Districts Details

2 more days until Districts!  If you are joining us for the 2017 District Youth Conference, check out this post for all the details you need to know.



  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Bible
  • Notebook & Pen
  • Sleeping Bag (if your room leader tells you to bring one)
  • Modest sleepwear
  • Modest swimwear (see Rules & Expectations for details)
  • Snacks (if desired)
  • Spending money (see below)
  • Cell phone & charger

Leave Home

  • Drugs
  • Tobacco Products
  • Alcohol
  • Electronic gadgets (tablets, gaming systems, laptops, etc.)
  • Laser pointers
  • Fireworks
  • Pets
  • Weapons

*Recreational Activities:  Some students may want to take advantage of the recreational options for Saturday afternoon (Bowling, YMCA, or Kroc Center).  If students are interested in this option, they should bring appropriate athletic clothing and footwear, as well as let their room leader know of their interest.  Examples of activities: Basketball, Swimming Pool, Wally Ball or Racquet Ball)

**Spending money:  Here is a list of what students may want spending money for:

  • Sunday lunch at the food court (this is entirely the student’s cost)
  • Snacks
  • Recreational activities ($2-$7 for teens; $2-$10 for adults; see above for more info)
  • Special Offering: Taken Saturday morning to help Kids Around the World provide meals to families in Guatemala. We need $25,000 to cover the cost of 100,000 meals that will be packed during the conference.
  • T-shirts ($10 or $12 – they sell out fast, so buy early)
  • Books or CDs from speakers or performers (sold in booths around the conference center)


Check-in will take place in the foyer of the main church building at 11:30am on Friday, January 6.  We hope to depart by noon, so please be on time!


Once again we will be taking leader’s vehicles, instead of a bus.  Students will NOT be assigned to a vehicle, as long as everyone works together to make sure no one is left out.

Christ Out Saviour Church of Chicago (COSC)

We are excited to welcome 13 youth and leaders from COSC to join us again at Districts.  COSC is the Filipino church that we have partnered with for the past three summers for our mission trip.  This year, they will be in their own rooms and breakout groups, but they will be with us for the primetime rally’s and meals.


This year, we will be trying something new for our meals.  Several ladies from our church will be coming along to Districts to take care of providing meals for us.  Our schedule will be:

  • Friday Lunch – Sack lunch*
  • Friday Supper – Chili
  • Saturday Breakfast – Hotel Buffet
  • Saturday Lunch – Walking Tacos
  • Saturday Supper – Pizza
  • Sunday Breakfast – Hotel Buffet
  • Sunday Lunch – Bay Park Square Mall Food Court (at student’s cost)

*Students will be given a sack lunch for the drive to Green Bay consisting of a sandwich, fruit/veggie, treat and water bottle.  If a student wants something different or has special diet needs, he or she should bring their own lunch.  We will NOT be stopping for food on the way to Green Bay (bathroom break only)


We have been assigned to the Quality Inn.  This hotel is NOT connected to the KI Convention Center, so we will be driving back and forth between our hotel and the Convention Center.

  • Male Rooms:  Each male room will have 2 Queen beds.  3-4 students plus an adult leader will be assigned to a room. If a student is not comfortable sharing a bed with another student, then he should bring a sleeping bag and pillow.
  • Female Rooms:  The female rooms do not all have the same configuration.  There may not be enough beds for each female, so some students may need to bring a sleeping bag and pillow.  Each female room leader will discuss this with her students ahead of time and let each one know whether a sleeping bag is needed.

Down Time

Throughout the conference weekend, there will be down time when we encourage students to talk to each other, hang out with one another, or play board or card games.  Leaders will be bringing games, but youth are welcome to bring their favorite games along as well (assuming they are clean/appropriate).  Students will not be permitted to watch tv, movies or play video games during the weekend.  Instead of watching a screen, we expect students to use this time to get to know each other better.


On Saturday afternoon, during the conference, there will be seminars offered during three different time slots.  Students are allowed to attend multiple seminars, but all students will be expected to attend at least one seminar.  Students will be required to let their room leader know what seminar(s) they plan to attend by Friday night.  To see the list of seminars, click here.

Rules & Expectations

Districts can be a life-changing experience and the rules and expectations are designed to help everyone in our group have the greatest experience possible.   Please read the list carefully.

  • Unless you are married, there should be no public or private displays of affection, especially during the rally times.  This is distracting to you and those around you.
  • Students are not permitted to go to any location outside of the KI Convention Center or the Quality Inn, unless accompanied by a Soul Garage leader.
  • While in the KI Convention Center or Quality Inn:
    • High School students are expected to inform room leader of his/her location at all times.
    • Junior high students are expected to be with a Soul Garage leader at all times, unless the student is in his or her assigned hotel room.
  • Students are expected to dress modestly at all times.
    • For swimwear, boys may wear swimming shorts or swimming trunks.  Girls may wear a one piece or two piece swimsuit, provided that it covers the stomach and sides.  A non-white tank top or t-shirt must be worn on top of a bikini.
    • Students should wear modest sleepwear and loungewear.
  • Students are not to use foul or perverse language/speech at any time.
    • Students are permitted to have cell phones or MP3 players with them, but should refrain from using them during rallies, seminars/workshops and break out sessions.  If a student is abusing the privilege of keeping a cell phone/MP3 player with him/her, leaders may confiscate the phone until the end of the conference.  Students will be expected to give their cell phone number to their small group leader.
  • Sleep Policy:
    • The District Youth Conference schedule lists “In Rooms/Quiet Time” as 12am and “Lights out” as 12:30am.  We will be firm on these two times, in order to help students and leaders get the rest they need to be able to get the most out of the sessions and rallies and to ensure our drivers are rested for the return trip!
    • Leaders reserve the right to restrict and/or confiscate caffeinated beverages, to help students sleep at night.
  • All students and a parent/guardian signed a Discipline Release as part of the registration process.  The release states:

I [parent/guardian] have been informed of and understand the rules pertaining to the trip/activity that my son/daughter is participating in with Maranatha Evangelical Free Church (MEFC).  I understand that if at any time my son/daughter refuses to abide by or continually disregards the rules as set forth, or if my son/daughter becomes destructive, I will be immediately notified and he/she will be sent home on the safest and quickest transportation available, at my expense, if necessary.

  • Any medication (prescription or over the counter) should be given to the student’s room leader to hold onto and dispense throughout the weekend.

Return (Sunday evening)

We will return around by 5pm on Sunday, January 8th.  There will be a 10-15 minute meeting in the sanctuary for Pastor Tony and the parents immediately upon return while the vehicles are being unloaded.  The goal is to help parents understand what took place at Districts and how to best help your youth make lasting changes in their relationship with God and others.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Pastor Tony at 847.682.2405 or email him at rlsoulgarage@gmail.com.

Districts App

Check out the Districts app by searching “Districts Youth Conference” wherever you download apps.  The app has a Spotify playlist of the worship songs that we will sing at Districts.  Also, there is a schedule, speaker bios, seminar descriptions, maps, and much more.


Chicago Vision Trip: Days 8-10


We made it back home!  Praise God for a wonderful time together with some wonderful people during the 2016 Chicago Vision Trip!  Allow me to update those who have been following our trip on what took place during the final days of the trip.  On Friday we served again at Pacific Garden Mission sorting laundry, making 100’s of beds in the dorms and serving lunch to the homeless.  We were all very tired and I am proud of our team for their willingness to serve the less fortunate in this way when most of us would have probably rather spent our time doing other things, such as napping.  Friday evening was the final VBS program night and we finished strong.  I was moved during the final time of worship hearing the children, youth, and adults all pour their hearts out to God in worship.  Then, the cleaning and un-decorating commenced.  It was a very late night by the time we finished and we were all exhausted.

Saturday, we debriefed after breakfast and then our half of the group (the Wisconsinites and our token Texan) went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  Wow!  What a cool place!  We split up and visited various different exhibits.  My personal favorite was the German U-505 Submarine we got to tour and learn about it’s capture during WWII.  The mirror maze was pretty cool as well.  Saturday evening we spent several hours sharing constructive criticism and affirmations with each other in the group.  This has often been one of my favorite moments on the trip and again I was blessed to see the youth growing in their ability and to share loving criticism with each other and to build each other up.

Sunday, we attended church one last time with our friends at Christ Our Saviour Church and then packed up and traveled home.  I thank God for 5-hour energy drinks and a good audio book.  We all safely arrived back in the church parking lot by 11:15pm.

Thank you to all who supported us and prayed for us throughout the trip. God worked in mighty ways.  To God be the glory!




Chicago Vision Trip: Day 6 & 7

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Praise God for two more great days in Chicago loving on children and their families at VBS.  We spent an extended time Wednesday morning doing devotions and wrestling through a passage of Scripture together and praying together.  I’m sure that for some of the students, this was a stretching experience since it was over 2 hours long altogether.


During the afternoon we worked on a service project together filling backpacks with school supplies which we plan to deliver on Thursday to a local elementary school that is located a couple blocks away in the Portage Park neighborhood.  We split into teams and one team wrote cards to go into the backpacks, another team prayed over the backpacks and the children and families that would be receiving them, and the third team assembled the backpacks with their school supplies.  Please pray that the relationship between Christ Our Saviour Church and William P. Gray Elementary School that just began will continue to grow and that God will provide open doors for the Gospel and additional opportunities for the church to be a blessing to the local public school in the name of Christ.

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Our third night of VBS went well.  We have debriefed each morning and it is neat to see the team working together to improve each night.  The water games were a big hit since it was very hot and humid.  Kids love the Funky Beats Room where they get to play on bucket drums and learn different beats each night. The skit team has been doing an amazing job acting out the story and engaging the children showing the contrast between the Glory-Giver and the Glory-Getter.  The worship song leaders are also doing a wonderful job leading us all from stage.  As always, the kids really enjoy making the crafts.  We had over 30 children attend Wednesday night and a number of adults stayed to watch the videos we have offered for them while the children go through the various stations.  The first two nights we played a couple Louie Giglio videos and starting Wednesday night we began a video series by Francis Chan on the basics of Christianity.  Pray that the parents would grow through these videos as well.

Thursday was “Sleep-In Thursday”.  This provided some much needed rest for the team.  We had brunch at the church provided by the COSC youth group with a few Filipino components. Then we went to the park to do our devotions and did some swimming and played ultimate frisbee before heading back to the church in the afternoon to prep for the Thursday evening VBS.  It went well again. We just finished visiting with our host family and watching some of the Olympics together.



Chicago Vision Trip 2016: Day 4 & 5

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It is the end of the night on Tuesday, August 9th and we have now reached the half point in our trip.  We praise God for what he has been doing in and through us.  Here is a recap of what we have done over the past two days.

Monday morning we traveled from our various host homes to Christ Our Savior Church in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.  We ate breakfast and then spent some time doing individual devotions using our “On Mission” devotional book.  Following that we traveled to the south side of Chicago to Pacific Garden Mission where we served from 10am-2pm.

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We mostly helped sort bedding and prepare beds for the several hundred homeless men that stay there overnight.  We ate lunch in their cafeteria and following lunch, half of our group helped serve lunch to the homeless people that came there for a meal while the rest of us finished making beds in Dorm A, B, and C.  At the end of our time there we were given a tour of the facility by Darius (who works in Hospitality and found himself homeless only about 6 months earlier). Afterwards, we returned to the church to finish prepping for our first evening of VBS.  Preparations were all going quite well….until the power went out in the building around 5:30pm.  We checked the breakers thinking that we were simply using too much power with all the components and lights we had drawing power.  We were wrong.  The breakers were not tripped.  I called the local power company and learned that 4,089 customers in the area were experiencing a power outage due to an unknown issue.  The estimated restoration time was 7:45pm.  Our VBS was supposed to start at 6:00pm.  In the busyness of us depending largely on our own plans and abilities to make the VBS happen, God taught us to to come to Him in full dependance.  We spent some time in prayer seeking God and leaning on Him.  We prayed that the gospel would still be made known regardless of what happened with the power that night.  Fortunately, we already had planned to serve the meal outside and everything was set up for that when the power went out.  So the meal went on without any problems.  We made a plan B to at least start the VBS outside.  We finished our remaining preparations and then praised God when the power came back on around 6:25, which was about 15 minutes before we planned to have the program start.  The rest of the evening went quite well and everyone had a great time.  Just under 30 children participated including some families from the neighborhood.

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Tuesday, we had scheduled a longer time in the morning for breakfast, individual devotions, group discussion on what God was teaching us so far through the devotional book, prayer, and debriefing from Day 1 of the VBS.  It was neat to see the youth sharing some from their hearts about what God was teaching them all.  After lunch we went to the park called Portage Park where there is an olympic sized swimming pool and some nice grassy areas.  Some swam while others played ultimate frisbee and others relaxed in the shade.  Day 2 of the VBS went quite smoothly and the team did a great job.

Thanks to all who are praying for us.  Please pray that the children understand the gospel.  Pray that more neighbors from the local community would join us in the remaining days so even more may hear the gospel truth.


Chicago Vision Trip 2016: Days 1 & 2

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And so it begins, once again!  It is a very neat thing to be back in Chicago for the 3rd summer in a row partnering with Christ Our Savior Church to run an outreach-focused Vacation Bible School program.  The partnership between the two youth groups continues to grow.

Thank you to all the people who have committed to support us and pray for God to be glorified through this trip.  The focus of the Go Fish Guys VBS we are using this summer is all about becoming “glory-givers” not “glory-getters”.  This means learning to seek God’s glory in everything rather than seeking to gain glory for ourselves.

We have chosen to call this summer’s trip a “vision” trip instead of a mission trip for the simple reason that we want to remind ourselves that as Christ-followers we are called to be “on mission” for God at all times in our lives, not just for a week in the summer when we go on a mission trip.  The goal of this trip is for us to better catch God’s vision for loving and rescuing the lost.

As a way of update on the trip so far, here are some things we are praising God for:

  1. Overcoming Vehicle Issue
    • In preparation for this trip, I (Pastor Tony) installed a trailer tow hitch on our minivan so we could haul a trailer of our luggage and supplies down to Chicago.  Shortly into the installation process last Tuesday morning, a rusted bolt broke off and then a few minutes later a second one broke.  A small project turned into a very big project working for several days and utilizing special extraction tools as well as a torch to resolve the issue and finally finish the project Thursday night before our Friday morning departure.  I praise God for the perseverance and for helping me figure out how to resolve the issue so we could safely tow a trailer.
  2. Safe Travels
    • We (and our trailer full of luggage) safely arrived in Chicago at 6:15pm Friday night.  We ate together with some of the youth from Christ Our Savior Church (COSC) began an orientation and spent some time doing a special devotional book we are using during this trip.
  3. Good Progress in Preparation and Promotion
    • Today (Saturday) was a full day of preparation and promotion.  We promoted the VBS in the local community by handing out fliers to several hundred homes having numerous conversations with people we encountered.  The team also accomplished ALOT of preparation in decorating the building and getting the different areas ready (registration, crafts, games, funky beats room, bible teaching, etc.)  After a long, hard, hot day, we treated the team to a local favorite: Mia’s Gelato.  If you are ever in Portage Park in Chicago, we recommend you check it out 😉
    • Praise God for a neat open door last week when my mother-in-law was meeting with a local elementary school assistant principle about a service project providing school backpacks with school supplies for needy children.  In the conversation, my mother-in-law shared about our VBS and the assistant principle asked to make copies of the flier to hand out to families that were coming to the school that very evening.  How cool is it that a local Chicago public school is helping us promote this gospel-centered VBS!

Tomorrow we will be worshipping together with COSC and finalizing our preparation process.



Lessons From Chicago (Bella Vavra)


In God’s word, we read about all kinds of important things. We learn about fellowship, about discipleship, what it means to be a Christian, and how to show love like one. We learn that through Him we can do anything, and that we cannot depend on ourselves, but on him. On this trip I was lucky enough to see and experience many of these lessons personally, which was not only incredible, but eye opening, and it gave me a deeper understanding of what a Christian life can and should look like.


I got the chance to get to know not only the COSC youth group, but also my own youth group. Going into this trip that was definitely a worry of mine, as none of my friends who I typically talked to at youth group were attending this trip. I was going into this with, for the most part, a group I hardly knew. And yet, this turned out better than I could have ever expected.

Through every struggle we all worked together, critiqued each other when necessary, and held each other up. I believe it brought us together as a youth group, and without it I think I never would’ve gotten to know some amazing people. For example, putting together and running registration turned out to be a much bigger task than I expected, and as a result I was lucky enough to get to know one of our leaders and my partner on this job, Julie, who worked with me and overcame challenge after challenge with me. I found an incredible friend in her, in my roommates Gabby and Josey, and in other members of our team who I had hardly known beyond their names.

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Coming together as a youth group also gave me a better understanding of what Christian fellowship looks like, and a huge part of that was the COSC youth group and youth leaders. They were with us every step of the way on this trip, and I can’t thank them enough for everything they did.  They had a youth group that almost seemed like a family, they were all so close. I hadn’t realized a youth group could be like that, but it’s something I would love to have in our own youth group.

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Throughout the week we all worked to put together and run this VBS, which often meant early mornings and late nights. It was often very tiring, and I think it’s safe to say quite a few of us found a new appreciation for coffee. However, the whole experience was so beyond worth it.  Working with the kids was so much fun, and getting to be a part of something like this was something I won’t forget. Every bit of work payed off, and gave us all something to be proud of. It helped me to see what we can be capable of through God.

Huge thanks to all my friends and family who supported me on this trip, both financially and in prayer.  And a huge thanks to the leaders who guided us through it all. All in all, it was an amazing trip, and I really hope we get to go back next year 🙂

John 15:12 NIV
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

-Bella Vavra

Lessons From Chicago (Josey Clark)


I would like to thank you all for your prayers and support throughout this trip. It really meant a lot to have so many people back home praying for us. So, thank you.

While I was in Chicago I learned quite a few things, and grew a lot in my relationship with the Lord. There were many days where I was so tired and worn out. Honestly, the only thing I could do was to lean on the Lord and trust that He would give me strength. And He did.

So whenever a problem came up I would pray about it and try not to worry so much like I usually do. And it really helped my faith grow, along with my prayer time with God.


I loved hanging out with the kids.  Being in charge of photography was a little hard because I would bounce around from group to group.  So, I wasn’t really able to bond with a certain group of kids. But the thing is, by bouncing around I got to see all the kids having such a blast. And that really just made my day, it made my week!

And it made me really proud to see some of the teens step up and help out with the kids and just get things done and it helped me step up and take a lead on something and get it done.

Another thing that impacted me was that Michelle decided to put me in charge of taking orders for everyone in both groups one night, and the cleaning list for a couple of days.  That meant I had to make sure the teens were getting things done. At first it was really hard because I don’t like talking to a bunch of people and especially having to tell them what to do. But after a few days I really got used to it. And I am really thankful that Michelle did push me to go out of my comfort zone because I really needed to grow in that area.  So, thank you, Michelle! 🙂


It was really great to get to meet the people at Christ Our Savior Church and getting to work with the teens of COSC.  It was really amazing having both our youth groups get along so well.

I already miss my COSC family.

I would also like to say how very glad I am to have gone on this trip, and to be able to grow closer with the youth on the team, especially the youth from the Soul Garage.  I have never talked to some of them before and it was great to become so close. I dare say we are all like family now.

– Josephine Clark

Lessons From Chicago (Kaylin Kargus)


I learned many things on the missions trip. One of the main ones was respect. Filipinos are very respectful. They obey those who are older them without question, even if the person is a sibling! One of the youth at COSC I looked up to was Pricilla. Whenever she wasn’t doing something she wouldn’t sit around and wait to find something to do, she would get up and ask if she could help with anything. She was very patient (which I have very little of), and caring.

The boys I also found were also very respectful. If I ever need help with the VBS kids during snacks, the boys would help me clean and read the lesson reviews when I had a sore throat.


Coming back home I realized that the kids here have little or no respect for those who are in authority over them. I feel that after this trip I have lots more respect for my parents, if they tell me to go and do something and get up right away instead of arguing with them.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”

Kaylin Kargus