Songs of praise, extensive Bible study, prayers, and a baptismal ceremony capped the last day of Europe’s 2022 Adventist Youth Congress (AYC22) in Lahti, Finland, August 6. After several days of learning, playing, and networking, more than 2,500 young people from across Europe met once more to worship and connect.
Keynote speaker David Asscherick led participants to reflect on the biblical meaning of baptism and what it means to live for Christ.
“Our beautiful God is not someone to hide from; He is someone to hide in,” Asscherick assured the young people. Based on Paul’s letter to the Christian believers in Colossians 3, Asscherick told the ones present in Lahti and those following his presentation online that the Bible is clear about the past, present, and future of those who believe and decide to get baptized. He quoted verses 3 and 4, where Paul wrote, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (NKJV).
“When you get baptized and get out of the water, you understand your past is taken care of! So even if you fail or make a mistake, you know also that your present is secure because you are hidden in Christ,” he said. Asscherick explained that Paul then moves to the future: “He says that when Christ appears, you will — not you might … not cross your fingers and hope for the best — you will appear with Him in glory!”
A Meaningful Baptism
Against that backdrop, Asscherick explained the meaning of the baptismal ceremony. “When someone comes out of the waters of baptism, the life that person is now living is not an ordinary life — it is eternal life!” he said. “Eternal life is not only a quantity of days and years but a quality of existence when you live with Christ.… Right here, right now, you are already with Jesus in heavenly places, if you have put your faith in Jesus.”
After Asscherick’s presentation, it was time for the baptismal ceremony in a pool placed down from the stage in the central aisle of the hall. The dozen young people who requested baptism included Lydia, who grew up in the Adventist Church but had never decided to be baptized. Now in her twenties and after finishing medical school and about to start a residency to become an eye doctor, she decided to commit her life to Jesus. It also included, among others, Henrik from Germany, Ando from France, Maddalena from Italy, and Saul from Spain.
Right after the baptismal vote, officiating pastors, including Asscherick, prayed in seven different languages before baptizing the candidates.
After the ceremony, Asscherick shared what he said is one of his favorite statements from Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages. While discussing God’s seal of approval after the baptism of Jesus, she wrote, “ ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ embraces humanity. God spoke to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses, we are not cast aside as worthless” (p. 113).
“We can move away from God, but we can’t drive Him away from us,” Asscherick said. “Thanks to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, you are, in some significant sense, already with Him by faith.”
The day before, on Friday afternoon, young people participated in outreach activities by Vesijärvi Lake, on Lahti’s waterfront. There, an Exhibition of Nations called attention to the various cultures comprising Adventist youth across Europe. In a busy area frequented by locals, national delegations from Spain to Iceland to Romania set up booths in a sort of marketplace that highlighted national customs, traditional costumes, music, and food.
Young people and several youth leaders also participated in a 5K Run to Help race. The registration proceeds of the run were donated to a local ADRA project titled Young People Preventing the Social Exclusion of Youth in Finland. “Finland ranks consistently as the happiest nation on earth, but there are still challenges such as depression and addictions, especially among the youth,” ADRA Finland leaders said in explaining the rationale of the event. “We want to support efforts to prevent exclusion in young people.”
More than 500 runners registered and ran under the summer sun, as youth church leaders in Europe said that the organization would match the funds raised.
A Little Weird for Jesus
AYC22 closed on Saturday evening with a two-and-a-half-hour program that included singing, Bible study, and acknowledgments to the many people who made the event possible.
Once again, Asscherick called young people to reflect on what it means to live for Jesus in the contemporary world. Focusing on the meaning of the word holy, he explained its implications. “In the Bible, being holy means being ‘set apart,’ being ‘different,’ ” he reminded participants. “You could even say that it means being a little ‘weird’ for the sake of Jesus.”
This is what should drive Adventist young people in Europe as they live out their faith in their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces, he said. “Every one of you has been called to be holy,” Asscherick emphasized. “So go out from here and be a little weird for Jesus!”
The next European Adventist Youth Congress is scheduled to take place in 2026 in Italy.