April 11, 2014

EUD: Global Youth Day - An Interview


This year’s Global Youth Day was an event that sent hundreds of
thousands of Seventh-day Adventist youth and young adults out of church for
service projects in neighborhoods and communities worldwide.

The March 15 event was also broadcast on the Internet live,
highlighting projects from 20 sites. This year¹s event had nearly three times
the live online participation from last year, with more than 27,000 media publications
on the event¹s website and Facebook page.

We had a conversation about GYD with Stephan Sigg, Inter-European
Division Youth Ministries director.

Stephan, how well has this initiative been accepted by young
people in the EUD?

Our first GYD in 2013 was recognized and accepted by just a few
EUD unions but the number grew this year. Because of the experiences and the
lasting impression left on young people, we are still far from having reached
the peak of involvement. I am sure that in 2015 we will have even more youth
and unions involved from our division. The EUD has many youth outreach programs
and service activities on a regular basis, but the GYD puts these activities in
such a huge global perspective and that is very appealing and motivating
especially for the youth in our rather small European church congregations. I
am sure that Global Youth Day in Europe will grow in attendance and in making
an impact in our churches in the coming years.

Do you have a favorite story or project from Global Youth Day?

It is very difficult to pick out just one activity or story. To
see young people creatively sharing the Good News and being involved in so many
different ways, showing kindness to people on the streets, in hospitals or in
old peoples' homes whether it was in Germany, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Spain,
or Portugal was just amazing!

We could only get a glimpse of what happened and what the youth
experienced. God was moving and that was obvious. That’s my favorite story,
that we have a God that moves young people to expand his kingdom. Of course, it
was very special to get live reports from young people in Egypt and Dubai during
our broadcast. Adventist young people and adults went on the streets of Cairo
and elsewhere in Egypt to share the message with health-expo and the many
activities involved.

In Dubai, the United Arabic Emirates, youth were serving people
in various ways by sharing food or visiting people in hospitals. It was amazing
to see how these young people were able to share the Christian message and
their personal experience in such a challenging context. Being sensitive to the
religion of Islam, they printed special GYD-T-shirts with a modified Logo where
the cross (being such a strong Christian symbol) was removed. These youth did
not need the cross on a T-shirt, they were marked by the cross in their hearts
and that is what they shared with people.

How and why did Global Youth Day grow in its second year?

First, GYD 2014 grew because we learned from the preceding year.
In 2013 we were basically working with the “early adopters.” These are the kind
of people that jump in when they see a good idea and a vision. GYD provided the
experience and others joined in this year since it was such a success.

We can now start advertising earlier and promote GYD more
successfully. Youth ministries department activities are usually based on
long-term planning but last year everything happened on such short notice. For
the GYD 2014 we also expanded our social media options by creating a GYD-App that
helped young people easily upload pictures and clips. However, we also learned
that we now created two different communication avenues, one through Facebook
and one through the App for the GYD-Website.

Second, GYD 2014 grew simply by word-of-mouth. Young people that
were involved last year shared the excitement and this year more youth groups
wanted to be involved and planned their service activities accordingly.

Third, the message of the GYD is convincing. Many young people
are ready to embrace the idea of "being the sermon” and take the faith in
Jesus as a calling to be actively and positively involved in the lives of
others. They understand that as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) it's not
only the message that counts but also the messenger.

Fourth, GYD grew because it simply provides an extraordinary
global church experience. It fosters the sense of belonging to a worldwide
Adventist movement and a church that is alive, dynamic and active in the world
and people's lives.

Furthermore, GYD grew because our departments work together. The
cooperation among the youth ministries department, communication department,
and the media creates a dynamic synergy and has opened new ways to live and
experience the principle of acting locally and thinking globally.

Why is service so important to young people and church life?

Service is important because it is an expression of the life God
intended. God did not create humans to just care for themselves but put man and
woman in relation to Him and others. Serving people is a way to restore the
basic meaning of life and I think young people somehow sense that.

Young people like to see that our faith in God somehow makes a
difference in this world and they want to be part of it. Service also puts our
faith in perspective. What really matters is not so much "doing church”
and organizing spiritual programs but how we live, love, and relate to others.
Youth are looking for authentic and living expressions of faith and are excited
about a God who became flesh and lived among us to serve, forgive, restore,
reconcile, embrace, and save. The “free hug,” one of the popular GYD
activities, is a spiritual reality in Jesus as He made it very clear: serving
Him means serving others.