28th August 2017
First impressions are lasting. And without a doubt, the first impression of SDA youth from the Scottish Mission as they alighted from Ryanair Flight No. FR7618 to commence their week-long stay in Valencia, Spain, at the European Youth Congress 2017, was that there would not only be sunshine in their souls, but that it would also be more glorious and bright all around them! The week certainly lived up to this dual expectation!
Dubbed, “The Journey”, the AYC 2017 provided a welcome period of rejuvenation and recommitment to God, as it encouraged participants through worship sessions, workshops, vlogs and various activities to embark upon an expedition where Jesus would take full command of the driver’s seat. Through his quirky anecdotes and contortive facial expressions, feature speaker- Sam Leonor- captured the attention of his youth audience and implored them to surrender control to Christ and to make Jesus the centre of their choices and their lives!
Daily workshops helped to nurture the individuality, spiritual gifts and creative ministries of attendees, and features such as the Prayer Room and The Story of A Nail- where participants were urged to become involved in drawing the face of Jesus to make the Largest Iron Nail Mosaic of the World and thereby beat the Guinness World Record- reminded attendees of their rich SDA history and of the power that is always available for their access from an ever-loving and imaginative God!
The singing of the Theme Song- Let’s Take This Road Together- cultivated a spirit of oneness, and stirred within the hearts of attendees the awareness that they are part of a global movement of Adventist Youth who are united in faith and a genuine desire to build the Kingdom of Heaven here and to look forward to the culmination of the journey upon the return of Christ- the Kingdom of Heaven prepared for us!
Whilst the services and sessions looked after the shining of the Son within, several features facilitated the enjoyment of the sun and warm weather on the outside. Attendants were invited to morning stretches, city tours, sports and games and chill-out corners, which provided social time to mingle and possibly find the love of your life. Many seeds were certainly planted and one could only wait to see which would bear fruit!
Worthy of mention were two young Scot-raelites, who were lured by the promises and beauty of the Tent City Auditorium- the main type of accommodation offered to participants at the Feria Valencia, the site of the congress- with one thereafter choosing to forsake the pleasures of dorm-room accommodation at the Student Hall of the University of Valencia, to enjoy the beloved affliction of tent and ground accommodation in the said Tent City. 2
Indeed, it was no easy decision to determine how one would spend one’s time at the congress, so plentiful were the enticing offerings of activities. If one didn’t choose to do any of the above-mentioned, there was still IMPACT- the use of colourful, happy and inventive methods, such as distributing free bottled water, giving free massages and flash mobs, to share the gospel in the city; the Internet café; the Art Gallery, where the opportunity was given to express oneself through different art forms; and the Exhibition of Nations and Ministries, where the innovation of God was truly displayed through the taste of cultures from the various countries within the Inter-European and Trans-European Divisions and where great information and resources were offered to those seeking to expand their ministry, or embark upon a new academic or missionary frontier.
The Scottish Mission booth was particularly interesting as it featured a Scottish Jeopardy game, the delectable Scottish shortbread and a poetry competition which challenged entrants to write a poem using the letters of the word ‘Scotland’ to begin each line. France copped first and second place in the competition, with two budding Shakespeares from Hungary claiming third place. And if all else failed, runaway visits to the beach were quite permissible during free time and proved a pleasurable option for many!
Of course, as with every youth event, food could be a challenge. And although the social interaction whilst eating with new friends helped to ease the dismay caused by some of the menus, it wasn’t sufficient to restrain participants from scouting for more familiar food offerings. Much to the chagrin of the Youth Sponsor of the Scottish Mission, there were nightly scavenges for kebabs, pizza and chips with cock-a-doodle-doo. A valiant effort was made to steer his charges back to the Edenic diet by the posting of good, healthy, green substances in group chats, but same didn’t quite appeal to the palette or eyesight of those to be encouraged. Compromise was however struck when participants tasted of the smooth and rich Venetta ice cream, which is ranked 1st in Spain and 7th in the world and offers both vegan and regular ice cream for sale.
With its plethora of spectacles, AYC 2017 “The Journey” certainly proved to be an uplifting and memorable event, which served to inspire a deeper personal faith, strong friendships with SDA youth, a fervent desire to commit to service to God and everyone around us and a passionate hope in the second coming of Jesus! One can only look forward to the inaugural celebration that would occur, when each participant who responded to God’s invitation to journey on while walking along the corridors of the Feria Valencia during August 1st-5th, 2017, walks along the streets of gold in Heaven to meet their friend and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in whom we find our true journey home!