SCHOORL, The Netherlands — Young Anabaptists from Portugal, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain, Ukraine and the Netherlands went “on the road” at the first edition of Menno’s Global Youth Assembly.
The European gathering was an opportunity to exchange, talk, listen, reflect, laugh, pray, sing, make music, eat and share together over Ascension weekend May 30-June 2 at Dopersduin retreat center.
Learning from and inspiring each other, participants gained hope that there’s more to bring them together than divide them.
At the beginning of the conference, many of the 45 European Mennonites kept to their own group, but soon enough all nationalities mingled. The best example was the multinational choir that spontaneously formed during the Sunday morning worship service. Over the weekend, several participants led the group in singing songs from their home countries.
From every country, people shared stories and thoughts on what it is like to be a young Anabaptist and the challenges they face. The group from Ukraine shared their story of being a church on the front line of a war zone. It was an impressive and emotional call that touched the hearts of all listeners.
Difficulties and blessings
The weekend was filled with workshops, guest lectures and excursions. Discussion topics included the difficulties and blessings of interreligious relations and acknowledgment that freedom and peace are more than the absence of war.
Participants talked about the connection between the movement of refugees and climate change and tried to find answers to how to live a sustainable life.
They interpreted the story of Emmaus (Luke 24) from different contexts and used biblical stories as the lead for improvisational theater.
Through the story of Jonah in evening services, there was reflection on themes such as calling, hope in spite of feeling lost, and transformation.
Excursions offered chances to learn about Mennonite history in Witmarsum or Amsterdam and to experience the natural world in the dunes of Schoorl.
Through singing, reflection and prayer, attendees discovered what it means to be on the road together — to walk together as one church. At the closing service, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated.
Suitcase of hope
Menno’s Global Youth Assembly is an initiative of the young Dutch organization Menno’s Global Village, which seeks to encourage and support young adults ages 18-30 to gain enriching, lifelong experiences within the international Mennonite network. It is hoped the assembly will become an annual event.
The delegation from Spain left with the intent to organize the weekend next year. Planners handed over a suitcase with a symbolic “starters’ package” with decorations for the assembly, which they called “our suitcase of hope.” And so the road goes on.