Coming from an area of over 3 million square kilometres, youth from the three northern Queensland districts of the Church—Cairns, Townsville, and Rockhampton—descended on Lions International Camp Kanga, west of Lake Proserpine, for a four-day youth conference in April.
Over 90 Young Men and Young Women participated in the activities and events of the Northern Queensland Youth Conference 2013, celebrating their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the joy of being together.
Geoffry Lui, the president of the Townsville District had the idea to hold the youth conference in 2011. However because a cyclone hit northern Queensland that year the conference was postponed.
President Lui and Julie Gosney, from the Cairns District, worked tirelessly to ensure that the 2013 conference would be a memorable experience for the youth. President Lui organised the contribution of the Young Men to the event while Sister Gosney coordinated the Young Women.
Travelling to the conference was a feat in itself for some of the young people. One young woman came from Thursday Island requiring a flight to the mainland and then a 10 hour drive to the camp.
The theme for the conference was derived from Section 87, verse 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants, “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord”. The purpose was to remind the youth of the strength that could be found when they stood together - in holy places such as the family, in the temple and at Church - with the same beliefs and convictions as those around them.
According to President Lui, who is a Torres Strait Islander and originally from Thursday Island, there were three goals for the conference: 1) to get the youth to meet people of the same age group who were also members of the Church, 2) to have a spiritual experience, and 3) to have fun and excitement within the standards of the Church.
The days were filled with activities that promoted unity and teamwork with special focus on how the gospel of Christ can be a living part of a young person’s life. Youth were organised into nine groups, each with a different colour, and were able to get to know people from different districts. These groups became the core of all activities.
One ‘ice breaker’ activity saw the youth standing next to someone they did not know and, while holding each other’s ears, asking each other three questions: What do you love about the gospel? What do you believe about the Church? And who in the gospel inspires you?
This broke down the barriers of shyness amongst many of the young people. They laughed at the awkwardness of the activity, but said they thought it was a great way to focus on what people were saying rather than just what they were hearing.
Another activity was the ‘Amazing Race’, organised by Sister Gosney and Sister Yvonne Gardner, also from the Cairns District. The youth competed in 12 challenges and had to collect 12 different coloured ribbons and tie them to a thong. Groups were finally required to find the golden clue held by President Gaven Ferguson, the Townsville Branch President.
President Ferguson moved around quite a bit making it even more of a challenge for some groups to catch him. Once groups had this clue they then had to rush to finish a model of the Salt Lake Temple before running to the rest stop where they had to recite the conference scripture theme as a group.
The youth also shared an opportunity to provide service to the managers of Camp Kanga by clearing scrub and thick vegetation away from the camp areas near the river. The work was hard, but the youth continued until the work was done.
Camp director, Sue Ruddick of the Lions Club, was impressed with the efforts of the youth and said, “I have not seen a youth group like this before, made of such fine people who were so willing to help.”
Along with inspiring spiritual instruction, Asa Smibert brought along his traditional Tim Tams and lollies and Matthew Ellis showed the youth that when it came to ping pong he still had a few tricks up his sleeve. David Milne said he loved being a part of teaching the youth about the gospel and cherished every opportunity to do so.
The final night saw a fireside in the dining hall where youth speakers from each of the districts shared their thoughts on Jesus Christ and the gospel in their lives. President Lui said the hearts of many overflowed with the spiritual joy of what they had been experiencing over the four days of the conference.
After the fireside, the youth split up into their groups again and spent some time sharing their testimonies with each other. One youth said, “My heart is so full. I really feel like the angels of heaven are looking down on us. I don’t want this to ever end.”
On the last morning, everyone was able to attend a sunrise testimony meeting and share their thoughts and feelings. “As they listened to their newfound friends express their love of the gospel and of each other, the Spirit filled each of our hearts and the love of Heavenly Father could be felt,” said President Lui.
“Our objectives were exceeded far beyond anything we had hoped for,” he said. “In our part of the world, there are none of the multistake youth dances and conferences that are available to youth in the cities. To bring our young people together in a conference like this was an entirely unique experience for them.
“As a consequence of the event, a few of the young men who had been wavering in their desire to serve missions reported that they were now firmly committed to taking this important step in their lives. And, the young women, some of whom are from part-member families, said they now felt the strength of being part of the great cause of the gospel,” said President Lui.
“The memories that were created over these four days will live on with the youth of Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton Districts,” said President Ferguson. “They can carry on in their lives knowing that there are others just like them staying true to the faith and who are willing to ‘stand in holy places’ with each other ‘and be not moved’.”