by Cynthia Mendoza
High school students in Southeastern California Conference started their school year with a dose of encouragement and inspiration at One Life, held at Cedar Falls in August. This year the weekend drew over 160 youth from public and Adventist schools as well as from home school programs.
One Life is organized by a team of youth pastors. The event, which is nearing its 10th year, takes place shortly before most schools begin.
“We want to provide an inspiring weekend focused on Jesus and personal growth before school starts,” said Aren Rennacker, one of the One Life organizers and youth pastor at Calimesa church, about the purpose of the event.
This year’s presenters included Linda Nystrom, chaplain at Adventist Health in Paradise, Calif.; Uriel Herinrina, ministry coordinator at Orange Coast church; Sam Leonor, administrative director for mission identity and spiritual care at Adventist Health for the Central and Southern California regions; and Dilys Brooks, chaplain at Loma Linda University.
However, One Life isn’t just about youth showing up and listening to adults. It is also an opportunity for them to engage in all aspects of the weekend, including leading out in discussions and picking the theme, which this year was “Enough.”
“Youth sometimes feel like they’re not enough, either for God or socially,” Rennacker said. “But we are all incredibly valuable to God as people.”
Presentations were followed by youth-led conversations that fostered dialogue and working together through tough questions. Rennacker added that many youth are frustrated by the current state of the world, so the theme also included saying “enough” to the issues that negatively impact society.
For some youth, One Life is something they look forward to every year because of the encouragement and fellowship it provides as they head into a busy academic year.
“I have been going to One Life for the past three years, and I absolutely love it,” said Natalia Sarrafian, a senior at La Sierra Academy. “I love starting the school year with a strong foundation in Jesus, learning new songs, and spending time with my friends.”
“We hope it proved to them that they are enough, simply for who they are,” Rennacker said about what he and fellow organizers hope young people took away from the event. “As Christians we are called to share with others how valuable they are. God offers reconciliation but also constant reminders of our inherent worth.”