Youth Participation in Botswana: “Warriors in Christ”

By Thato Ramakoba, Botswana   Is pledging time for church really worth it? Allow me, for minute, to

Rock’n'Roll ministry in Japan

Blog post by Rev. Kazuhiro Sekino, Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Japan BOXI ROCKS – Japanese

Reformation Day Online: Join the Virtual Conference of the Global Young Reformers Network

  “Freed by God’s love- to change the world” This is the first virtual conference of the

 

Youth Participation in Botswana: “Warriors in Christ”

November 14, 2014 in Africa, Church, Youth, Youth Ministry, Youth participation

By Thato Ramakoba, Botswana
 

Is pledging time for church really worth it?

Allow me, for minute, to take you back to my childhood. We had quite a big family, an extended family for that matter and we weren’t well-off, sometimes we’d sleep on empty stomachs, be it on a Saturday night but one thing for sure we did was to go to church on every Sunday. Grandma would wake us early in the mornings and have us prepare and get ready for church, which would be situated just a stone’s throw away from our compound, we obviously walked, and along the way we’d go knocking at our friends’ houses and have them tag along. We didn’t have so many ties and obligations, and indeed life was wonderful! I was in the choir and yeah I sang a little bit in Sunday school. Grandma taught us the golden rules, the 10 commandments, and she said, “Son do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, she said, “Don’t steal”, “Don’t bear false witness against your neighbour” and so on, you know all the things good parents try to instil into their children. But as a child, particularly, a teenager, trouble was never far away from me, time and again, I would find myself in the wrong side of what I was advised against. And umm, she said, “Thato, stay out of trouble”, I tried to be as good a child can be amidst all the confusion.

With that said, let’s now get back to the substance of the question which has been put forth. Is pledging time for church really worth it? I am going to leave it all up to you to decide if the answer given really satisfies the praiseworthiness of pledging our time to the church.

Let me first start by reflecting on what the church is.

The church is the body of Christ—a group of people unified (Ephesians 4:1-3) under Christ, who represent and reflect Him to the world (1 Corinthians 12:12-17). The purpose of the church is to join people of different backgrounds and talents and provide them training and opportunities for God’s work. It accomplishes these both internally, within the body, and externally, in the world.

Acts 2:42 explains the internal function of the church: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Jesus entrusted the church with the task to teach the body sound doctrine. There are many influences in the world that claim to have the truth, but God entrusted His word to the church (Ephesians 4:14). Still, knowledge of doctrine is useless if it isn’t used (1 Corinthians 13:2): “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV). Sound teaching leads to spiritual maturity which leads to building up the body of Christ.

The purpose of the church is also to provide a place to “break bread.”

Often, this means just eating together and living life together (Acts 2:42). Formally, we break bread at the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The practice of the Lord’s Supper unifies us as it reminds us that we are all saved by Christ’s sacrifice. Practically, it also provides an opportunity to reconcile differences and right wrongs as we examine our interactions with fellow believers (1 Corinthians 11:27-28).

The natural result of sound teaching and a unified body is that the members of the church will take care of each other. The most powerful way to care for others is to pray for them (Acts 2:42). Just as the early church prayed for each other (Acts 12:5; Philippians 1:3-4), so we should bring each others’ needs before God (Philippians 4:6-7). Within the church we are also called to show honour (Romans 12:10), compassion (Ephesians 4:32), encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and love (1 John 3:11). And we are to meet each others’ practical needs. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” One of the primary purposes of the church is to provide for the needs of its members (Acts 20:34-35; Romans 15:26).

Externally, the purpose of the church is to fulfil the Great Commission as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20. There is no nobler purpose for the church than to introduce others to Christ. We do this in part by making sure we faithfully represent Him and become who He has called us to be. Philippians 2:15 exhorts us to be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” Whether we witness to people in our neighbourhoods or send others to foreign lands, the church is called to manifest the Holy Spirit in us by embodying Jesus’ character and telling others about Him.

The purpose of the church is to be the believer’s spiritual family.

It is through the church that God takes people with different personalities and gifts, unifies them as a single body, and equips them to care for each other and reach the world. We were not meant to live the Christian life alone; surrounded by the biblical teaching and loving community of the church, together we find our own purpose in life.

The (LWF Strategy 2012 -2017) demands that young people must have a place and a voice in all aspects of church and communion life,

including decision making and leadership; its in this respect, that Warriors In Christ, an initiative by Thato Ramakoba of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana came into being. The main aim of Warriors In Christ is to help mobilize the youth to take interest in church activities, it supports the view that the interest of the church lies with the youth who are in truth the moral fibre of the church, therefore, its the responsibility of the youth to ensure that the welfare of the church is maintained sustainably without discrediting it in anyway. Like warriors our interest lies with the church, we would do anything for the church to ensure that it achieves its set goals and targets. Our audience is the youth themselves; simply put, we’re the stewards, and we provide our services as per our varying talents to the church without any expectation.

As Warriors In Christ we stand by the values of commitment

and shared responsibility thus we long to know each other and through this initiative we also intend to recruit other people to take the interest in sharing responsibilities in the church and come up with more ideas which will see the church changing its complexion for the better. In the fall of August, we launched our first activity at our Youth Centre (Galaletsang Youth Centre) where our Head Office is housed. . Prior to the 9th of August 2014, we sat down as an Interim Committee and decided on what activity to embark on; we then unanimously agreed that we’d do the cleaning of the entire centre. We started off the activity with introductions and a mini orientation of what Warriors In Christ is and its intentions as well as the introduction of our first activity. With pleasure, majority of the youth from the Central Circuit were in attendance, the activity started, we did all that was agreed upon in one spirit. Early evening, we had barbecue with some veggies and pap (pap is a traditional porridge/polenta made from mielie-meal and a staple food of the Bantu inhabitants of Southern Africa) around the bonfire. It is at the bonfire where we got to know each other at a personal level; we passed jokes, told stories and shared our visions for the ELCB. Seeing that it was getting late, we had a closing mass prayer and called off the day. Fun we had, thanks to LWF and the Central Circuit Youth for the cooperation!

 
Author: Thato Ramakoba who is the Warriors In Christ Coordinator in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana

Info:  This youth participation initiative was funded by the LWFyouth program “Inclusive communion-Youth Participation”, small grants can be applied here: http://lwfyouth.org/2014/03/20/lwf-supports-your-initiative-on-youth-participation/

Rock’n'Roll ministry in Japan

October 21, 2014 in Asia/Pacific, Evangelism, Faith, Life, Spirituality, Youth Ministry

Blog post by Rev. Kazuhiro Sekino, Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Japan

BOXI ROCKS – Japanese Lutheran Pastors’ Rock Band

The percentage of Christianity in Japan is very small, less than 1%.

And the atmosphere in many churches is just like in school, it is like in a  class room where the teacher gives a lecture and the students just receive. Also, general people think that only Christian people can go to church.

If we keep going this way, the living gospel never reach the people. In order to break this boundary Lutheran Pastors and seminarians have started the Pastors’ Rock band “Boxi rocks”  for touching young peoples’ hearts!
Who is Boxi Rocks?

Japanese Lutheran Pastors and seminarians started the group in 2013. That same year they performed with a Buddhist monk band. Together they sold out live clubs where they played. Their performance was broadcasted as a story for BBC world news. Boxi ROCKS continues to perform Rock’n Roll and bring new energy to the Japanese Christianity.
They hope to schedule a world tour and perform in Germany in 2017 for the 500th anniversary of Marthin Luther’s reformation.

If you want us to perform in your place please contact k-sekino(at)jelc.or.jp

Here is our Music Video!

Reformation Day Online: Join the Virtual Conference of the Global Young Reformers Network

October 18, 2014 in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Church, Climate Justice, Europe, Global Young Reformers Network, North America, Spirituality, Tools, Youth Ministry, Youth participation

 

“Freed by God’s love- to change the world”

This is the first virtual conference of the LWF Global Young Reformers Network (GYRN) and is being held on Reformation Day 2014.

Keynote speeches, panel discussions and workshops will explore questions of Christian faith and Lutheran identity. Participants will be able to delve deeper in discussions in small groups.

The Conference will start with online Reformation Day worship service. The special highlight will be a virtual choir bringing together dozens of singers via the Internet.

Workshop topics include:

  • Foundations of the LWF foundations
  • Principle of youth participation
  • Identity and diversity of the Lutheran communion
  • Advocacy for climate justice
  • And many more…

Participants will at the end of the conference have the opportunity to vote on Young Reformers priorities.

Speakers from all generations

Speakers include Rev. Martin Junge, LWF General Secretary; Ms Eun-Hae Kwon, LWF Vice-President for the Asia region; GYRN Steering Committee members; and members of the LWF delegation to the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change and UN Climate Summit 2014 held in New York in September

Participation in all time zones

On 31 October 2014, the conference will be held in two time blocks to facilitate participation regardless of time zone.
Round 1: Time Hong Kong 20:00/ Time Geneva14:00/ Time Chicago 7:00
Round 2: Time Hong Kong 1:00/ Time Geneva19:00/ Time Chicago 12:00

Register in the Social Network to join

Young reformers and other interested people throughout the world are invited to take part in this 3-hour, interactive online event.

To take part, visit the Conference Website.  Please register by becoming a member of the ongoing social network for the LWF Global Young Reformers Network.

You can download the Conference Poster here

 

LWFyouth Feature Story: Youth Participation from Theory to Practice

August 6, 2014 in Church, Climate Justice, Eco Justice, Fast for the Climate, LWF, Pre-Assembly, Tools, Youth, Youth Ministry, Youth participation

A young woman gets off the train, somewhere in a big city in India. She is welcomed by a large crowd of people and media teams. People greet her and surround her. Some offer her flowers and sing cheerful songs. They want to know everything…everything about what happened during her long travel abroad. Everything on how she made her people and her church known in such a big conference, among politicians and faith leaders of the world.

How did this all happen?

When I met this young woman two months earlier in a small town in the state Orissa, she was helping to organise a youth conference on Ecological and Social Justice. More than 500 young people, Lutherans and youth from other faith background had arrived. She spoke to the workshop groups and moderated sessions in her very calm and humble, but determined way. Already this surprised me as I had not seen many young Indian women leading, yet.

The young people met and celebrated, worshiped and sang together and they seriously engaged in many discussions about Climate Change and how it can be handled. They negotiated a statement to deliver to their church leaders. They talked about action points and how to engage as a church for more climate justice.

Then super Typhoon Phaillin arrived.

And changed theory to practice in one day. Storm and rain, fear of losing the houses and belongings, anxiousness to not reach home safely suddenly mixed up the gathering.

The organisers decided to stop the youth conference and send everyone home quickly to be with their families. Climate Change had changed the Climate Change conference… One million people lost everything and became homeless because of Phaillin.

Only a month later this young woman travelled to Europe. She was invited to attend the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Warsaw. LWF had decided to send an entirely young delegation to negotiate, advocate and liaise with other faith organizations for together demanding more climate justice.

The visibility of LWF became enormous as the young delegation had decided to „Fast for the Climate“ during the Conference. They inspired other faith representatives to join into an „Interfaith call to Fast for Climate Justice“. They organized two press conferences at this UN Climate summit to speak about the effects of extreme water to people of their churches and their communities. The young women spoke about Super Thypoon Phaillin that had just hit her people so hard.

She got in contact with the official Indian delegation to speak with them about Climate politics, she contacted local media in India to report about the conference and LWFs engagement, and she met with LWF partners who supported this program.

Youth participation means to take decision making positions

All in all she made visible what effective youth participation means for the LWF:

“Youth participation is allowing young people to take leading and decision making positions and let their voices be heard. Young people show interest in programs and activities when their fellow youths are leading or if they took part in the planning and preparation of the program” (Respondent from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi)

Youth Participation means active sharing of ideas, resources, participation and time, so that participants feel that they belong to the community of the congregation and the church. A chance to feel that one is a valued member and a person who has a chance to do something at the community.” (Respondent from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland)

 

This is not always the case as we have heard from others in the „Mapping of Youth participation“ that the LWF Youth Desk carried out in 2013 and where more than 60% of the LWF member churches respondent to the questionnaire.

Some also described the challenges of being a young church member:

 “I feel that youth are always provided a “token” role in leadership and very seldom are actually valued for their opinions and abilities. Overall, with my experiences I have had within the ELCIC and the LWF, I find that people take me seriously for what I have to say as a delegate, and not a “youth delegate”. Making this distinction is important as I think that many youth get discouraged when the Church says “we value youth and your ideas” but then don’t give us full clout when we provide it. In my case, people take me seriously because I have had a large number of opportunities with the LWF, but I would say I am an exception, not the rule.”  (Respondent from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)

Where is the current engagement on Youth Participation grounded?

It comes from the youth delegates themselves, expressing their wishes and vision in the Pre-Assembly Youth Message from 2010. They expressed 3 priorities that were presented to the 11th Assembly in Stuttgart and that lead our work in DMD:

  1. Ecological Sustainability
  2. Gender Justice
  3. Visibility of the LWF and Role of the Youth

LWF has then committed to the goal that

“Young people have a place and a voice in all aspects of church and communion life, including decision making and leadership.”

The LWF Delegations to UN Climate conferences is one example on how to empower, enrich and benefit from the manifold gifts of our young communion members.

It shows that by seriously engaging young leaders of the LWF in topics that are challenging the entire LWF communion much progress can be taken.

It has provided them capacity building, capacity for advocacy and brought back to the LWF communion the energy and hope in contemporary challenges, spiritual reflection and powerful advocacy work for the poor and vulnerable.

How can the LWF increase those opportunities and improve its mandate to uplift „Youth participation as a crosscutting priority“ in all its programs and governing bodies as it is stated in the LWF strategy 2012-2017?

Clearly there are three dimensions of participation that need to be considered:

a)    Spiritual participation- Youth are taking part in the spiritual and theological development of the church.

b)    Social participation-  being in relations with others, other generations, other peers, being in and forming the communion

c)    Political participation- being part of decision making bodies and churches governance, having a voice to speak out and being listened to

Only with those three together can we reach better youth participation and making it an aspect of each and every aspect of churches life.

The LWF delegation to the UN Conference on Climate change did not stop there. They gave interviews to 40 different national and international media. They used the chance to meet the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Ms Christina Figueres, to hand over the „Interfaith Call to Fast for the Climate“ they had initiated and to discuss with her the engagement of faith communities for climate justice. This lead into LWFs delegation into the “International faith-based Liaison Committee to the UNFCCC Secretariat“ to represent the LWF and the young generation. The delegates continue their engagement locally and globally by forming the “LWF working group on Climate Justice“ in 2014.

The young woman from India, Ms Pranita Biswasi, 24 years old, has now gone further with her engagement. Her church and their partner church offered her a scholarship to study one more year environmental science in a German Univerity- following the goal to become an excellent leader for a church, that was hit hard by effects of extreme weather events and needs young Lutherans to speak out, be listened to and act.

What does LWFyouth do?

The LWF Youth Desk carries on the responsibility and accountably to more and more involve those young talents in the development and on-going reformation of our churches.

Please join us in supporting; trusting and giving space to those young leaders of our communion that are not only the leaders of tomorrow but already of today.

Download and start using the LWF Mapping of Youth Participation and Leadership.

 

by Caroline Richter, LWF Youth Secretary