Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jugendtag

On Sunday, in Stuttgart, was Jugendtag. Jugendtag, meaning "youth day" is a giant meeting organized by EJW, the youth work of the Lutheran Church in Baden-Wurttemburg (my state) for thousands of young people. Youth literally take over the city for the day -- there are various stages where music and rapping and dance and theater are performed, seminars on important subjects for teens and youth workers, people dancing in the street, church services, art, pretty much everything under the sun with a youth twist on it.

I was privileged to bring a few teens I know to Jugendtag. One of the coolest things we got to participate in was a German-led Young Life Club. Quite a few Germans in the EJW have experienced Young Life and moreover, have sent German teens through YL's exchange program Amicus to live in the States for a year and be involved with Young Life there. So I sat through my first ever all-German Young Life Club on Thursday. We sang a very, um, accented version of Sweet Home Alabama, threw paper airplanes and newspaper around the room in some sort of backwards volleyball game, enjoyed a few funny walk ons, and heard a gospel message in German.

What is really cool is that at the end of Jugendtag, when I asked one of the girls I brought with me, Annika, what she liked best, she said, "that crazy Young Life club". I smiled and said "why?" and she said "The songs we sang -- you couldn't stay quiet, you just had to sing along!"

That's what I like about Young Life. I like that YL's relationship-based ministry makes kids feel like they belong.

On the way home, Annika said to me, "We've heard so many questions today" (Jugendtag's theme was "Questions"), and I just have one that's been bugging me.

"Just one?" I responded

"Yeah. How, if there are so many people that live in the world, can Jesus live with every single one of us?"

... This one question turned into an hour-long discussion over the entire train ride home about who Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost are, what they heck they have to do with our lives, what sin is, if Catholics and Protestants and Muslims all have the same God or different ones, in short, there was more than one question! And I was reminded once again (God's been reminding me of this a lot lately) that ministry has so very little to do with what we leaders tell kids when we are on stage, and much more to do with how God is working in their hearts. I was reminded that I'm being called to walk with kids, not talk to them, to be there throughout the day, one, that Annika trusts me, because I've been there beside her, and two, that I'm around and accessible when the question comes up that she wants (or, that God is pushing her) to ask.

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