The first GYC Europe FOCUS was held February 19-22 in Stupini, Romania, a small town near the lofty Romanian mountains. The event was primarily organised for the people living in the local area and across Romania, but was open to all young Adventists living beyond Romanian borders.
This year’s theme for GYC Europe is “Coming to Christ,” and it represents the first part of a three-part series, with “Searching the Scriptures” next year and “Moving into Mission” following that. This year’s theme aimed to remind people that Jesus Christ is the only One we can trust to come to just as we are without fearing rejection. For Alexandra Muscalu, student attendee, the theme represented the main reason for her attendance, as she believes her knowledge about Jesus and His second coming should grow, especially in the context of an unsettled and troubled world.
The attendance was above the anticipated number, as well as above the capacity of the Stupini centre near Brașov, Romania, with 350 young adults who chose to spend their weekend in a meaningful way seeking to learn more about Christ. It was a wonderful surprise for the organisers and also a strong confirmation of the fact that in Europe interest in spiritual matters is still present, contrary to what many believe. Besides Romania, there was representation from countries like Norway, Portugal, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, the United States, Austria, and Germany.
The event included numerous talks and workshops designed to regenerate the youth’s relationship with God and empower them to share Jesus freely and boldly. The opening address was delivered by one of the main speakers, Joakim Hjortland, a member of the Norwegian Union Conference Executive Committee. He presented the fulfilment of the signs foretelling Jesus’ second coming. His other talks focused on how to maintain a strong relationship with God.
It Is Written host John Bradshaw was also present, and for his seminars he used the doctrine of the sanctuary and its services to provide a formula for God’s solution to sin. On a practical level, Norel Iacob, chief editor for The Sign of the Times magazine – Romania, spoke about the challenges of social media, and how it could be a platform for both evangelism and compromise. Finally, the president of GYC Europe, Craig Gooden, touched on the topic of righteousness by faith, highlighting its central importance to the Adventist message.
Finding Support, Inspiration, and Encouragement
The impressions that were made on the attendees were valuable. Many said they have been spiritually refreshed and are determined to become more active in their local churches. In the sphere of activities, the attendees highly appreciated the outreach projects introduced, primarily because they knew little of their existence and variety. Some said they have been encouraged by meeting so many other young people whose struggles and enthusiasm are similar, which reinforced the notion of a strong internal support network that is available within the Adventist Church.
While some of the seminars could have been more interactive and discussion-centred, according to some, the small group activities at the end of each day offered a good platform for sharing thoughts and making friends in a casual setting. For many Romanian natives this was also the perfect opportunity to attend some English groups and improve their linguistic abilities.
Additionally, others were uplifted by observing how young Adventists are diligently seeking to come closer to God and support the church’s mission programmes. Iulian Mirică, representing the publishing house Viaţă şi Sănătate in Romania, reported an unexpectedly high interest in Christian literature at their booth. His book exhibit stand was crowded throughout the event, with many purchasing a variety of literature. The most popular books were Clifford Goldstein’s books and Ellen G. White’s writings.
In my own opinion, as someone returning to Romania from abroad, these events are especially appreciated because they are similar to homecomings, full of known and unknown faces, where people who share the same foundational beliefs and worldviews, yet preserve their natural differences, come together to learn from each other, encourage each other, and most importantly, understand each other. The most common positive feedback from those who attended GYC FOCUS was that during the few days spent in Stupini they met someone who inspired them to grow and move forward in Christ. That in itself is a worthy achievement.
Stupini was just the beginning of a series of GYC FOCUS events in Europe. The next event is planned for May 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. For more information on upcoming events, visit the GYC Europe website.
(Photos from GYC Europe Facebook page)