6 October 2020 | Athens, Greece [Moses Siwale]
Youth church opens in Athens, Greece, providing a place for young people to meet, share experiences together, nourish spiritual gifts, and develop leadership skills.
When I was studying theology at the Adventist University of the Philippines, I had the privilege to attend various small group settings and associate with many young people of different ages and backgrounds. Being surrounded by such a lovely and delightful environment of diversity, I was inspired to start creating a vision of my own, which eventually, turned into an avid aspiration: to set up a similar setting back in my hometown, Athens, Greece.
The Bible tells us that every individual has a purpose in God’s ministry. God has, through the Holy Spirit, bestowed each one us a spiritual gift, and called us to be witnesses. (1 Cor. 12:4, 8-10; Eph. 4:7-11). Having been around young people since I started my ministry in Greece one and a half years ago, I have seen what these young people can do for the Lord and what their potential is. This all led to the idea of creating our own Youth Church, which would not only be a huge boost for every individual to keep nourishing and developing their spiritual gifts, but it would also allow young people to meet together, sing together, share stories together, and spiritually grow together.
There are always challenges in achieving this, and one of them is trusting young people with the keys of initiation, of leadership and of mission to this generation. However, showing them such trust allows them to feel first-hand the sense of service in the community, and that they belong to something greater beyond themselves by fulfilling the instructions given by Jesus, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19, 20, NIV).
Aside from the spiritual aspect, Youth Church aims to train young people to become mature and responsible individuals, who have learned how to take initiatives and develop the essence of leadership. For this reason, scholars and professionals from the Hellenic American College of Greece will conduct seminars concerning personal growth and leadership training, to generate strengths and enhance skills appropriate for business both in the secular and religious world.
I strongly believe that this collaboration will be a blessing both to us and the highly educated individuals that will be presenting to us because as they are feeding us with knowledge for our cognitive development, we will have the opportunity to show them who we are and what our purpose is.
“The existence of a youth church may sound strange or even absurd, but for me being in Athens, it is pleasant news”, states one of the young individuals who attends church. “As many may know, although Greece is a country with a strong Christian element, the Adventist church does not have a strong presence. As a result, there are only a few hundred church members across the country. So, it makes sense that young people who are here are few.
With all this in mind, I believe that the creation of a community of people with close perceptions as well as ages, allows for more direct communication, exchange of experiences and reflections. The beginning of the existence of such a church allows us, young people, to be with each other more often and to help us in the perception of the whole. Within this new community, everyone’s presence is felt. Everyone feels useful because the programme is shaped by us.”
In the end, this youth concludes, “In general, I believe that, yes, the existence of this church is positive as we can undertake various projects, which would not be possible if we were scattered in the various local churches. Furthermore, our faith grows through honest discussions, always centred on the Scriptures, and through study. And finally, building closer relationships between us will bring positive results as we avoid the frustration seen in the world where relationships, both friendly and otherwise, are ruined by a lack of honesty, jealousy, infidelity, and so on.”
Upon hearing the news of having a youth church, another young person said, “I was so happy that I shared the news with all my acquaintances. I look forward to seeing it grow in members, but also in faith. (emoji heart)”
At the beginning of 2020, we found a place for the meetings, but then COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, and everything took a step back. However, after a period of challenges, prayers, and endless hard work during July and August, the Youth Church project finally came to life and it has been operating since then.
Despite the restrictions due to COVID-19, the response from the youth living in Athens was truly impressive. On the first Sabbath, 29 August, there was 19 youth in attendance. However, the following week there were twenty-four young people, which is definitely encouraging!
Moreover, their comments about the structure and organisation of the place were all positive. They fell in love with the place and its atmosphere. Some even suggested coming to the Youth Church/Centre on a regular basis.
What impressed me the most, however, is their willingness to arrange schedules for cleaning the place. Being their leader, I would normally have to delegate these types of tasks, but with this one, they took the initiative and arranged everything themselves. I could not be prouder! It was then that I really realised what a difference such a place can make for young people.
It is our prayer that this building will serve as a shelter to every young folk out there who is looking for a place to call their own. It is a place for any youth who is willing to develop on a personal level but most importantly, on a spiritual one, as Jesus is the centre of it all.
Every journey with God has its beginning but we are all excited to make a positive impact in our communities. And let us not forget the beautiful words of apostle Paul, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
We hope that people around the world will continue to pray and support this project as we are looking to fulfil God’s mission in our generation through the love of God that compels us.
Moses Siwale is the youth director for the Greek Mission of Seventh-day Adventists.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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