Youth delegates learn everything about them is “beautiful” at weeklong camp.

By Cari Arias

With the theme “Beautiful,” The Salvation Army’s Western Youth Institute (WYI) welcomed 200 youth, ages 16-25, from across the territory to a week at Camp Redwood Glen in Scotts Valley, Calif.

The theme name defined the entire week as messages repeatedly emphasized how appealing each person is to God and that he has a beautiful purpose for each one of them. Ultimately, the focus centered on the beauty of God.

Western Territorial Commander Commissioner James Knaggs began the week sharing the story of the leper at the gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:2). He called each youth to faith, as he pointed out how backward it is to attribute beauty to worth. The group then participated in an evening of “speed testimonies,” in which delegates could give their testimony several times. This was a powerful event that brought unity and healing to the group. Lt. Colonel Edward Hill brought the message of how faith needs to grow, often through perseverance.

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms, encouraged listeners—particularly those struggling with self-injury, depression and suicide—to share their story, noting that no one is alone and no question is either dumb or unimportant, every question matters.

An evening of men and women attending their own program focusing on personal holiness was followed by an evening of friendly competition through camp-wide Olympic games, including big wheel races and three-legged swimming.

Phil Laeger led the group in worship music, and special guest Major Brenden Nottle—from Australia—presented challenges at chapel each morning: being loved, wild hope, amplified faith, and being light and beauty in dark places.

Dancers perform a ‘Beautiful’ hula.

“God did not give up his Son to die on the cross so we could be happy…or hang out with people just like us,” Nottle said. “Jesus died on the cross so we could be set free. His Spirit…empowers us to actually go out in the world and be agents of change.”

Perhaps his greatest challenge came through a God-given vision for The Salvation Army. “The word that God has given me is that The Salvation Army hasn’t accomplished its purpose yet,” he said. “There is a vital role he wants The Salvation Army to perform in ushering in his kingdom upon this earth. God is saying, ‘I want these young people to be pure—to live lives that honor and glorify me.’ There are people in this room that God is raising up. ‘You just have to give me your heart, and I will use you.’ This is an Army that’s going to march on poverty and brokenness and addictions. It’s an Army that’s going to see lives transformed and saved in Jesus’ name.”

WYI included classes on various life skills; teaching focused on leadership, discipleship and evangelism; and electives such as hip-hop dance, ukulele, repurposed art and spoken word.

Delegates had daily individual devotional time to read through the beauty of the creation story in Genesis, divisional group time to get to know each other and their divisional youth secretaries and time for each cabin to delve into provoking questions based on the messages. Small group time was a Holy Spirit-driven event with life changing decisions made.

The week culminated in outreach with delegates going into the Santa Cruz area to serve the community. During this practical ministry time, everyone joined in helping with tasks such as painting over graffiti and pulling weeds.

At the week’s end, Territorial Youth Secretary Captain Roy Wild reminded everyone to thank God for the blessings of the beauty of being in fellowship, the beauty of being in his presence and the beauty of being his child.

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