Game changer

Changed lives.

That’s why David Leong, associate pastor of Kauai Bible Church, is looking forward to the Islandwide Youth Rally next month.

“What excites me about this is, youth struggle with so many different issues today, identity, depression and direction,” he said. “What this rally has become is a demonstration of young people who have direction and are excited in the love of Jesus.”

The rally, this year titled “Endued with Power,” is in its seventh year and is set for Aug. 9 at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall. More than 500 youth are expected for the free dinner, music and prizes, and to hear from guest speaker Pastor Vance Texeira of Solid Rock Ministries on Oahu. There will be a chance to praise and worship, too.

The rally put on by Kauai Island Ministries will be, Leong believes, another life changer.

“It’s like a call to the young people on the island that there’s hope and there’s something to live for,” he said.

“That’s what’s exciting, when we see people’s lives changed, demonstrating something to live for in Jesus Christ.”

Pastor John Cabello said parents and adults have asked him: “Are you having the event this year?”

He is pleased to say yes.

He likes the rally for several reasons. It unites churches in terms of volunteers and talents, connects youth to churches, and gives them a solid footing heading into the school year. Teens have a chance to meet with pastors and youth leaders at the rally, too.

“Someone to come alongside them and help them, no matter where they’re at in their life,” he said.

Mostly, though, he believes that in a time when life is filled with confusion and doubt, it gives youth hope and confidence. Students of his who attended the rally years ago are today living their lives for God, Cabello said.

“God loves you and God’s here from you,” he said. “We want the youth to receive that power to live their life.”

Youth face great challenges, said Janelle Leon, youth pastor with Kauai Bible Church.

“I can not tell you how many young people are depressed today,” she said.

One benefit of the rally, she said, is that it gives youth a sense of  purpose and “pulls them out of that depression” when they meet God.

“I have seen people who were invited from campus to this event. They break down crying, they feel burdens lifted because they actually experienced that God loves them,” she said. “I’ve seen it really impart hope into young people’s lives.”

Pastor Cabello said he’s seen the impact the rally has had on youth in terms of using their talents and creativity for God when they take the stage.

“Some of these students, I know. I can tell you in all honesty in high school they were real pain in my rear end,” he said, laughing. “But they’ve been given an opportunity to use their gift. That’s what it’s about. I don’t care where you’re at. If God’s given you a creative gift, here’s a time to use it.”

Kelii Gonsalves, son of event donation coordinator Dana Gonsalves, said kids today are influenced by media, music and television.

“A lot of them see that as their way of connecting,” she said.

Which isn’t necessarily good.

The rally, he said, is a safe place where youth can be encouraged, listen to music, raise their hands in praise, and talk to pastors and youth leaders.

And organizers aren’t there to try and convert anyone.

“They don’t come in with a judgmental phase,” Kelii Gonsalves said. “They don’t come in to try and alter them in any kind of way. It’s about being their friend and welcoming them.”

He said youth struggle with being misunderstood by parents, teachers, even peers.

The rally is an excellent chance for adults to engage with today’s youth.

“They can be real. That’s why I love working with youth so much. Because I see the real side of the youth,” he said.

Dana Gonsalves has worked with youth whose lives have been scarred by violence, drugs and broken families. Those kids are not easy to know.

“It’s hard to open them up. You have to be a friend to them before they’re going to let you know their secrets,” he said.

All it takes to change a life for the better, sometimes, is one person reaching out.

“It’s unreal, I’ve seen so many kids get drawn in and turn their lives around,” he said.

Gonsalves said he visits businesses seeking donations for the rally. But he’s looking for more than material contributions. He’s seeking to involve more people in the Islandwide Youth Rally.

“If we can draw the community and businesses in, the thing will grow even stronger,” he said.

Cabello, too, hopes more come on board.

“We have a shared mission of raising up our youth and giving them hope for the future,” he said.

Pastor David Leong said youth are looking for “something real.”

“They don’t want a story. They don’t want what worked yesterday. They want something that’s real. What I think and hope the youth rally is bringing, is Christianity that’s real. Here are people that really love God, that really live for God, there’s real joy. There’s real purpose.”

“When you confront a group of people that have that, it really is life changing.”

The rally begins at 5:30 with the chili/rice sinner. Entertainment starts at 6:15 and the main event at 7. It’s should run about two hours.

Information: 652-4351 or 212-6080

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