|Global gathering draws 6,200 United Methodist youth|
Youth from Faith United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas,
dance to the music of the Katinas during opening worship at Youth 2007.
About 6,200 youth and youth leaders from four continents attended the
quadrennial youth gathering for The United Methodist Church. UMNS photos
by Mike DuBose.
By Linda Green*
July 19, 2007 | GREENSBORO, N.C. (UMNS)
Bishop Linda Lee blesses the elements of Holy Communion during worship.
Tori Champlin attended the largest youth event of The United
Methodist Church because it was important for her to learn "how to see
the world in a different way."
A youth group member from Longs Peek United Methodist Church in
Longmont, Colo., Champlin said she wanted to participate in Youth 2007
"since I just graduated from high school and this will be my last
activity with the youth group.
"I wanted to see other people like me who were (transitioning) to
college and seeing how teens are with their religion," she said.
Champlin was among 6,200 youth and youth leaders from four continents
who attended the July 11-15 event designed to build disciples by
encouraging young people to live out their faith in ways they never
thought possible. The worldwide youth gathering, sponsored by the United
Methodist Board of Discipleship, happens once every four years for
United Methodist teens ages 12-18. This year's theme was "SPLAT," which
stands for "Seek, Pray, Learn, Act, Teach."
Greensboro Coliseum served as the hub for activities that included
speakers, worship services, workshops, concerts, contests and
recreation. Youth also participated in local mission projects, including
a Society of St. Andrew "potato drop" in which they bagged 40,000
pounds of potatoes for distribution to hungry people.
"Youth 2007 is a place where young people can come and not only get
outside the four walls of their church and see the connection in person,
but also experience God in a way that will change them and stay with
them," said Jay Clark, director of Youth 2007.
"From everything we're hearing, it really feels like those who
participated were challenged to make a difference in their community and
local churches, and that's what we set out to do."
Nothing But Nets
The Nothing But Nets campaign had a strong presence at Youth 2007,
including presentations and an exhibit. Its mission — to end
mosquito-borne malaria in Africa by providing families there with
insecticide-treated sleeping nets that cost $10 each — resonated with
Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania area and Diego
Gutierrez, midfielder for the Chicago Fire Soccer team, challenged teens
to come down from the bleachers and throw $10 onto the stage and also
leave contributions at the Nothing But Nets exhibit.
Fusebox's Billy Buchanan sings a song of praise.
At the end of the day, the youth had contributed $16,156 to the
cause. The people of The United Methodist Church are among the
campaign's founding partners, along with the United Nations Foundation,
National Basketball Association's NBA Cares and Sports Illustrated. Major League Soccer is the newest partner in the effort.
Drawn for different reasons
Natalia Alvarez of New York City attended Youth 2007 because her
pastor told her "that it was going to be really fun and was going to be a
great experience to learn about God."
The most important thing she learned is "that whatever I do I have to
do it for God, and in the midst of everything God is there somewhere."
Jeff Peck of Westville, Ohio, came to "to get closer to God," have
fun and deepen friendships. "Getting closer to God is important because
it makes you feel good because you know that you are loved all the time,
no matter what," he said.
Peck said he will carry home with him the understanding "that God is
always with us" and that it is important to "always love and forgive
A searching heart brought Stephany Lewis of Detroit. "I came to gain a
better view of religion because not all people have the same beliefs in
the same religion," she said.
Teens from Fennimore (Wis.) United Methodist Church create a banner to support the Nothing But Nets campaign against malaria.
Rashid Warner of Bronx, N.Y., said the five days of activities and
sermons helped him "find a deeper spiritual feeling with God." He
expects to keep contact with other youth he met and to carry the
principles of SPLAT back to his youth group at Butler Memorial United
Messages of the journey
Numerous presenters, including three United Methodist bishops, gave the teens direction toward abundant life.
"Seeking God is a long journey," said Kansas Bishop Scott Jones. "It
involves using the means of grace that God has provided. Youth should
not expect to make progress quickly but should participate in prayer,
worship, Christian conferencing, Holy Communion, Bible study and service
as part of their spiritual lives."
Jones encouraged youth to make the fruits of the spirit part of their
lives as found in Galatians 5:22-23 – love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control – which
are "categories by which you can measure progress."
"If you are more generous a year from now than you are today, then that is God working in you," he said.
During an emphasis on prayer, the youth were reminded that prayer is
an expression of faith in God that can change both people and things.
Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 14:15 that asks "what should I do?" and
directs the reader "to pray with the spirit," Bishop Linda Lee of the
Wisconsin area invited the youth to pray continuously for 21 days for
the people and situations in their lives that are troublesome.
"I invite you to pray for them, pray for God to bless them and pray
for God to give them all of the good things you want for yourself," she
said, challenging them to see what happens at the end of that period.
"I believe that you will find that something has changed. It might not
be the person or the situation, but you might find that at the end of 21
days that you've been changed."
Youth from Messiah United Methodist Church in Springfield, Va., bag
sweet potatoes during a Youth 2007 service project for the Society of
Lee said people often forget the importance of prayer. "Sometimes we give up on God too soon," she said.
Welcoming the stranger
A message from Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Annual
Conference dealt with welcoming the stranger, the alien and the
immigrant and urging youths to break stereotypes, do things outside the
box and advocate for justice.
"I serve an area where immigration is a major concern," she said,
noting that "every day last week one immigrant died in the desert" as
impoverished Mexicans tried to cross into the United States in search of
a better life.
Carcaño asked what Christians should do when they meet an illegal immigrant.
She told the story of visiting the desert with a delegation to learn
about immigration and seeing two boys lying beneath a bush. The children
had been left behind by a smuggler who had no room for them in his
vehicle. The group decided to respect U.S. law. They gave food to the
boys, urged them to turn themselves in to the border patrol and left
them in the desert.
"We left them because the law of this country says that you cannot
transport an undocumented immigrant," she said. "It does not matter if
that immigrant is a young person or even a child; you cannot take them
"It broke my heart to do this," she said, and "it haunts my spirit to
this day to not know what happened to them." The experience left her
"desperately wanting to know what I should do" and asking "as a
Christian, what should I have done?"
Young United Methodists rock to the music of Kutless.
She cited the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and urged the
youths to love their neighbor even if that person is an immigrant or
someone not known to them.
Fun, games and new ministries
Contests and giveaways were all part of the five-day event, including
attempts to break the world record for playing the board game Operation
in less than one minute and two seconds.
While the record listed in the Guinness Book of World Records still
stands, players participating in Operation Vote did manage to help
launch a new United Methodist Web site for teens. As they played
Operation, they voted on the name for the new Igniting Youth interactive
site that invites teen seekers into the life of the church.
The name www.orangefloat.org beat out other nominated names as more than 2,000 teens voted in the contest.
"Orange Float won over some of the more conventional names," said Susan
Crawford, director of Igniting Youth for United Methodist
Communications. The name is derived from the site's orange design and
the movement of the flash. "The home page has constant floating
movement," she said.
Liz Wilson from Wickline United Methodist Church in Midwest City, Okla.,
prays quietly at the center of a prayer labyrinth in the Worship Feast
The newly named site went live on July 13. "It's a tool for local
churches to reach out in their community and put this URL on their
invitations for teen seekers looking for more information," Crawford
In the way of Reality TV, 11-year-old Bailey Trout's moment of fame
came after three days of "Star Search" competition held in the United
Methodist Board of Discipleship's Club Devo Zone. A member of Chickasaw
United Methodist Church, Mobile, Ala., Trout performed "Can't Live
Another Day," which netted her a standing ovation from her peers.
Devozine, the youth magazine from the Board of Discipleship's Upper
Room Ministries, also recently held a youth songwriting contest, and
Elizabeth Cumbest, 16, performed the winning song "Seashore" at Youth
2007. Elizabeth was a resident of the Gulf Coast prior to Hurricane
Katrina and wrote the song in memory of the Seashore Mission in Biloxi,
Miss., which was wiped out by the 2005 storm. The song has been recorded
onto a CD to raise money for the rebuilding of the mission.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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