Auckland, New Zealand
Last week over 1000 youth from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the Auckland / Northland region and the Cook Islands assembled at Auckland’s King’s College for a conference called “For the Strength of Youth.”
Local Church leaders organized the week-long conference and over 180 young adults (age 18-30) of the Church served as counsellors and mentors to the youth (ages 14-17) in attendance. The event aimed to help young people make friends, have fun and develop their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Caitlyn Sloan, a 17 year old participant from north of Auckland said of the experience, “I really loved my time here – enjoyed the spirit of the week, making new friends and strengthening my faith.”
Throughout the week youth received encouragement from a range of speakers such as Elder Paul A. Coward, the senior Church leader in the Auckland area. “The time has come for your generation to do as the theme of this conference reminds us, press forward with faith and a steadfastness in Jesus Christ,” he counselled.
Olympic gold medallist and member of the Church, Dame Valerie Adams-Price shared her story of Olympic success and how to handle disappointment. “To become a champion, it isn’t about winning, but it is about getting up again and working hard through thick and thin and through triumph and disappointment.”
In addition to hearing from inspiring speakers and attending spiritually motivating workshops, attendees participated in a range of sporting, cultural and faith-based activities.
Abinadi and Natasha Lameko, who were the conference directors, shared their insights on the impact of the conference on attendees.
“We have received so many amazing stories from youth, their parents and young adults who have rediscovered their purpose in life and have a stronger understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Natasha Lameko.
“I came with the hope that I could strengthen myself spiritually,” said Zion Strickland of Epsom. “I had a bad year filled with trials and tribulations and wanted to start off the year with a kick start.”
Zion’s commitment to spending the week at the conference waned soon after his arrival. “But as the week progressed I began to feel a change within my heart. I loved learning about the gospel and the doctrine of Christ.”
Zion said he learned that being obedient allows the Lord to start to change him, and that if he wants to change he has to make sacrifices.
Daniel Papali’I of Henderson, who was Zion’s counsellor at the conference, said, “There were many boys like Zion who came from different backgrounds and faced different trials in their lives when they came to ‘For the Strength of Youth.’ But I have found that as these young people have taken a leap of faith, our Father in Heaven has blessed them with courage and strength to realise their true potential.”
“The “For the Strength of Youth’ experience has been priceless,” said Abinadi Lameko summing up the week from his perspective as a director.
Many of the youth who attended leave with increased faith in their Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ and a greater desire to lead lives dedicated to serving others, according to Lameko.
For many attendees, their next step will be to serve as full-time, self-supported, voluntary missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in various parts of the world, beginning at age 18.
To watch highlight videos, view photos and read more about how the conference was a success visit the FSYNZ Facebook page.
Contributor: Blake and Leilana Wong-Ling
Photo Credits: Dylan Luki, Maria No’ovao, Wynton Papali’i, Te Rina Owen, Kelvin Danielson, Jarom Fitisemanu