04 August 2022 | Lahti, Finland [Marcos Paseggi for Trans-European Division News]
It’s 6:30 am on 4 August, and in Lahti, Finland, the summer Nordic sun has been already up for 90 minutes. In the cool, almost crip morning breeze, dozens of Adventist young people walk through a dirt road by the Lahti Sport and Fair Centre, venue of the Europe’s 2022 Adventist Youth Congress (AYC22). They are looking for the signs that points them to the entrance of the Prayer Walk.
The Prayer Walk is a special hiking course which follows through eight stations with signs reflecting on a specific section of the Lord’s Prayer. Hikers are invited to stop to read the text posted on signs nailed to trees (translated into 14 languages) and pray.
The course includes a stop by a pond, where hikers can stop to reflect and pray surrounded by lush coniferous trees. It seems an apt start for another day of learning, mingling, and connecting with God and other people. It is a moment of communion for longstanding and newly found friends alike.
Can Obeying the Law Lead Us to Kill God?
After a nutritious breakfast, attendees pack the main hall once more for spiritual nourishment. The morning devotional message by Sagunto Adventist College president Daniel Bosqued invites the thousands of young people listening to plug in once more, this time to God’s Spirit.
Based on Jesus’ sufferings recorded in John 19, Bosqued calls attention to what human beings can become when they move forward without God’s Spirit. “When we do not have the Spirit, even obeying the law can lead us to kill God,” he says, referencing the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. “The only way to truly follow God’s law is by having the Spirit of God.”
After worship and discussion in hundreds of small groups in more than a dozen languages, it is time again to keep learning. Many participants find difficult to choose just one of the simultaneous workshops offered. Most titles seem intriguing and inviting. The Thursday morning lineup includes, among others, “Basic Rules to Find Lasting Love,” “Multiculturalism and Church,” and “How to Survive a Faith Crisis.”
Are Messi, Ronaldo, and Nadal Evangelists?
The afternoon lineup including a workshop on how to do urban ministry by South England Conference youth director Anthony Fuller, in what he called “The Plug in and Go Effect.”
According to Fuller, famous football players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and tennis player Rafael Nadal are some of the best evangelists. “They do what they do so well and with so much passion, that others feel inspired. Those who watch what they do then say, ‘I want to be like them!’”
It is what made the testimony of the disciples so powerful, Fuller emphasised, as he reflected on 1 John 1, where the apostle wrote, “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled… we declare to you” (verse 1, 3). “John is sharing what he has already experienced,” Fuller said. “Evangelism often fails because we have not experienced first what Jesus as the living water can do.”
It is the reason Fuller called for young Adventists to apply the “Plug in and Go Effect.” He explained, “The challenge has become that we have people around us who are thirsty, but we are also thirsty. We can’t lead anyone further that we are ourselves. But bringing your own experience with Christ can change the face of evangelism,” he said.
Small Olympics and Plugging in to Serve
Concurrently with the afternoon workshops, activities included a “Small Olympics” at a nearby stadium. Each country was invited to send its representatives to participate in various distances races, long jump, and shot put. There is also sports equipment for those who want it, and participants were encouraged to play volleyball, badminton, frisbee, table tennis, and more, organisers said.
Around 6 pm, when the throng treads once more to the cafeteria hall for dinner, there are still several hours of sunlight in Lahti and more activities ahead. Before young people realise it, it will be time again for the evening message by David Asscherick. The topic for tonight? “Plug & Serve,” reads the booklet. It might well be one more opportunity to plug into God’s power to serve Him and others on behalf of His kingdom.
tedNews is delighted to work in collaboration for AYC22 with Adventist Review Senior News Correspondent, Marcos Paseggi. Based in Ottowa, Canada, Marcos is attending AYC22 – in person – to report to the world church through the pages of Adventist Review and Adventist World. Posted so far this week:
[Header photo: Daniel Kluska]