By Rick Kern
Very recently, Mike Chorey and the team from Joshua Revolution, brought the Niagara Youth Conference back to Western New York. The compelling 25th Anniversary event was reprised at the Niagara Falls Conference and Event Center, while kids and families were able to stay at the Sheraton immediately across the street and be part of a formidable move of God. “The power of the Holy Spirit was at that conference and it went well,” recalled Chorey.
That could be the understatement of the year as the conference revolved around the riveting and deeply impacting theme of the 1999 Columbine shootings. “I think it was God’s ordained plan that Columbine was the theme of Niagara ‘18,” said Chorey thoughtfully. “The power really is that you think of the cross, you think of the gospel. Somebody had to die to bring life to the whole world. Jesus dying on the cross is what has saved us and brought us life. Rachel’s life was an example of that, that through her death, many have found life eternally by the message of the gospel through her life.”
He is referring to Rachel Scott, the spirited 17-year old sweetheart whose relationship with the Lord was even more dynamic than she was. Scott, a strong and committed believer, was the first victim of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who killed 13 and injured 24 people in a tragic shooting that has become known as the “Columbine Massacre.”
The conference turned an unimaginable tragedy into a powerful triumph right out of the gate! It opened with the movie, “I’m Not Ashamed,” the 2016 film that told the absolutely captivating story of Rachel Scott’s faith and death. “It was like you could have heard a pin drop. For two hours, those kids were glued to that movie,” Chorey observed.
Upon the movie’s provoking conclusion there sitting on the stage, to the shock and awe of the young people, were the actors and actresses from the film who were invited to the event. “For 45 minutes, we interviewed them, and they were able to talk to the kids about the movie — what it did in their personal life,” Chorey reflected. “After the movie, the cast went out by their table and all the kids were there and they were getting pictures with actors and actresses. It was really electric and just such an amazing thing.” He continued, “Here is the movie, so tragic, about Columbine, but yet, God’s redemption and the story of how Rachel’s life has touched millions of kids around the country, around the world.”
“I’m not Ashamed” and the subsequent interviews were followed up with a message from the movie’s lead, Masey McClain (name changed for article), who played Rachel Scott. “One of the things that touched me greatly the first night was when Masey spoke,” Chorey observed. “She was just so transparent with them. Her message was laced with Scripture. She really challenged them in her message, saying, ‘The purpose for her life was to live for Jesus. That was Rachel’s purpose and that was their purpose.’ When she gave the altar call, these kids are coming down to the front to give their life to Jesus.”
Afterward, young people could gather in a counseling room to get information on how to follow the Lord. “There was this girl from Niagara Falls High School, her name was Sierra,” said Chorey, “and she looked at me with tears in her eyes and she said — and this was all she said, but all she wanted to say — she said, ‘I want to be like Rachel.’ I knew Rachel Scott’s life had touched so many people that night and that’s where we began.”
Continuing he added, “The whole conference was set around this one girl, who was really martyred for her faith at Columbine High School in 1999. But through her death, young people, not only in this country, but in other countries all over the world, are saying: ‘I want to be like Rachel.’ I want to be a bold witness on my campus. I want to love kids and show compassion.’ You see, Rachel’s whole life was built around wanting to show the compassion of Jesus to her generation.”
Besides the cast of “I’m Not Ashamed,” Niagara ’18 was blessed with a number of remarkable artists and speakers. Pastor Wally Magdangal was a missionary whose impact through the underground church in the Muslim world will be felt endlessly. Abducted, imprisoned, and tortured by Islamic extremists for some 70 grueling days, Magdangal was sentenced to death and scheduled for public hanging on Christmas Day. Still, he never gave up his faith in Jesus Christ and was miraculously set free in the nick of time.
Former NFL great Jerry Butler also shared his heart. Butler, one of the original speakers at Niagara ’93, was a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. The list was long and impacting, and included people such as, Bob and Sharon Cornell, Brian Haney, and many others — and of course, Chorey himself.
“The night I spoke on Friday night, the moment just meant so much to me,” Chorey said. “As I went up to speak, the title of my message was, ‘Join the Revolution.’ It was about Jesus, the greatest revolutionary. His revolution was a revolution of truth, a revolution of power, and a revolution of compassion. I broke down those three points.”
He continued, “The revolution of compassion was the one I really wanted to talk about Columbine, and the fact that I had traveled out to Columbine ten days after the shooting in 1999. Columbine changed my life from that terrible, terrible day in American history. My heart was broken as I walked onto that campus. I started to learn what happened and why it happened and as I communicated this to the students, when I learned about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I learned that they were mistreated and bullied at a very young age. The way they were treated, it got in their spirit. They went into a rage and anger, and ultimately a violent act.”
The Niagara conferences not only lead people to Christ, they also inspire people for Him and raise up campus missionaries to impact their schools. “Benny Proffitt, who is the President of First Priority Global, took a session and he trained every student that was there on how to start a First Priority Evangelistic Club at their school,” Chorey explained. “We had the materials there that they could take back, that would give them everything from A – Z, everything, at their school, on how to start a campus ministry.” Continuing he noted, “When he was finished with one of the sessions that he was speaking in, he gave a call to the students to see themselves as a campus missionary and to go back to their school and to start ministering to lost kids at their school. We have a stack of cards that made that decision and we’re getting the testimonies now that they have started those clubs at their school. That was one of the fruitful follow-ups that we have seen from the event.”
Whether it be campus missionaries or new converts, it is the same idea, “Locally, what we do is we provide them with the materials that they need, but also the training,” Chorey explains. “Anyone that calls and says they need help, we immediately start to work with them, start to help them and figure out how to develop it, particularly working with the youth pastor or a campus coach and they help them going forward. But we provide the materials, the encouragement, the training and of course, events like Niagara.”
The question of the next event was probably on people’s minds before this one let out. “We’re praying about whether or not to do another conference. We don’t really know at this point. We’re going to pray about it,” Chorey admits. “Obviously, it’s a lot of work. We are a small team. It takes a little bit of money to do it. What we want to do is first is tie up all the loose ends from Niagara ‘18, send out all the thank-you’s, which we’re doing, follow up with the churches, and then just really begin to pray. Probably sometime in February — early March, we’ll make a decision based on what we really feel the leading of the Lord is on this.” Plenty of people will be waiting for that decision!
Clearly, for now, there is much for Chorey and the team to do but it is what they do, and God seems quite pleased with their efforts. “For me personally, having the 25th anniversary was just a dream come true,” he confesses. “People came back from the past just to come back and be a part of Niagara and so many of the thank-you’s, the support, the excitement that Niagara was back. That was really, really encouraging to me and to the team.”
For more information about the conference or Joshua Revolution, you can visit their website at www.joshuarevolution.org, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Joshua Revolution at (716) 229-8000 or toll free at (888) 444-2920.