TV show sparks keynote speaker’s passion for youth ministry

Deborah Froese
December 4, 2012
Mennonite Church Canada
woman in brown/purple sweater, multi-coloured scarf
Winnipeg, Man.

“When I was a young teen I saw a television show—Fame—with a plot line where someone got into the lives of hard-to-reach youth in New York and turned their lives around,” says Iona Snair. “I wanted to be someone who could do that.”

Snair, who will be keynote speaker for the Fat Calf Festival (Mennonite Church Canada’s 2013 Youth Assembly), is now doing just that. Working with her husband Rob Snair, she is Associate Director of Lifeteams School of Urban Youth Outreach, a program of Greater Vancouver Youth for Christ.  Through Lifeteams, 8 to 10 young adults live together in community and engage with young people in Vancouver who are not connected with the church.

 “Connecting with community kids will transform us and hopefully it will also transform them,” Snair says. 

The scriptural theme for the Fat Calf Festival is drawn from Jesus’ “lost and found” parables in Luke 15. It places particular emphasis on the story of the prodigal son and the fattened calf celebration that takes place at its conclusion, and inspired the monikerFat Calf Festival.”

“The Prodigal Son is one of my favourite parables. It offers so many pictures of God and me, pictures I didn’t realize were of me,” Snair says. “Prodigal means ‘reckless extravagance.’ The younger brother was extravagant with money, the older brother was extravagant with bitterness, and the father was reckless with unconditional love. I hope youth walk away understanding the heart of God for them.”  She adds that God is on our side no matter how we come to God.

Snair finds particular meaning in the parables because Jesus loved to tell stories. “So many things in scripture are told in story form and stories are some of the most profound things he left us with. Tolkien, who wrote Lord of the Rings, said somewhere that we are story telling animals. There is something in us that stories speak to that propositional truth doesn’t reach… Jesus understood that. Stories speak to our hearts and not just our minds.”

“I’m passionate about being salt in people’s lives and what God is doing in their lives. I love mentoring and teaching. It’s all about tracing the hand of God in the world around me,” Snair says. “If we truly figure out who God is, it is the most natural thing in the world to turn our whole lives over to him.”

Snair grew up in Manitoba and has been involved with youth work since her late teens. She and her husband Rob have two sons; 2 sons, Eli who is in grade 10 and Sasha who is in grade 7.

The Fat Calf Festival takes place at Camp Assiniboia, a Mennonite Church Manitoba Camps with Meaning ministry, from July 29 to Aug. 2. For more information see

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