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Nordic, Baltic youth look to future

 


Nordic, Baltic youth look to future

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Bishop �ystein Olsen called this an �historic gathering.�
Nov. 16, 2004

By Markus Norrby*

SANTALA, Finland (UMNS) — Almost 100 youth leaders from six countries in the United Methodist Church’s Northern European Area gathered for the first time for a weekend of fellowship and training.

"This is a historic gathering," said Bishop Øystein Olsen, at the opening of the Nov. 11-14 conference. "This is the first time something like this has been arranged for the Nordic and Baltic states together."

The Methodist Nordic Youth Council sponsored the event, and all the practical arrangements were made by the Youth Department of the Swedish-speaking United Methodist Church in Finland. The conference drew young leaders from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The mornings and evenings featured worship and teaching, and participants attended seminars during the afternoons. The seminars addressed such topics as leadership and practical tools for youth and children’s ministry.

Andy Frost, son of English Methodist evangelist Rob Frost, was the main speaker at the event. Frost, who works through the organization Share Jesus International, was also responsible for the Bible teaching, together with the Rev. Hans Växby from Finland and the Rev. Üllas Tankler of Estonia.

Frost also held a seminar called "Pioneering Front-line Mission in Today’s Europe" to inspire young people to evangelize in new and creative ways.

In all of the Northern European countries, the United Methodist Church is small – numbering nearly 13,000 members, according to the 2002 General Minutes – and an important aim of the conference was to show youth from different places that they are not alone as Methodists. The event enabled youth leaders to network with one another and build relationships, paving the way for more cooperation and youth exchanges in the future.

Forging those ties was especially important for young people from the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where the traditions of Methodism are not so strong.

Participants also said they were amazed at how strongly they felt God’s presence during worship sessions.

"This was a truly fantastic amazing conference," said Andreas Forsbäck, one of the organizers. "God moved in a much stronger way than we even had dared to pray for. We are really excited to see where this will lead. We are really excited about what God is going to do among youth in our nations in the future."

*Norrby works with youth in the Finland Swedish Provisional Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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