Thousands of young people seeking renewal and revival hope to find it this week in downtown Kansas City.
That’s where the annual Onething Conference, organized by the International House of Prayer, continued Tuesday at the Kansas City Convention Center.
The 14th year-end event sponsored by the south Kansas City evangelical organization represents a downtown holiday tradition, attracting thousands of young people from across the country. That remained true this week, even though bad weather delayed the arrival of some.
Tralayna Haslett flew from Bellingham, Wash., but due to weather delays had to spend a night in a Texas airport. But she flew on to Arkansas and then drove to Kansas City with friends Marina Kashubin and Julie Shtunyuk.
“I wanted to be with a lot of like-minded individuals, all pursuing God,” Haslett said.
Her friends seconded the motion.
“I wanted to start the year off with God,” said Kashubin, of Rogers, Ark. “I wanted to grow closer to him, and this seemed like a very good place to grow.”
Added Shtunyuk, of Lowell, Ark.: “I wasn’t satisfied with the routine of the last year and I wanted a spiritual uplift for next year.”
For an expected 15,000 guests, the annual IHOP conference, which runs through Thursday evening, fills that need. Those attending Tuesday could attend small-group discussions or find spots in seating that filled much of the Bartle Exhibit Hall to hear high-energy speakers and musical acts.
“Throughout the ages, Christianity has been a young religion,” Jonathan Hall, a member of the IHOP senior leadership team, said Tuesday.
“Often in the West, we think of dying churches and white hair filling the pews, but … Jesus’ disciples were teenagers or in their 20s. A lot of guys have zeal for their faith in these early years, and it’s good to capture that.
“And so this is a time to gather and celebrate Christian teaching.”
Hall stressed the ecumenical flavor of this year’s conference, scheduled to include Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Matt Maher, a Roman Catholic musician and worship leader; and Reinhard Bonnke, an international evangelist.
On Tuesday, following the presentation of one speaker, some attendees gathered near the main stage. By themselves or with the help of a blue-vested “ministry captain,” they offered prayers.
Others walked through an exposition area featuring books, CDs and apparel.
Large screens suspended from the Bartle Hall ceiling kept the main stage proceedings within earshot of those attending.
For the first time, the IHOP conference stage environment was designed by Vista Productions, a live event production and creative services agency based in Harrisonville.
“They wanted a fresh look, and we designed the environment to distinguish this year from other years,” said David Sheller, a Vista Productions executive producer and creative services director.
Meanwhile, the video presentation of the conference was scheduled to be distributed in several ways, such as on the live IHOP YouTube channel as well as through various Christian television services that will be picking up the feed, Hall said.
“We have 15,000 to 20,000 who come into the room, but typically we will have 300,000 to 500,000 join us via the broadcasts,” he said.
Attending the conference in person is worth the long drive, said Travis Gamble, who, with his wife, Aubrey, drove from their home in Van Wert, Ohio.
“I’m here to experience the Holy Spirit,” Travis Gamble said.
“All these people in this place, gathered together … God is definitely here.”