New Zealand Youth Conference

In January 2019, the Asia Pacific Presbytery organised a youth conference which was held at the scenic location of Hunua Falls Camp south of Auckland. Around 20 young people from Australia and New Zealand attended. I was privileged to attend as a speaker.



(Hunua Falls Camp, New Zealand – G B Macdonald)

The following is a brief summary of the papers which were presented:

The first paper was from Mr Hank Optland, on Lessons from the Life of Joseph. Mr Optland presented the information by way of a talk and some attractive slides on PowerPoint. The history of Joseph has many lessons, especially for young people. We can learn the great blessing of having been taught from our youth about the One living and true God, as Joseph was. We can also be reminded how vital it is to have the Lord with us in the trials of life, as He was with Joseph. Again and again we read of Joseph, that ‘the LORD was with Joseph’, thus he was favoured and upheld in difficult trials. One of the richest lessons from Joseph’s life is to recognise him as a wonderful type and foreshadowing of the Saviour.

The second paper was presented by the writer. This was a look at The Rev Alexander Duff – the First Church of Scotland Missionary to India. Even as a young boy, Alexander Duff was taught about the spread of the gospel. Converted at 12 years old, he knew from a young age the value of the atoning blood of Christ and the preciousness of the message of the Christian gospel. At university, Duff was influenced by Rev Thomas Chalmers and was instrumental in the St Andrews University mission society. Ultimately, in the providence of God, Duff was to labour in Calcutta, India. His work there met with a degree of success in the conversion of a number of Hindu youths. One solemn and striking providence that affected Duff was a shipwreck off South Africa, where his only possessions that were recoverable, having washed ashore were a carefully wrapped Bible and psalm book. Duff took this as a sign he should go on to India and should make especially sure in educating the young that the Bible would be the chief source of instruction.

The third paper, was a talk on the important place of Creeds and Confessions by Rev C Hembd. Whilst some may decry the need for such statements of faith, the Church has a duty to be forthright in setting forth its belief in the doctrines of the Bible. One great example of an eminently useful confession is the Westminster Confession of Faith. We are to confess the Christian Faith and confessions and creeds may serve a useful purpose in witnessing to the world and also within the visible Church. Confessional statements can serve a useful purpose in holding ministers and elders to doctrinal account.

The fourth paper was presented by Rev D Ross, a deputy of the Synod appointed Overseas Committee. His subject was Resisting Temptation. As fallen creatures, we are subject to temptation and trial in this life. Joseph when tempted fled from the place where the temptation was. Mr Ross spent some time examining the Fall of man and acknowledged the mystery of Adam sinning against God by succumbing to temptation. he also looked at different kinds of temptation that we may be faced with in this life. Self-trust is a great danger. The Saviour’s words to his disciples in the garden remain relevant to us, ‘Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.‘ (Matthew 26:41)

The final paper of the conference was given by Rev C Hembd. It was on The Covenanters: What they Teach us Today. Mr Hembd began by recounting the example of the renowned Scottish martyr Margaret Wilson, who was drowned with her friend Margaret McLachlan in the Solway Firth of South West Scotland in 1685. They had refused to acknowledge James VII as head of the Church and take the Abjuration Oath renouncing the Covenant. Mr Hembd went on to note that  personal covenanting is a long established practice. In two nations, Israel and Scotland, there have been national covenants. The Covenanters in Scotland were determined in their faith. One reason appears to be the very fact they had covenanted and were given grace to hold to these promises made to God. In the so-called ‘Killing Times’ many were put to death for their refusal to deny the Kingship and Headship of Christ in His Church. Given that persecuting times may arise again, in Scotland and elsewhere, the example of the Covenanters, which has been much studied, is to be treasured.

The question and answer sessions following the papers provided an opportunity for more analysis of the topics.

Thanks are especially due to Rev J D Smith who acted as Chairman and the housemothers who kindly gave of their time to attend and perform this important role. We pray that those who attended may lay to heart the lessons noted and be raised up in their own lands to be faithful witnesses on the side of the Christ.

G B Macdonald

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