Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples! Psalm 96:2-3
Looking out on the city below, the roads are busy but traffic is flowing. The sun is shining and the leaves on the trees are swaying gently in the breeze. This is Jakarta, and it’s the first official day of the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG2016). The Indonesian hospitality has been fantastic and the general vibe of the conference venue has been one of love, connection, and expectancy. It’s very good to be here.
After several months of fervent prayer and meticulous planning, nearly 1,000 participants and mentors from more than 140 countries have descended on the city for this once-in-a-generation gathering. The corridors, stairwells, and green spaces around the venue are buzzing with great energy—noisy chatter and myriad accents—a clear sign that the jetlag is wearing off. Praise the Lord! One participant simply said, ‘I had very good sleep. I slept well and long!’
The gathering has seen an impressive and unprecedented use of technology. According to another delegate, ‘Silicon Valley is here!’ The planning and communications teams have been particularly effective at creating seamless communication processes which include a well-received conference app. The app provides vital information such as daily schedules, participant profiles, a direct messaging function, and more.
The YLG seeks to connect emerging leaders who are passionately committed to God’s mission. In the last 24 hours, I have had excellent conversations with brothers and sisters from different countries such as South Africa, Mexico, England, Iceland, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, the US, Hungary, Israel, and many more. This is what makes Lausanne and the YLG special. Members of the worldwide church are here to share ideas and resources with the goal of reaching the world with the good news of the Lord Jesus. James Gwyn-Thomas, an Anglican minister from northwest England said: ‘Being here is humbling. Everyone’s got a great story and is serving in a beautiful way. It’s amazing to see what God is doing globally.’
The YLG2016 theme ‘United in the Great Story’ aims to give the younger leaders a fresh vision of the Great Story our God has been crafting from Creation to New Creation via the cross. Every continent and people group across all history is part of this. The teaching sessions began tonight with a stellar speaker line-up for this week which includes Marina Silva, Os Guinness, Becky Pippert, Mutua Mahiaini, and more.
Several participants have spoken of how God really came through for them and provided the resources to travel to Jakarta. Each person has had to raise the funds, a process that can sometimes be difficult and discouraging. Praise God that many are sharing stories of God’s kindness and grace to them. Janet Sewell, an Icelandic missionary to Greece, testified of how God provided the exact amount of money needed. ‘I only received an invitation to the gathering two months ago. The Lord provided the exact amount of money I needed even before I said yes.’ Others have also shared stories of amazement at how God has used other believers to get delegates here. Ernestine Kamarora from Rwanda told of how a Christian friend actually ran a fundraising campaign on her behalf. Raissa Mwizero from Burundi said, ‘Being here is like a dream. The money was so big for me. But it’s been an encouragement to achieve the goal of raising the money.’
Amidst the joys and encouragements, there has also been difficulty. A group of Nigerian participants have had one of the most challenging experiences in getting to the gathering. A series of visa denials, cancelled flights, and financial challenges have delayed their travel. However just today, some of the team arrived in Jakarta. Group leader pastor Ebenezer Okechukwu said that it is very obvious who’s brought them here—a gracious God. The Lord has been faithful, and we continue to pray for the rest of the team still trying to be in attendance.
Many participants are glad to be here because this provides a wonderful opportunity to rest and recharge. Although he misses his wife and 1-year old son, Konstantin Bangert, a pastor from Kazakhstan, is looking forward to a period of refreshment and the chance to rethink his ministries back home. He particularly plans to work together with three friends who have recently committed their lives to serving the church full-time for the next year.
There are many good things happening at the YLG. All these things reminded me of the two verses from Psalm 96 above. Whatever the circumstances, we can sing to the Lord and bless his name. The mission of our lives is to declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all people. What a privilege!
With a lot to take in and countless people to speak to, what will the fruit of YLG2016 be? James Gwyn-Thomas sums it up well: ‘Fruit will only come if our identity and outlook is rooted in who God is and what he’s already doing.’
Chipo Muwowo is a freelance writer bringing stories alive at the 2016 Lausanne YLG. He was born and raised in Kitwe, Zambia and now lives on the south coast of England.