3 August 2017 | Valencia, Spain [Victor Hulbert with Melanie Ernst] How much risk are you willing to take? That was a very relevant question posed by Sam Leonor to a packed auditorium of youth on the second night of the Pan-European Youth Congress in Valencia, Spain, 1 – 5 August 2017.
Leonor based his message on Jesus’ call to the disciples to leave their nets and follow him. “That is a remarkable risk in the middle of the working day,” he pointed out. Leave the family business, leave the livelihood you know so well, and step out into the unknown. Yet we take that kind of risk all the time. He illustrated it in very practical, if humorous terms by telling of the risk he took in asking a girl he liked for a date – even though she already had a boyfriend! The risk and fear in the first time he asked to hold her hand, or the first time he summed up the courage to say, “I love you”.
Life is full of risk, full of the unknown, but facing Jesus’ challenge to follow Him can have remarkable rewards. His interaction with Jay is a case in point. Living in a rough suburb of Los Angeles, young Jay would stop in Leonor’s front yard each morning to get high on weed before heading to school.
Leonor, a chaplain at La Sierra University felt a strong impression from God that he must go out and talk with Jay, who, after offering him a spliff, discovered he was a ‘priest’ and a member of a ‘cult’. It was not the world’s most successful conversation, but imagine Leonor’s surprise when a few months later he discovers Jay sitting amongst the intake of new students at the Adventist University. Imagine his increased surprise as over the months Jay’s life changes, he comes excited about God, and despite the initial opposition of his father, a joyful day arrives when both Jay, his father, and then unexpectedly his grandfather, all make a choice for baptism and discipleship. For Leonor, that is the joyful risk of following God’s call.
Such risk does not come without its challenges. God does not go through resumes the way a human employer might. Nor does He highlight the trials that may come with job – not many of the disciples died a natural death – but the rewards of taking the challenge are out of this world.
The world and the environment was the theme earlier in the day as morning devotions took the form of three short ‘journey talks’ followed by a group discussion on issues surrounding creation and the environment. Mervi Kalmus, a linguist and theologian from Estonia, Noemí Durán, director of the European branch office of the Geoscience Research Institute, and pastor Ty Gibson, all shared their individual perspectives on caring for the earth. By the end of the session youth were challenged to be Christian environmentalists, passionate for protecting God’s creation.
“I really loved the worship this morning,” reflected Julian Martin from Germany. “It was very nice to just have a very good start of the day.”
“I am liking the variation in speakers and the different topics that they have, and their thoughts and views about it,” states another young participant, Karl Senessie from England.
Of course, congress is more than just sermons and worship speakers. The praise team are cheered as they come on stage, with the band on Wednesday evening developing into a mini orchestra.
“I like very much to sing with the many people that are attending the congress,” says Antonella Topor from Romania. The music also really hits the spot for Lucas Lopez from Spain. He sees it as one of the best things at Congress – along with the sport.
And sport is there – from early morning exercise to basketball, hockey or a myriad of other activities. Workshops are also available, and enough exhibition booths and international stands to engage the interest of any participant or, as Adam Bartosik from Poland points out, “just the real opportunity to meet new people.”
One group activity that has started just outside the congress hall and will climax in the centre of Valencia during Thursday’s impact witness, is an attempt to create the world’s largest nail portrait of Jesus – each nail hammered by the youth representing their commitment to discipleship and ‘the journey’, the theme for the congress. The size of the portrait also makes it an attempt to gain an entry in the Guinness book of records – and should attract public interest. The real record, however, may be in heaven as participants at the congress find their own lives being challenged and changed.
Congress continues until the weekend. Follow activities on the Congress YouTube channel, on Facebook, and on the Congress website. Youth continue to post their comments and photos on social media using the hashtag #AYC2017 and #TheJourney. [tedNEWS]
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojkovic, associate editor
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tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division.