|The Watoto Children's Choir, a group of orphans from Uganda, will perform during the Rush Youth Conference this weekend.|
This year promises to be much like the nine previous Rush conferences, so expect a madcap weekend with events that focus on both mega-fun and serious issues.
The conference started in 2004 at Willow Park Church with 250 students. Last year, it drew 1,500 attendees. It began as a ministry to youth at Willow Park, where youth pastor Joel Feddersen has been involved since the start.
"Our youth have a huge desire to be a part of something greater and to impact their world, so Rush is the perfect venue to support them," said Feddersen.
Besides gathering many more youth from many more Canadian centres, Feddersen said the group has taken on outreach missions over the years.
"Hundreds of children have been adopted through World Vision, we have built a water system in Northern Kenya and this year we are going to hear from and support the Watoto Children's Choir."
While the conference pulls in headliner bands and musicians and features action at Big White Ski Resort and paintballing and swimming venues, it's about much more. "We focus on adopting the mission of Jesus, to feed the hungry and fight for the needy," said Feddersen.
He explained, "Jesus calls us to love everyone, including our enemies, and be active in fighting for the less fortunate. This has had a major impact in our schools and families."
Three performing groups highlight the conference this year. First is the Watoto Children's Choir, an energetic group of orphans from Uganda, was seen by many singing the national anthem at a recent Vancouver Canucks game.
Each child in the choir has lost one or both parents and lives in a Watoto Children's Village, where they receive care and nurture.
Since the Watoto choirs started travelling in 1994, 61 choirs have sung and danced in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. They sang at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012 and earlier at the White House and Canadian Parliament.
"Through the choirs, we share a message of transformation by telling the story of Africa's rescued orphans and women," said Gary Skinner, Watoto founder.
The choir advocates for the estimated 50 million kids in Africa who are orphaned by HIV/AIDS, war, poverty and disease.
Feddersen also announced David Crowder will perform at Rush 2014. Crowder is a songwriter who's been nominated for a Grammy and has won eight GMA Dove awards. From Waco, Tex., Crowder formerly headed the David Crowder Band, a six-piece Christian rock and modern worship band. After they disbanded in 2012, Crowder went on with a solo career.
The distinctively Canadian voice at Rush will be Starfield, a Christian music group from Winnipeg. Brothers Tim and Jon Neufeld, Colin Trask and Greg Peace form the group.
Their music has reached the charts in Canada, the U. K. and the U.S. They've won multiple GMA Canada Covenant Awards, four Juno nominations, five Vibes and the Prairie Music Award for Best Christian Album.
Referring to their struggle with an album called Beauty in the Broken, Tim Neufeld said, "It's tough to march right into a song like Great is the Lord without first acknowledging the distance that exists between us and God." The result was including songs like Shipwreck that "fess up to the pain, condemnation and doubt that often get in the way of true intimacy with Jesus."
There will also be presentations by Transit, Jon Buller and Riley Armstrong. Keynote speaker is Jeremy Kinniburgh. A talent search contest is part of the weekend and the winner will perform two original songs on Saturday's main stage. The 2013 winner was More Than the Sparrows by Joyful Door.
Highlights of the schedule include a Transit concert Friday at 10:30 p.m., Big White activities Saturday as well as other options, the Watoto choir Saturday at
6 p.m., Rush Rally at 7:30 p.m. and the David Crowder concert at 9:30 p.m. Sunday morning includes a rally and worship concert with Starfield.
What: Rush Youth Conference 2014
When: Feb. 21-23
Where: Kelowna Christian School Gym, 2870 Benvoulin Rd., and other venues around Kelowna