Youth Games glory
RYAN Clift has always been a Christian, but it was trip to State Youth Games eight years ago that the Cudgen local credits for "opening his eyes".
The then 16-year-old was already a member of his church's youth group, but yearned for something more from his worship.
A former North Coast rugby league and indoor volleyball representative, Ryan nominated for Churches of Christ in Queensland State Youth Games and never looked back.
"It opened my eyes," Ryan said.
"The youth group at my church was great, but it revolved around music and as I wasn't very musically-inclined. I wanted something more.
"State Youth Games and its culture offered an alternative that was much more my niche."
Eight years and seven State Youth Games later and the 24-year-old will help lead a team of 42 to Watson Park Convention Centre for this Queen's Birthday weekend's State Youth Games being held at Dakabin in Brisbane.
Now a youth pastor at Tweed Heads Church of Christ, the Kingscliff High School product will this year compete across four disciplines.
"The big one will be bocce as there's always fierce competition there," Ryan said.
Ryan will also compete in volleyball, netball and indoor soccer.
With more than 1000 athletes from throughout Queensland set to descend on Dakabin, State Youth Games has become Australia's largest Christian sporting event.
Now celebrating its 13th year in Queensland, State Youth Games reaches out and brings the light of Christ to youth and young adults via the vehicle of sport.
Powered by Churches of Christ in Queensland, the event features 25 sports and activities, from the less serious three-legged races to the highly competitive touch football, people are brought together in sport, fellowship and fun.
"It's just the whole team factor and the way the event brings everyone together," Ryan said.
Ryan's involvement at State Youth Games was fostered by his love of sport but has grown into much more, and while he acknowledged some people might not attend the event because of its Christian base, Ryan encouraged people to move past that.
"Every time we compete at State Youth Games the group of kids we take grows," he said.
"Not only do our numbers grow, but more importantly the kids grow in themselves," Ryan said.
"The games might be flavoured by God, but the whole event revolves around different sports and activities which serve as a great tool for building relationships.
"It really can be the start of a special journey for many people."
Churches of Christ in Queensland is a group of mainstream Christian churches which has been an active part of the Queensland community for almost 130 years.
Churches of Christ in Queensland operates a range of mission and community care services to assist families, the elderly and people in need through church communities and its care division, Churches of Christ Care.
State Youth Games is an annual long weekend of sporting competition each June.
This year over 1000 competitors will compete across 25 different sports and also contest a fun run.
The standard of competition varies from those who have competed at fairly high levels to those who are still learning to play the games.
All are welcome and encouraged to enjoy themselves to the fullest.