WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Hundreds of youth from across central and northern Alberta attended the annual archdiocesan youth rally Oct. 15.
Gabriella Lagace has wanted to attend a youth rally since she was a child. Now that she has finally attended one, Lagace will be urging her friends to go to one too.
"It's such an amazing experience," said Lagace, a Grade 10 student from Assumption School in Cold Lake.
Hundreds of youth in Grades 7 to 12 received shirts and food, and enjoyed breakout sessions and a dance during the Oct. 15 archdiocesan youth rally at Edmonton's Archbishop O'Leary High School.
The keynote speaker was Michael Chiasson of Calgary, founder of All Access Ministries. Chiasson's stories resounded with Lagace. He told cautionary tales about stealing lollipops from a store when he was a child and wrongly faulting himself for his parents' divorce.
He also shared stories of people overcoming great obstacles, such as in a video about a boy whose legs were amputated when he was 15 months old. The boy did not let his physical handicap stop him from becoming a competitive swimmer and fulfilling God's plan for him.
"The speaker is amazing with the points he makes," said Lagace. "He will be going somewhere with a story, and then he will be going in a totally different direction and make these incredible points."
What Lagace took to heart from Chiasson's talks was that everyone is amazing.
"You have to be all in and you have to share your faith with people to make them feel that they are amazing as well," she said.
Chiasson began touring as a speaker and musician at age 14. He is a former youth minister and worship leader. Through All Access Ministries, he reaches out to people with a message of encouragement and hope. His core message is for people to get inspired and dream big.
Through God, all things are possible and one person has the power to change the world, he said. Everyone needs to find their purpose in life.
Chiasson shared his message using a story about his son, Jacob. At birth, Jacob weighed one pound, two ounces. The doctor suggested he spend as much time with the newborn as he could because the baby would not live long.
He turned to his wife and asked her, "Do you think it might be possible if we let everyone in this hospital right now have the chance to hold our son?"
The proud parents took Jacob to people around the hospital and let them hold him. Some people cried, and others smiled. For a brief moment, he touched one life and then another as he went from person to person. Jacob lived for 24 minutes.
Jacob's story has been told to people throughout North America and New Zealand, wherever Chiasson speaks, whether in business settings, schools, churches or youth rallies.
"He was alive for 24 minutes and he touched millions of lives. What are you doing? What can you do in 24 hours?" asked Chiasson. "What about 86,400 seconds - are you going to make it count? Are you ready to go all in today? Are you going to make a difference?"
Of the guest speaker, Isaac Skuba said, "He is probably my favourite. I like his enthusiasm, and he really captures the attention of the youth. I've been to a lot of his talks before."
Skuba is a Grade 9 student from Clyde, a village east of Westlock. He has been to several rallies, and again left with the intention of deepening his relationship with Jesus.
"The main thing I am getting out of the rally is that God has a plan for us and it's going to be amazing. Even if we feel down, God will always lift us up."
He eagerly recommended the annual rally to more than 200 of his friends on Facebook.
The band, FX of Grace, wowed the youth with their modern music and praise. They performed their own songs, gave away autographed posters and sold CDs of their music at the rally.
Shaila Hanson, who recently graduated from high school and is now in university, has been attending youth rallies regularly for the past seven years.
"It's an experience that I have always loved, to be able to see other people who share my faith and are my age and confident in that," said Hanson.
Highlights for her at this rally included the music and the talks by Chiasson.
"I really like the atmosphere and the people you get to meet, having a place where you can be completely comfortable and you don't feel that you have to hide your faith in any way, shape or form," said Hanson.
"We have to celebrate our uniqueness and we can't hide who we are in our faith or in any part of our life."