Munich, Germany - In the period 5-9 August, at its height, about 4,500 people from 40 different countries attended the Pan-European Youth Congress. This was the second Congress run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church Youth Departments in the Trans-European Division (TED) and the Euro-Africa Division (EUD). The theme for this Congress was “It’s Your Turn”.
On the opening evening in the International Congress Center in Munich (ICM), there was a buzz in the air of the two halls, where simultaneous and interactive meetings were held. A countdown clock was in place in the halls encouraging the audience to count down the opening of the Congress, when Dr Paul Tompkins, TED Youth Director and Corrado Cozzi, EUD Youth Director welcomed everyone; including the two division presidents, Dr Bertil Wiklander (TED) and Bruno Vertallier (EUD). The opening evening speaker was Pastor Eddie Hypolite, Associate Youth Director from the South England Conference.
In a unique move, the young people were given the opportunity to discuss three important areas with the leaders of the European Seventh-day Adventist Church. In preparation for this, on two mornings the young people met in rooms to examine the mission of the church, church administration, and social issues. Together they formulated questions and comments which their group leaders brought to an open forum panel, consisting of the two division presidents, Newbold College lecturers, and division, union and conference administrators.
The discussion spilled over on to a second day, where robust and honest discussion took place, presided by Newbold College moderators, Drs Mike Pearson and Laurence Turner.
Commenting on the panel discussions, one of the organisers of the event, Pastor Victor Marley (Youth Director of the Norwegian Union
Conference) said, “This is a unique opportunity for [the youth] to find out about how the Adventist Church works; and how we as young people can help change and re-shape it”. Dr Turner expressed his surprise at the passion and depth of the discussion”; and Dr Pearson agreed, saying, “If this is harnessed by the leaders [of the Church] we have nothing to fear...” The final word was given to the young people, who generously thanked all the administrators for taking part in this unique experiment.
From this assembly a Munich Statement was formulated, which will be presented to the two divisions and their territories, with a recommendation for consideration and implementation,
This Statement reads:
* “We have appreciated the conversation that has begun here in Munich with our leaders and we are grateful for your genuine concern.
* We, the youth, are committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and are willing to contribute and get actively involved.
* We therefore urge the church leaders of Europe to move towards a new paradigm of leadership based on open dialogue, mutual understanding and a common goal.
* We believe this new paradigm will motivate the youth to a greater sense of worship and accountability, for the extension of God’s kingdom in Europe.”
Wanting to make a contribution to Munich, the city that so efficiently hosted the Congress, the organizers planned a fun run in a nearby park, to raise funds for “Hilfe für Kids” (Help for Kids).
This charity reaches out to help approximately 21,000 children and adolescents in the city that are socially disadvantaged through 49 recreation centres, and 6 day centres, providing free lunches, help with homework, and holidays.
Dressed in bright yellow T-shirts, 360 participants set off, some chose to run barefoot, one in a bear suit, and several carrying their national flag. “It seems long and hot,” commented one runner as he set off, “but it would be wrong to stop now, these people need all our funds to help support them.” Amongst those cheering were Congress joint leaders, Corrado Cozzi, and Paul Tompkins. Some brave runners managed one circuit of the park, whilst others had to be stopped after eleven circuits! On the closing evening, as a result of the run, a giant cheque for €10,000 EUR (approximately $14,200 USD) was presented to the charity. According to Baraka Muganda, world youth leader of the Adventist Church, this was the first time that a youth congress donated funds to a community project.
In the exhibition hall, an attraction was on the ADRA stand; a climbing wall with a bell at the top to ring. Many attendees climbed it; and visiting the stand, people were challenged to give €1 EUR as a contribution to help build a house for homeless people in Burundi.
Such was the generosity that enough funds were raised to build eight houses.
A highlight of the Congress was the Friday evening baptism service, where Pastor Baraka Muganda was the speaker. After his sermon, the congregation of about 4,000 gathered around a specially built and beautifully decorated baptistery in the atrium, and on the balconies overlooking the pool. Eighteen young people, from Croatia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Serbia and Slovenia entered the pool, two by two, and were baptised.
For many, the last night came too soon; and as the participants left the ICM building for the last time, with the invitation to return to the next Pan European Congress planned for 2013, their singing escalated to higher levels. For most of the attendees, their accommodation was in local schools, accessed by metro. Metro staff commented that very occasionally are their late night trains so full, and never are so many of their passengers singing Christian songs!
Many young people were eager to talk to TED News Staff about their experiences. Out of nearly 100 interviews, all except one gave only positive feedbacks. Here is a selection: Arianna Fachini from Italy:
“I’m enjoying it, this is a unique experience; and to be together with people who believe the same things as you is wonderful. You feel you are not alone...not a minority...my only suggestion is that Congress should be held more often!”
From Germany, Theresa Dalcke said, “I like it! I think it is impossible to get such an experience anywhere else”.
Tamas Buj from Hungary summed up the feelings of many, “I like it very much because of the diversity. I also love the atmosphere! There are lots of smiles and an exciting range of different cultures...”
A young Norwegian wishing to be anonymous, said, “Praise God for this event. It has touched me deeply and I want to get to know Jesus better. If this is the type of people one becomes when following Him, I want to as well.”
Many people worked very hard behind the scenes to make this such a successful Youth Congress; and initial planning for 2013’s event is already beginning. Dr Paul Tompkins said that he anticipates that the next one will be in the European territory of the TED, with decisions taken as to its precise location towards the end of next year.
Pictures from this event are available on the Congress website: www.aycongress.org