Is it worth it?

Once a year, H.I.M. hosts a conference that focuses on sexual purity. This year’s “Worth It” conference was held Saturday, April 10, and it turned out to be a “knock it out of the park” day. I don’t know what made it seem like “the best ever” actually, but many of us who have worked together for years on this particular conference have so labeled it. Maybe it was the team, comprised of some old favorites as well as some new blood. Maybe it was the venue: Calvary Christian Church in Lynnfield is a wonderful event site and a warm and welcoming place. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather, which was just what the doctor ordered after a long, cold, and wet winter/early spring. Most likely, it was a combination of things we can control, as mentioned, along with things we can’t control, like the work of God’s Spirit. He was definitely alive and well throughout the day.

Paul welcomes the crowd and sets the expectation for the day.

Paul kicked the day off with his inimitable warmth, substance, and humor. Each year, he goes through the process of evaluating whether he has “outgrown” his appeal to the youth as the gap widens year by year, but he is assured by many that he’s still “got it.” Whatever “it” is. He’s smart enough to bring together a young team to carry the lion’s share of the day, but kids still love him, fortunately, and his passion for the conference only grows stronger. A highlight of the day for sure was when he did his original rap on sexual purity. His performance was set up perfectly by a real rapper who had just performed, and Paul brought the house down with his American Idol moment.

Jess and Elizabeth Bousa, Kassidy and David Thomas, Joe DeZelle, Don and Yannette Davis, Julie Friesen, and Virgina Friesen. (Paul was taking the photo.)

Our team was phenomenal. Two singles, one from each gender. 25 and 27. Smart. Good looking. Athletic. Committed to purity. In love with Jesus. Two NFL players: one retired, one beginning his 5th year in the league. One teaching from a position of forgiveness and grace for the many sinful choices he made along the way before surrendering his life to Christ fully. One teaching from a position of having followed God’s design for purity. Two young married couples. Both couples with very different stories. One old married couple, still thankful for choices of sexual purity still being made. And a first: a rapper, who impressively did two original raps.

That’s the upfront team. The “behind the scenes” team was equally phenomenal: from registration, capably run by Barbara Steele, Sue Martis, and Richard and Kit Hendricks, to the book table, well run by Kimary Pomphrett, to the build-your-own-sandwich bar lunch, professionally run by MJM Catering and some wonderful volunteers. The conference was well organized and executed flawlessly, thanks to much hard work by our administrative assistant, Sue Martis. It was an “all hands on deck” effort which made it a great experience.

People came from all over New England. There was a group of 21 from Uxbridge Nazarene Church, who got Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards for being the largest group in attendance. The Yardleys flew up from Charlotte, North Carolina, which earned them some DD bucks. A group of eleven students plus three leaders came from Portland, Maine, and they swept the prizes for the ice breaker Bingo-like game. They came from “Jesus First Ministries,” a ministry for which we did a marriage conference last year. Most of their members are refugees from Rwanda and we were treated to a beautiful song sung by an all-girls quartet from their fellowship as an unexpected bonus to the day.

A delightful women’s quartet sang for us.

After Paul’s intro and welcome, Julie Friesen, who had arrived just hours earlier on a red-eye from San Diego, addressed the conferees by speaking on the topic, “You are Worth It!” It’s hard for me to objectively critique her talk (though many gave her very positive feedback), but it wasn’t hard to see the incredible impact she had on the youth, speaking to them as a 25-year-old woman who is smart, athletic, and attractive, and who has chosen sexual purity. Her message was that each person is worth being treated with respect, honor, and according to God’s good design for sexuality — and she was very believable.

Julie Friesen tells the group, "You are Worth It!"

Joe DeZelle was equally convincing. Serving as the Harrisonburg, VA, regional director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Joe spoke powerfully on God’s call to purity and he effectively challenged the young men to step up and lead well in this very important area. As a very good-looking former college athlete, his testimony as a 27-year-old single man committed to purity was bar setting. His affable nature and genuineness made him both approachable and credible. It was the first time Joe has partnered with H.I.M., but we hope it won’t be the last.

No strangers to “Worth It”, New Orleans Saint’s tight end David Thomas, along with his wife Kassidy, did a plenary session on “Sex is Worth It.” As high school sweethearts, and the football star and cheerleader at that, they shared with the group their commitment to sexual purity and the choices they made along the way to live out God’s design. They married after graduating from college, and consummated their sexual relationship then. After playing for the Patriots for three seasons, David was traded to the New Orleans Saints this past season — so he returned to New England as a World Champion Saint. For all those in the audience who really believe that no one these days could make decisions for sexual purity, David and Kassidy turned their thinking upside down. What a refreshing message!

David and Kassidy Thomas: “Sex is worth it!”

A wide spectrum of topics were offered during the workshop block. Brian and Heather Dietz, our longest running partners in “Worth It,” presented on “Mall Messages.” They unveiled the seductive and manipulative messages of advertising and the inherent risk of being sucked in by the “sex sells everything” culture in which we live. Jess and Elizabeth Bousa spoke on “Cultural Discernment”, tackling such topics as social networking sites and media. Jess’s new book on the subject, Cultural Deficit-Disorder, was available at the conference (and check this blog). Joe DeZelle and Julie Friesen teamed up to speak on developing your convictions and commitments regarding your sexuality before leaving for college. Don Davis, retired NFL, spoke on the power of forgiveness and grace. And David and Kassidy spoke on the delights of trusting God’s design for sexuality. All workshops were well-attended and appreciated.

Brian and Heather Dietz with their two daughters, who were lovingly watched during the day by Hannah Early.

Don Davis, who retired from the Patriots two years ago after a 15-year NFL career, wrapped up the day with a powerful and passionate talk on “God is Worth It.” Don’s love for Jesus was contagious and compelling. He honestly and openly shared from his journey, the years of living outside of God’s design contrasted with the past ten years of living fully for Christ. He was engaging, substantive, hard-hitting, and appropriately funny. In the end, he challenged each one to go deeper with God and to make a commitment to purity from this day forward. Forgiveness and grace were woven through his talk, along with the clear message that it’s never too late to start doing the right thing.

Don Davis passionately called all to a deeper commitment to Christ and to His plans for their life.

The whole team fielded an open question and answer session at the end of the day. The questions were varied and covered a spectrum of topics, from questions about dating to boundaries for physical involvement. The team responded with honesty and openness, and with helpful advice for practical application.

Paul closed the conference with a call and an opportunity to make pledges for purity. It was a sacred time. We are well aware that statistically 87% of pledgers will eventually succumb to the pressure of having sex outside of marriage, but we hope and pray that a much higher percentage of those who attended the conference will succeed. We hope that by making this a family event rather than just a teen event, the network will be stronger and the accountability higher, with both combining to increase effectiveness.

In our deepest heart, we want people to be convinced that God can be trusted and that His plan for our sexuality is best and does work. The carnage of trashed hearts, souls, and bodies due to sexual promiscuity — hook-ups, friends with benefits, etc. — is everywhere and the cost on all levels is incredibly high. Few talk about the dark side of non-marital sexual freedom: the regrets, the demolished self-esteem, the diseases, the memories, the rejection, etc., but it’s all very real. The lies are rampant.

Our goal is to keep proclaiming truth as long as we have breath and an audience. :) Plans are underway for next year’s “Worth It” conference, so mark your calendars now so you don’t miss out!

I’m going to close by including some comments we received on the evaluations or via emails, so you can hear from others great words of encouragement. Our conclusion? It was worth it.

I just wanted to let you know that this seminar was such a boost in my faith. Since 8th grade I’ve been developing a very strong relationship with the lord. I’ve recently started just reading one chapter a day with my two good friends. That and this seminar has changed me so much. I’m so grateful for all the work you put into to teaching us about love, boundaries and faith and I know what you said changed a lot of the lives in that room and especially mine. Thank you so much. —13-year-old female

I truly appreciate all the efforts that went into making this event so inspiring for the kids and encouraging all of us, parents and teens to live for Christ. The speakers were remarkable from all walks of life and I was truly impressed with their honesty and their commitment to Christ. As a parent, we need all the help we can get in helping our children live a life pleasing to God. Thanks again. —Parent

Thanks for the day of Worth It. My daughter seemed to really enjoy it. I was so pleased with her signing the pledge and wanting me to witness it. I know there are no guarantees especially when these things are done at 13, but in view of all that we are dealing with, it certainly gladdens a mom’s heart as we continue to build a foundation on God’s truths and not on what is in the world. I am grateful for the big role H.I.M. has played in strengthening that foundation. —Parent

I was challenged to raise the bar. Thanks. I needed the challenge. Please pray for my follow through. —Parent

The most beneficial part of the day was my friends came and enjoyed it. —16-year-old male

This has hopefully changed my life. Thank you. —16-year-old female

God bless you so much. It was so worth it to come here. The commitment was the greatest part of the day because I know for sure what I want in my life. —18-year-old female

Outstanding speakers, word of God evident in all activities, boldness in Christ and of real matters in teen’s lives greatly appreciated. Thank you all so much for your commitment to God, your dedication to His word, and your passion for this topic. God bless you all. —15-year-old female