The assembly was attended by leaders of 150 international religious nonprofits - some of whom also sent a youth delegate. Together, the 30 youth delegates encouraged and challenged each other in how to seek biblical justice. In my reflection of my experience I have taken note of Isaiah 1:17:
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
I have been focusing on the “Learn to do right” (17a).
"The prospect of facing the world's problems terrify many from my generation."
Spending a week with justice leaders and activist ‘giants’ strengthened my faith and challenged my definition of justice.
How important it is that we surround ourselves with people who actively teach us how to do right?
As someone who is still trying to discern future steps, how much more important that I continually seek counsel from Christian Mentors.
Throughout the week at ACT, I was continually amazed at the empathy, strength, and wisdom of the leaders of these respective organizations. It was evident throughout the deliberations, meal-times, and even Swedish Fika (my favourite part of Swedish culture) that these leaders strived for redemption on earth. Specifically, watching the World Renew delegates challenge norms and seek truth made me proud to be part of the CRCNA.
During the closing ceremony of the Assembly, I had the opportunity to share some thoughts from the youth participants. Here is a small piece of that speech.
“The youth of today are fighting for the same causes as all of you; we want to see the Sustainable Development Goals (UN) come true. We all want a world where there is peace, equality, and justice. We want a place to lay our head at night and send our kids to school. We have evidence of the youth’s capacity for change through the stories just shared and we have evidence of the abilities of everyone else here through this past week. The youth have been inspired and impressed by the care, passion, and experience in this room. As the youth, we want to learn and be mentored by role-models such as yourself, but we also want to be heard. Her Excellency, Ms. Amina Mohammed (Deputy Secretary-General of the UN) put it well; “If the faith-based organizations do not include their youth, then the Faith-Based Organizations will be left behind because the youth are marching on!” We as youth firmly believe that there needs to be space within every single organization for youth participation. I want you all to go home to your organizations and look for the youth - and if you cannot find them, then go out and welcome them in. I guarantee that there are youth in your local communities who share your same vision.
By creating proper avenues for youth to express their knowledge and skills, you also foster a community of youth who can be can be mentored.
The prospect of facing the world's problems terrify many from my generation. We have seen generations before us aim for justice and fall short. I do not believe it is simply bad luck that problems are inherited from generation to generation - but rather, it is evidence of our broken humanity. But, as Christians, we have a call to be stewards of this earth. We need to restore the relationships between each other, humans and the earth, and with our God. And this week I have seen a glimpse of that unity. Even within broken procedures and contrasting beliefs, this week we defied the odds and worked together to address the issues of the world - as a global church.
"Trust, mentor, and then hand over the keys to leadership."
This is the calling from the youth - let us work together with you. We have no desire to fight against you, but rather to walk with you. Trust, mentor, and then hand over the keys to leadership. Help us not make the same mistakes previous generations have made.”
I echo this call from the youth again. If I learned anything from the ACT Alliance it would be:
Youth possess skills, passion, and time; these attributes combined with the experience and wisdom of the older generations create a powerful combo. Sometimes, as youth, we hide behind our phones or huddle together in church sanctuaries; but, I promise, we want to learn from the older generations just as much as you desire to mentor us.
Having witnessed some of the excellent work being done by the global Church I left the Assembly encouraged and hopeful for the future.
Ben VanderWindt served in Uganda in the summer of 2018 through EMBARK, offered by World Renew's Global Volunteer Program.