All the youth name tags at Mennonite World Conference assembly in Harrisburg, Pa., had “#J178” on them. Nobody gave much thought to it until 600 youth from around the world were gathered in a 24-acre space under the arena in the morning while the adults listened to the sermon in one of two daily worship services.
The J178 meant Jeremiah 1:7-8. “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” We also had a chance to say it in our own language, so I said it in Nepali.
The worship services included amazing music from a different continent each day as well as a sermon brought by a person representing that continent. We also had different workshops that we could attend each day.
The first day, I attended a workshop focussing on the relationships between Muslims and Christians. The workshop was led by an author who talked about respect, trust and walking in faith. He also said people look at the differences rather than the similarities, and it is hard to have a good relationship. I have a lot of Muslim friends so I thought this was a nice workshop to learn about how the relationship can be better, or how our backgrounds are affecting our relationship.
I also went to a quilting workshop. I wanted to see and experience how beautiful quilts are made. But as a person who burns water, I wasn’t doing very well, sticking the needle into my flesh and saying “Ow” every two seconds.
The next day, I went to a workshop called “Peace Amongst Disappointing Dreams,” where Tina Newson, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, taught us about how the pain usually results from expecting and not getting what you are expecting. She taught us her two life principles: life is wonderful and difficult; and we are born for a relationship with God. She invited us to try using a “mystery box,” where you put things that confuse you or when you do not know how God is working in your life. Later, whether you have answers or not, it is interesting to look at. She mentioned that ignoring your pain only extends it.
Another workshop, “Is Jesus the Only Way?” was led by James Krabill. This was one of the most interesting workshops. He started out by saying, “There is no foundation other than which is laid, Jesus Christ.” We looked at images and words and what it means to be ambassadors of Christ, about how the way you picture Jesus affects the way you think about him. We looked at what Jesus said about himself: “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and “I am the good shepherd.” Slowly we came to realize that only Jesus claims those things.
We looked at views of Jesus and who the world thinks he is. Depending on the culture and where you are from, there are different views about Christ. Believe me, I know, because in Nepal Jesus is almost like a Twitter account that has lots of posts that say, “Follow me and I will follow back,” because there are people in Nepal who follow Christ for personal benefits.
At last we talked about how we can be ambassadors of Jesus. Mr. Krabill said his father, who was a pastor, read his way to faith, just like my parents did, as they weren’t born Christians.
My next stop that day was the Mennonite Disaster Service project, where we built homes for people whose homes had been damaged because of a natural disaster. I saw that our nametags said “volunteer” and I was able to get 1.5 hours of community service.
By the last day I couldn’t believe how fast it had gone. I went to a workshop, “Identify in God” that taught me that one needs to know why one exists. So many young people are suffering from depression these days and conflicts in the church affect kids. We seem to have so much these days, but young people are craving an identity as they are known as the “no-identity generation.” God doesn’t ask a lot, he shows his gift of strength by asking nothing from us except generosity, humility and dignity. Those are high demands and they are hard to live up to, but those demands actually make you gain something, unlike the world.
The last workshop I took in was an advocacy workshop where we discussed now much words have weight. Advocacy means taking action and educating people on an issue such as food and hunger, migration and displacement, peace-building and militarism.
I want to thank my church for making this amazing event possible for me.
See more about the youth experiences at Mennonite World Conference assembly:
MWC youth program supported by MC Canada
Getting youth to World Conference four years in the making
See more coverage of the Mennonite World Conference assembly.
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