Throughout my junior high and high school years, I attended one of the annual Higher Things conferences almost every summer. I always had a blast making new friends, worshiping with likeminded Lutheran youth, and learning more about our merciful and mighty God and Savior. As I observed the College Conference Volunteers (CCVs) in action throughout those years, I always imagined how much fun it would be to be one when I got older, so I was ecstatic to hear that I was chosen to be a CCV at the 2015 Te Deum Higher Things Conference in Seward, Nebraska. I was doubly excited because the conference was held at Concordia University, where I attend college.
Hands down, my favorite part of the entire conference was the worship. The conference started off with a Divine Service when more than 1,000 Christians receive Christ's Body and Blood together. During the week, we began each day by attending Matins. We heard God's Word in Vespers after lunch and in Evening Prayer after dinner. Then right before bedtime, we ended the day with Compline. It was a calming and peaceful to start and end the day, surrounded by God's Word and promises with so many fellow believers who were eager and excited to immerse themselves in the good news of our Lord and Savior. There are no words to describe the awe I felt when all of our voices joined to sing the opening hymn of the conference, "We Praise You and Acknowledge You." A shiver went up my spine and goosebumps appeared across my arms. It's not every day you hear 1,000+ voices singing and amen-ing together as you receive Christ's forgiveness.
Each conference gives all the participants the opportunity to learn about the faith during a daily plenary session where two speakers focus in on the theme of the conference. This year I had the privilege to listen and learn from my father, Pastor Bruce Keseman, as well as Pastor William Cwirla on the meaning of Te Deum, which is short for Te Deum Laudamus, meaning "You, O God, We Praise." Our praises are not me deum, meaning praising ourselves, but te deum, meaning the focus is on You (God). We offer praise, but it all starts with God's gifts to us. During the plenary, I was reminded of how sinful I am, how selfish I am, and how so much of my life is focused on myself, when God should be my main focus because He is the source of my life and forgiveness, and yours, too! Thankfully, our dirty, selfish, sinful selves are forgiven by what Jesus has done on the cross for us. That's always the primary message at Higher Things. The world around us is filled with sin and hate, disaster, temptations, and horrible events, but none of that should scare us. Even living Te Deum lives of praise in this hostile world should not frighten us, because we can hold on tightly to God's promise that we and all believers will spend eternity with Him forever in Heaven.
Another incredible part of a Higher Things conference is the opportunity to attend six different breakaway sessions throughout the week. There are a wide variety of topics to choose from, including the basics of the organ (the sectional for which I was CCV), interpreting parables (taught by my dad), forgiveness, addiction and grace (the sectional I learned a lot in), and many other topics of faith. Each breakaway gives us so much information and clarity on topics that may have been confusing before, but usually comes down to one thing: the Gospel of what our mighty and wonderful Savior has done for each and every one of us.
Attending a Higher Things Conference is an amazing experience. What a privilege it is to be surrounded by so many Lutheran adults and youth who are so eager to sing and praise Te Deum, and, most of all, to learn about the promises of our gracious Lord to us!
It was difficult to say goodbye to the new friends I had made being a CCV this summer. My five days with them included not only far more work but also camaraderie than I had ever expected. Some of them I will see again very soon at school; others I will keep in touch with and hopefully get together with in the future. But I know that one day I will see them all again when Jesus comes again to bring me and all believers to live with Him forever in Heaven. Te Deum laudamus!??
Rachel Keseman was a CCV the Higher Things Te Deum conference in Seward, NE.
Created: August 15th, 2015