How to reach out to other young people through sports. How to use ads and social media to share the gospel. How to be a courageous Christian. How to be a loser—actually, how not to be one. These are some of the topics discussed during a youth training event in Kramatorsk, Donetsk, Ukraine, in late April.
The “Exclamation Mark” youth training program brought together over 80 young people from the Donetsk region and other Ukrainian cities. Originally planned for 15 to 30 years-old, the event also caught the attention of some of the older generation.
“An exclamation mark is something you use to make a difference,” said the organizers in explaining the two-day event theme. “It is never neutral.”
Among the speakers were pastors, sports club directors, Adventist radio workers, and regional church communication and youth leaders. Hands-on training and discussions were interspersed with spiritual reflections by Eugene Alokhin, youth department director of the Adventist Church in Ukraine.
Aleksander Koropets, director of “Samson” sports clubs, discussed how to minister to young people through sport, and how to organize sports clubs to benefit young people. His talk included many real-life examples and time to answer questions. “Even serious questions were handled with a fair amount of humor,” said one participant at the event. “It made his presentation interesting and memorable.”
An important part of the program was dedicated to media literacy topics. The communication director in Eastern Ukraine Valentin Zagreba discussed different types of information and advertising influencing young people, such as the ones used in social networks. “We had the opportunity of analyzing our ability to perceive video and text content critically,” said one of the participants. On the second day, Zagreba also offered advice on Internet safety issues.
Ivan Romanyuk, who works at the “Voice of Hope” radio station, presented on “How to be a courageous Christian,” and on “How to be losers,” by calling young people to avoid acts that will certainly set them up for frustration and failure.
Spiritual reflections were devoted to the topic of prayer, especially intercessory prayer. At the same time, recreation moments between training blocks were provided by Victoria Shevich, who organized various animated games and activities so young participants could get acquainted with each other. On the second day, long-awaited moments for open dialogue passed very quickly, and before long, it was time to say good-bye.
After two days of learning, playing, and sharing together, young people left ignited with a desire to serve God by using their creative, intellectual, and physical resources for ministry and mission.
“Training events such as this one show that Adventist young people in Ukraine have a great potential and wonderful ideas for ministry,” said the leaders present at the event. “It is our desire that the life of every young man and woman may become and ‘exclamation mark,’—to be used every time it is needed to make a difference in the life of their peers.”