Focus on the Family event aims to strengthen
youth and families in Christ

By Tony Gosgnach
The Interim

Although attendance fell slightly below the figures hoped for, organizers of the Life on the Edge event at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum April 28-29 are calling its first-ever appearance in Canada a success.

About 4,000 young people and their parents took in the happening, which was presented by Focus on the Family and designed to facilitate learning, growth and talk among family members so that they would develop stronger bonds and better communication.

Attendees heard from a number of speakers who addressed a variety of issues related to youth and families. Christian bands The Kry and Big Tent Revival whipped up the excitement among the young – and some older – people with opening night concerts that saw mosh pits forming at the base of the stage.

A key component of the two-day experience was family members breaking off among themselves during breaks in the program to discuss their way through a workbook. The text required them to address purity, communication, conflict resolution and relationship issues.

“We were very, very pleased with the response and the outpouring,” said Gary F. Lydic, director of the Life on the Edge tour with Focus on the Family’s office in Colorado Springs, Colo. “We are very thankful for what occurred there. We felt the Canadian people really grabbed hold of what we were trying to convey to them. The volunteers were also an incredible help.”

Mr. Lydic added that even if attendance fell below initial expectations, Focus on the Family was committed to staging the event whatever the circumstances. “No matter what the situation was, we were going to be there. We don’t worry about that – it’s in the Lord’s hands. The people who are supposed to be there will be there.”

At the local level, the Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council was instrumental in promoting Life on the Edge, as well as providing a number of volunteers. HWFAC president Phil Lees joined Mr. Lydic in assessing that the event “was definitely a success.”

“Life on the Edge was a memory-making event for the families that were there,” he said. “The messages that were presented to the kids, and the responses of the parents and the teens, were godly. They were messages our kids need to hear, but they don’t hear them often enough.”

As a parent, Mr. Lees said the event encouraged him and clarified in his mind what children need to be told, and how they have to be encouraged and challenged.

He said a highlight of the two days was the closing portion called Be There, which saw families sign covenants among themselves stating that if one person passed away before the rest, he or she would meet the rest of them later inside the gate to Heaven.

Also appearing at Life on the Edge was speaker Dave Phillips, a former professional athlete who emphasized to teens the importance of having parents to lean on in times of trouble. “The greatest cheerleaders you will ever have are sitting beside you,” he said.

Mr. Phillips stressed the gravity of the choices young people are forced to make in today’s world, and quoted from the Book of Deuteronomy – “Choose life, that you and your descendants may live.”

“If you don’t choose who you want to become, the world will choose for you,” he said. “The things you think about most are the things you’ll become … Watch what goes into your mind if you don’t want to be consumed by them. If you put garbage in your mind, your life will start to show that … Choose to become the person God has created you to be. Don’t settle for second best.”

He also cautioned teens that bad habits are easy to develop, but hard to let go of. “Think about Scriptures that focus on the right thing … Make every thought captive to Christ.”

He left the stage by quoting Matthew 6: 33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

Milton Creagh, who address thousands of high school students and parents each year on issues of substance abuse, said it’s time for Christians to step into the forefront of dealing with crises affecting young people today. “We as Christians have become so big on staying out of people’s affairs … What would Jesus do? Jesus would not step back and get out of the way. He’d reach out, and go into action.”

He urged his listeners to not just pray and weep over the situation, but like Jesus, go into action. “How long before we say, enough is enough? Do what Jesus would do. Fight back.”

Jay Carty, a former NBA player with the Los Angeles Lakers, spoke on the subject of anger control. He said giving in to anger allows the devil to grab a foothold in a person’s life. “As often as [anger] wells up inside you, talk to God and pray. The carcass you eat at the banquet table of anger is yourself.”

He added forgiveness holds the key to keeping anger at bay. “Give up your right to get even. Pretty soon, you’ll be glad you did.”

Consistency, he said, holds the key to effective spiritual warfare. “Pray to the Father, speak Scripture and sic Jesus on the devil … Nobody can make you sin. When you sin, it’s your problem with God.”

Sandra Aldrich spoke to single parents during one of the “breakout” sessions, which saw all the attendees split up into smaller groups according to their areas of interest. Ms Aldrich is a single parent who raised two children after her husband died when she was 36.

“I want us to stop walking slump-shouldered,” she encouraged her audience. “We are not second-hand merchandise. We are not outcasts.”

Ms Aldrich noted an important point single parents need to keep in mind is that, “The past does not equal the present and it does not predict the future.”

“Do not allow the hurt feelings and the anger to linger,” she advised. “God is not finished … He brings his good out of it.” She added that it is impossible to move in two directions at once, by trying to look to the future while clinging to the past.

She concluded by outlining a list of points single parents need to keep in mind in order to thrive: lean on the Lord; hold fast to Scripture; maintain the family routine; don’t expect others to appreciate your challenge; find ways to help others; don’t waste energy on envy; find new ways to have fun; realize the impossibility of pleasing others; involve the experts when necessary; concentrate on what is left rather than what has been lost; and keep a joyful heart.

“The journey is difficult, but it can be walked. God walks with us. We go forward as whole people, hanging on to Him.”

After Hamilton, the Life on the Edge tour moves on to San Antonio, Tx., Tulsa, Ok., Richmond, Va. and Providence, R.I. later this year. It is scheduled to return to Canada, in Calgary, in 2001.