Conference sparks up and inspires youth
2004. Being in the same room as [New Zealand sports stars] Michael Jones, Ma’a Nonu, or Linda Vagana might intimidate most New Zealand teenagers. 1Touch, a youth conference organized by Lower Hutt’s Hosanna World Outreach Centre, gave young people the opportunity to listen to their star’s testimonies on how they succeeded in life, which included a little autograph hunting.
Conference visionary and director Lenny Solomona says one message from the conference is that the Michael Jones’ of this world are ordinary people with a determination to succeed.
As well as sports stars, policeman and former NBL basketball player Glenn Compain, and various business and education high flyers spoke at the event.
Interest in the conference ran high from Work and Income New Zealand and the New Zealand Police. Eighty clients from WINZ went along, and the local police sponsored 40 teenagers. Stalls and workshops run by WINZ, the police, New Zealand Institute of Sport, WelTec and other training institutes provided career and vocational information. Mr Solomona says careers were showcased that were relevant to young people.
“We made it clear that all these people – the Michael Jones’ and Ma’a Nonu’s – will be gone and reality will sink in. Like any conference you don’t grow, you get sparked up. For us, the whole vision of 1Touch was birthed from a spiritual side and applying the new birth from John 3:3 – ‘no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’. The key for us now is that spiritual follow up.”
Some of the speakers were not Christians but still had the ability to inspire and tap into young people’s hidden potential, Mr Solomona says. The day electives were inspirational stories of how speakers like Michael Jones, Linda Vagana, Judge Ida Malosi, and Lapi Mariner, achieved their ‘dreams’. Topics included leadership, having a dream and planning and goal setting for the future, the art of communication and working with young people.
Mr Solomona is youth pastor of his church and sees who he was in the kids he works with during the day. “They keep saying I’m useless, I’ve been rejected all my life. I’ve been longing for acceptance. I had no direction either. I think a lot of it is because I didn’t want it. I sat School Certificate three times not because I wanted to sit it three times but because I had an inability to dream.”
He says that many at-risk young people live in an environment of negativity at home. They often hear demeaning words spoken about them.
“When you hear it so many times you begin to believe that is what you really are. The reciprocal of that is hearing positive things – and that’s what 1Touch is really all about.”
1Touch is partially born out of Mr Solomona’s experience, where negativity was reinforced in the home and in his adult years drifted from job to job. He attempted suicide 12 years ago. Role models, including Michael Jones, offered support.
“Michael Jones said you weren’t designed to jump off buildings; you were designed to do something. When he told me about his background I realized I was just like him, I was an ordinary person. The only difference was that he became successful because of his determination.”
After coming back to Wellington from Samoa he was given the opportunity to work with young people in his present job. “I was choosing other people’s options that God had designed for them and after all these years no one’s walking down my road because that’s what God designed for me. One point I emphasize for these kids is that it is their future, not someone else’s.”
By Peter Veugelaers.
Published 2004, Challenge Weekly.