Sunny Valencia, in Spain, in August. A perfect location to begin friendships for a lifetime, and hopefully begin a life changing journey for Jesus.
This is what the organizers of the European Adventist Youth Congress 2017 (AYC2017) are hoping for this week. In an environment both literally and metaphorically warm, the offer was impossible to turn down for many young people. Around 4,000 young adventurous Adventists chose to accept the invitation, sponsored by the Inter-European Division and Trans European Division of Seventh-day Adventists. The attendees mainly came from throughout the European territories, but some Americans and Australians also managed to make it to this event.
Overall, most of the attendees seemed excited to be here. However, the delegation from France topped all the other delegations, with their enthusiastic support for their Adventist school of Salève catching everyone’s attention during the exhibitions.
So far, through the first full day of the event, there has been a nice display of cultures, with a special emphasis on the local Spanish cultural heritage. During the opening ceremony the audience was transported on a combined spiritual and physical journey through Spain. The traditional variations of flamenco dance style was at the centre of the ceremony.
After a good stretch and breakfast early in the morning (August 2), we attended the first morning Journey Talks focused on caring for the Earth. The talks were delivered in turn by Mervi Kalmus, Noemi Durant and Ty Gibson. Kalmus invited us to consider the idea that God’s salvation plan extended to all of creation. Jesus’ sacrifice helps make us responsible for the Earth’s well being, by seeking to restore broken ecosystems. Durant continued by suggesting that we are on a literal journey through the universe on spaceship Earth. We are travel companions to all other living beings. In her practical support for the environment she invited us to become vegetarian, avoid using plastic and get involved in an eco friendly project. Finally, Gibson focused on the idea that because the natural world is all connected, humans have a direct impact on each other and the planet through all their actions. Humanity is currently exploiting earth’s resources to the point of lethality and Christians must set a different standard and redirect this mistaken trend. The Edenic model for humans was to fulfill a managerial role over the Earth and maintain sustainability. The cross and ecology merged through Jesus as He became the ultimate sustainability goal. This implies that a good Christian would automatically be an environmentalist. Good stewardship of everything entrusted by God is surely part of the diligent Christian’s duties.
As I was listening to these talks, however, I would have enjoyed clearer engagement with the data and other opinions, such as the secular climate change/global warming movement, which shares similar concerns, but different motives. Also, some scientists seem to disagree on many of the finer points concerning the claims made by climate change activists. Balanced talks always offer one a better understanding and perspective. Perhaps these issues will or could be elaborated on at a different occasion.
In the afternoon workshops, a number of individuals filled the time slots. They focused on addressing various issues and questions asked by most young Seventh-day Adventists (SDA’s).
I attended one hosted by Jeffrey Rossario, where we were challenged to become relevant Adventists for the modern world. He shared with us that in a world of many conflicting ideas and beliefs, we must understand the minds of those we engage with and always present an accurate and biblical view of God. Using the story of Daniel, he appealed to us to reach our true potential that lies within us young people who yield to God’s will and wisdom. In this context, young SDA’s should fight the low expectations that sometimes come alongside us, especially with teenagers, and instead act responsibly. For example, Jesus was only described as an infant, obedient child, and wise adult. He never used the excuse of being an adolescent to justify a lack of maturity or responsibility. He noted our own church was raised up through God using teenagers and young adults. Daniel impressed the king through his excellent spirit (Daniel 6:3) and so must we. The presenter did not dwell as much as I’d have liked on the nature of this spirit, but continued to encourage the audience to stretch their limits. Focusing on being successful is not inherently wrong. However, seeking success for self-glorification will lead to unfortunate outcomes. And I believe this warning should be shared more often to our younger generations because in secular settings youngsters are constantly being told to seek success in life no matter the costs. But, I believe that Daniel’s success story came as a result of his commitment to empty himself and bear God’s image regardless of his social status. Mature Christians of any age will be content in any life situation and will patiently work and wait on God.
The evening was concluded with praise, worship and free time spent in the internet café, which also happened to be one of the only places where phones can be charged and the internet is available.
I look forward to the rest of the week, and hearing what the presenters will share.
You can learn more about the European Adventist Youth Congress here.
You can watch The Journey #1 below…