Anabaptist youth from around the world learn and fellowship together at summit
The three-day Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Global Youth Summit (GYS) at Messiah College, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, USA, concluded Sunday, 19 July 2015, with a strong desire to impact the world by sharing their gifts.
Under the theme “Called to Share: My Gifts, Our Gifts,” 42 delegates and more than 400 participants discussed what they wanted to offer the global church. For three days, they gave gifts of presence, stewardship, service, empathy, creativity, knowledge, leadership, the ability to accept different opinions and use technology, among many others. They also spent considerable time discussing how they could use those for the kingdom of God.
“GYS delegates are already doing good work in their respective churches and communities,” said Rodrigo Pedroza, Latin American representative and chair of the Young Anabaptists (YABs) committee. “But after three days of cross-cultural interaction and exploration of biblical texts about gifts and callings, their confidence and understanding of sharing has grown.
“Now, their task is to share this message and energy,” Pedroza said.
“We hope that their church leaders will support them to grow in their spirituality and leadership capacity. The gifts from the different generations in the church will be a powerful testimony for the kingdom of God.”
This offering of gifts to the church was highly appreciated by the MWC Koinonia delegation consisting of MWC incoming president Nelson Kraybill, treasurer Ernst Bergen, and general secretary César García. “These gifts, surrendered into the hands of God, will transform the world.
“Never forget that while you need the wisdom of those older and more experienced than you, revolution starts with young people,” said García. “Jesus was young. So were Jesus’ disciples. And they turned the world upside down.”
A time to reconnect with Anabaptist teachings
While delegates focused on discerning how to use their gifts for the global church, many activities offered participants opportunity to learn more about their Anabaptist roots and the global church.
“We want GYS to be a place where participants grow in spirituality, especially in their understanding of Anabaptist teachings and the global church,” said Lani Prunés, North American representative to the YABs committee.
“We do this by giving participants a lot of opportunities to hear and discuss how we live out our faith around the world.”
Workshop subjects ranged from interfaith and cross-cultural engagement, using social media without sacrificing authentic relationships and exchange programs, to case studies on living out peace and justice in different parts of the world.
Concerts, sports and games, a collaborative art project, drumming and dance showcases, and movie nights enhanced the cross-cultural experience.
The Young AnaBaptist hosted a booth at the Global Church Village where they provided Assembly Gathered participants with more information about the GYS experience.
Wycliff Ochieng Otieno, GYS delegate, Kenya
The best thing about the GYS was meeting different people from around the globe and learning as a group, where we could learn more than what we could as individuals. From what I learned about the theme “Called to Share: My Gifts, our Gifts,” I will work with young people in my home church so they realize that they have unique gifts and they can use them to build the kingdom of God by sharing what they have with the entire community.
Marisabel Castillo, GYS participant, Costa Rica
The best thing about GYS for me was worshipping God together in different languages but one mind and one God, just as Jesus called us in Luke 10:27 to love him with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind. Another important thing was to learn that as we get together and respond to God’s love, we could start seeing how much, not how little, we can do in our church and community.
Kelvin Jimenez, GYS participant, Puerto Rico
During GYS, I remember one specific workshop in which we were sharing our challenges that our respective countries face. It was very impactful to understand how diverse our settings and struggles are. Yet, we all seek guidance and wisdom from the same source, our God. We all base our hopes in Jesus and his message so that we can be light in the midst of darkness, community in the midst of segregation and love in the midst of the suffering of our world.
Jantine Huisman, GYS delegate, the Netherlands
My most memorable aspect of the GYS were the conversations at the dining hall, where it was possible to join whichever table and meet people from various countries and backgrounds. Sometimes these conversations turned from superficial getting to know each other to deep and open discussions on topics like divorce, homosexuality, remarriage, woman pastors and problems in our churches. Although we did not always agree, there was always a sense of respect and understanding. I bring home a sense of shared problems, the feeling of not being the only young Mennonite in the world and optimism that there is a bright future for Mennonite churches all over the world.GYS resulted in broadening my understanding of others and their convictions. I learned more in three days than I sometimes do during a month of my normal Dutch life. I already look forward to the next conference in six years!
Nita Purwidaningsih, GYS delegate, Indonesia
We not only had a great fellowship during the event, but I learned to have a sense of belonging to the global family through praying for other continents and supporting conscientious objectors in South Korea. GYS was a reminder for me that we need to take care of one another, and at a time when we can’t reach out to them directly, prayers will reach them.
Coming from the host country of the next Assembly, what do you want to say about Indonesia 2021?
Indonesia is a culturally rich archipelago with three Mennonite conferences, each distinctive in their way of worshipping God. At Indonesia 2021, you will see God’s beautiful works through nature and culture and the Anabaptist community in Indonesia will also be blessed by learning from you.
Elina Ciptadi-Perkins is a copywriter and communications consultant. She is an Indonesian Mennonite who lives in Singapore with her family
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier October 2015