Bay Area Christian youth hold United In Christ praise night

Students speak about their experiences at the 2019 UIC Praise Night


Photo by Tyler Cho

High school students gather around and pray for Valley Church youth pastor Craig Stephens at the tail end of the event.

Tyler Cho

On Saturday, Nov. 16, middle and high schoolers gathered at Valley Church in Cupertino for the first United In Christ (UIC) praise night of 2019-2020, where they participated in icebreakers and a time of worship and listened to a message delivered by Valley Church youth pastor Craig Stephens. The night was an opportunity for youth from different churches and Christian clubs alike to come together, socialize and engage in prayer. MV Christian Club officer and senior Yoanna Lee, one of the organizers of the event, believes that the night was very important for connecting Christian youth.

“It’s really hard in the Bay Area, where there are so few Christians, to just be able to find a place where we could identify in our faith, especially with people we would have never expected to be Christians either,” Lee said. “It’s just an event we wanted to share with [everyone] who comes, and it’s welcome to anyone.”

Although UIC has traditionally been an annual event, its leaders — consisting of various youth group leaders and Christian club officers — have decided to hold two additional praise nights over the course of the 2019-2020 school year. 

“[In the past] we’ve only [held] it once a year, but we decided because [UIC is] so good, we might as well have more,” Lee said. “We’re not trying to replicate it, but create that same environment where people can come together and be reminded of our faith, our community and the people around.”

Though the event ran smoothly overall, the organizers ran into an unexpected problem the morning of the event when they realized they did not have a pastor available to speak. They had recruited Emmanuel Presbyterian Church’s youth pastor Brian Hwang for the night, but Hwang’s wife went into labor that morning. When they found out, the organizers sent out requests to many speakers to take Hwang’s place, and eventually were able to arrange for Stephens to speak four hours prior to the start of the event.

“It was a little stressful, but it was something that I was happy to help out [with] however I [could],” Stephens said. “A lot of our students here at the church are involved in their local Christian clubs, and we just love and support them so much and they give us so much support here that it was an honor to help them out. Being able to jump in, it was something I felt like was, a small way, that I could help them.”

Stephens’s message, titled “Coming Back to the First Love of Christ,” was based upon the Bible passage John 4:7-12. Drawing inspiration from his own struggles with his faith as a high schooler, Stephens emphasized that God’s love for people should prompt Christians to show love to others, despite their inherent flaws.

“I tried to take some time to pray, just over the fact that God loves us, that He loves us so much that He would send His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and just really to explore how that works itself out in high school,” Stephens said. “[I was] just trying to think through that, what that would mean for us, and seeing how the Scriptures portray that God loves us so much. And we’re called, just as the Apostle John said, to love others.”

Following Stephens’s message, students were given time to gather in their school clubs and church groups and pray for one another, while praise songs like “How He Loves Us” and “Once Again” played in the background. The night concluded after the audience regrouped and took a few minutes to pray for each of the five schools in the FUHSD district.

Stephens believes that the event successfully encouraged the audience to meet new people and strengthened their faith. Sharing these sentiments, Ellen Fletcher MS eighth grader Eugene Cho called the night “a blessing.”

“Overall, I think it was really, really fun,” Cho said. “We got to play some games at the beginning to get to know each other better, and I feel like praying for each other and praying for the different schools was a really good way to bring different schools together in order to build the body of Christ.”

Lee felt the most blessed during the closing prayer time because she often lacks the chance to dedicate a lot of time for praying with others. She believes that the night was a time for healing and spreading love and awareness, especially during the worship and prayer.

“The biggest highlight for me was definitely getting a chance to pray within [our] schools and within my church — that’s not to say as an exclusive thing, or leave anyone out, but I think for me, it’s so important,” Lee said. “To be able to get together and sit down and pray for each other… to set off 30 minutes to pray for people and to love people and to listen to people, I think that was really humbling and it was a time that really drew us all closer together.”