships, dress, and other questions the youth had.
Late afternoons were filled with various activities. Some youth chose to go walking along the roads that circle the camp, while those who were more daring would venture out into the bush to explore the perimeter of bluffs and caves. The groups doing presentations on Pilgrim’s Progress the following day would often gather at the hall to review their material.
Supper is known in Australia as “tea.” Six o’clock p.m was tea time. We all enjoyed our third delicious meal of the day, prepared by a team of hard-working kitchen volunteers. We really appreciated their tireless efforts in feeding such a large and hungry crowd.
After supper came evening worship, presented by a young person, and then we had free time until lights out at 10 p.m. Now, at this camp, “lights out” means exactly that. At ten o’clock, the generator is shut down and, ready or not, the lights go out!
During the convention we had various special highlights that are worth mentioning.
Many of us enjoyed the talk given by Brother Will Goldthorpe. He is a paramedic, and told of his experiences responding to motor vehicle accidents and other medical emergencies. Brother Goldthorpe also teaches classes in first aid, and he taught us some important things we all should know about what to do in emergencies when someone is sick or injured.
Brother Harold Kraus and his wife Vesna gave us a presentation on how to discover our God-given individuality. We learned that each one of us is different in personality and talents, and there are different occupations for which we each may be especially suited.
Brother Neville Brittain gave a talk on health. He answered the question “Why do we get sick?” There were several reasons: Imbalance (“Too much” and “Not Enough”), Trauma, Thoughts or State of Mind, and Germs. He pointed us to valuable resources that we could each study on our own to learn more about health and medical missionary work. At the end there was a question-and-answer session where various health questions were answered.
Friday evening, December 31, Brother Peter Lausevic led the meeting. He spoke on the subject of the coming new year, and our need of recommitting our lives to the Lord. At the end, he made a special appeal, and many people came forward for the altar call, filling up the whole front. Many of the youth stood up there, including some who were first-time visitors. We put aside any differences and had a wonderful experience that night of prayer, confession, and recommitment to the Lord.
The following day we had a blessed new year’s Sabbath service. In the afternoon there was a study on marriage, by Bro. Lausevic. We had a lot of fun in that meeting, as you can imagine, and the youth learned many very practical things about choosing a life partner.
Young People’s meetings on both Sabbaths were really a blessing. We heard testimonies and experiences from around the world. We were treated to items from many different musical groups. Everyone especially enjoyed the items by the Samoan quartet. The second Sabbath of the Convention, January 1, the children’s classes had a special presentation on the Pilgrim’s Progress theme. They presented artwork and songs that they had been working on all week long.
On the last Sunday of the convention, after it was officially closed, almost everyone stayed for a very special event—the wedding of William Cupra and Patricia Maroschek. This was a joyous occasion for everyone, and we pray that the Lord will bless this new couple as they serve Him together.
At this youth convention, we all learned important lessons to guide us in our Christian journey. If there is one thing that can be said about those lessons learned, it is that we must live our lives according to principle—doing what is right no matter what the circumstances are.
We saw in the journey of Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, that we cannot trust our feelings and our senses to make decisions. Just as in the instance where Christian and Hopeful wander off the path into Bypath Meadow and end up in Doubting Castle, we may be tempted to take the easy way in our Christian walk. The little compromises we may make here and there, add up until we find ourselves where we never intended to be.
During the camp, we had various questions come up about standards and principles. Different views were expressed on these issues. But we were directed to the Word of God to find our answers.
It was encouraging for all of us to find other youth who shared the same beliefs and hopes as ourselves. We all face similar challenges, and we came away confident that the Lord will help us meet the challenges of the future together—in His strength.
Finally the time came for us to leave. We had all made new friends, and enjoyed the company of old ones. We exchanged postal and e-mail addresses, and as we parted, it was with a prayer in our hearts that the Lord would keep us all faithful to Him, so that we all may meet again.
Of course, everyone is looking forward to the next Australasian Youth Convention two years from now. Maybe you can plan to attend next time. See you there!