Josh Carson

Faith and fellowship — and lots of space. The three required elements essential to every successful North American Youth Congress convention.

For Josh Carson, who oversees the NAYC youth ministries program, a division of United Pentecostal Church International, St. Louis fit the bill perfectly. As a result, nearly 37,000 teens and young adults participating in the bi-annual convention descended on this fair city in July for spiritual growth and camaraderie. America’s Center, Explore St. Louis, hundreds of hotels, restaurants and entertainment hotspots located from the riverbanks to the organization’s international headquarters in Weldon Spring laid out the welcome mat and provided the necessary space to make it all happen.

For many, it was their first exposure to a large metropolis.

“Walking downtown to a restaurant with friends, visiting the Arch grounds, standing in the line at Sugarfire and visiting Ballpark Village are things we as St. Louisans may take for granted, but for many of these attendees, it was a first,” Carson said.

In between morning breakout sessions and the evening services, the attendees took advantage of scheduled downtime to visit everything from the Science Center, City Museum and Arch to Dave & Busters, Demolition Ball and Main Street St. Charles. Others found their way to area malls, outlets and boutique stores for special finds. The city’s iconic Forest Park scored big-time in terms of favorite places most admired by the young visitors. In addition, several of the youth groups arrived a day early so they could experience Six Flags.

And as for leaving behind a positive footprint, area media outlets showcased the group’s community service effort that included filling 1,500 disaster buckets for flood victims.

As Carson said, it was a wonderful opportunity to show off the city’s Midwestern friendliness, accessibility, and newly renovated attractions. And, of course, all that hometown space.

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