Original post at http://methodistyouthpres.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-highlight-of-my-trip.html
From Friday until Sunday I had the pleasure of joining in with the biannual meeting of the Confederation of Youth of the Methodist Church Brazil. They were meeting at the National Headquarters, Sao Paolo, and the agenda included structure and organisation, youth training and mission projects for this coming year. The group consists of the executive – a President (Renato), Vice President (Sinval), Secretary (Cacau), Finance Officer (Simone) and Communication Officer (Julio) – and a president and/or vice president of each of the 8 regions.
The Confederation covers the 18-35 age group, so significantly different from the Children and Youth remit of GB which is up to 23 years. The Confederation is the national body, and each region has a Federation. The executive serve for 5 years and the regional people for two, although they can be re-elected. Their vision is “Being young people committed to the Methodist Church fulfilling their prophetic role in society and in the Church's decisions, reflecting the unity of the Body of Christ” and the team’s theme for this five years is “Connected to Serve”. They have a lovely attitude of serving and wanting to not just pick the easy bits of God’s calling; prosperity theology is common in Brazil and Latin America in general where status is very important. They are all volunteers and extremely dedicated and hardworking. They are doing a wonderful job with little resources compared to Great Britain and no paid national children and youth staff. In fact, it is unknown to have paid youth, children's or family workers in churches or the community in Brazil which really surprised me - the job just doesn't exist. I would love to see an increase in investing in children and young people in this way in the future in Brazil - perhaps the Methodist Church could lead the way?!
Most of them have known each other and been working together for a number of years so they are good friends and laughter regularly run around the room. It wasn’t a sort of friendship that excludes new people though – in fact I felt completely welcome and comfortable. It’s strange how strong the inclination to laugh when a whole room is laughing is, even when you don’t know why everyone is laughing!
I didn’t attend all the parts of the meetings as they had a lot of business to get through and some just wasn’t necessary for me to be involved in, so I had the luxury of catching up on sleep and emails, and Skyping some family and friends, which was really nice. The Confederation looked after me really well!
On Friday night I joined a meeting with the ‘Malta’ section of the Confederation. Malta is the mission branch of the Confederation. They are currently planning mission activities during the Confederation Cup (June 2013) and the World Cup (June & July 2014) and I was able to tell them about the missional activities of the church in Great Britain during the Olympics and Paralympics, speaking about national events I’d heard of and on a more personal level of my experiences through my in depth involvement with Refresh, an ecumenical project in Weymouth and Portland (sailing events venue). Got really great feedback and they said it had really inspired them about what a great opportunity sporting events are and how much we can do to bless, engage with and show God’s heart to our communities and visitors.
On Saturday I had the opportunity to talk to the whole group about the Methodist Church in Great Britain and ended up talking for two hours!! I expected I’d only last an hour – can’t believe I had that much information in my brain! Just shows how things sink in when you are in an environment consistently and for a while. I covered general recent history, national structure, my role, the Connexional team, children and youth work including the Youth Participation Strategy, 3Generate, the Reps, the One Programme, the vision of the church, Venture FX, the development of the Learning Network and the general current situation of Christianity in the UK.
They asked a number of questions and I really hope the time was interesting and useful. I’ve certainly found it both interesting and useful learning about how the Confederation works and about the Methodist Church in Brazil and the ‘Christian scene’ generally. As I’ve seen things done differently I’ve felt both the warm glow of appreciation at what we have, and pangs of jealousy when things are done better – and challenge is good and inspiring so I am thankful for that. I think it’s really good and important to step out of your bubble once in a while so you can see what others are like, and consequently really see what YOU are like.
On Sunday we got to the really exciting bit – talking about how young people in Brazil and Great Britain can partner together. Loads of great ideas, some simple yet effective and some way out there! Watch this space J
My time with the Confederation has been my favourite part of my trip to Brazil – quite a big statement when I think about the crazy adventures I’ve had here! However cool flying over the Sahara Desert or canoeing down the Amazon is, what I really love is being creative with other people about something that I am passionate about. It was a joy to spend time with young people who love being together, love God and love their country and their church. Seeking the Kingdom with great friends – I think it’s one of the best things in life and it’s great to see it happening in the Confederation of Youth of the Methodist Church in Brazil. I’m glad to have made some new friends and am thankful for the inspiration and challenge God has given me through my time with them.
On the topic of friends, and with the fact that being away from home can make you feel a bit sentimental, I’m also really thankful for the friends that I have made in the Methodist Church in Great Britain, of all ages and from all sorts of places. As a relative ‘newbie’ to all this, it really means a lot when people help me understand something or tell me I am doing a good job as it can all be rather overwhelming. The thoughtful messages I have had from numerous people and prayers of which I have been ensure have encouraged me so much these past 3 weeks, and I’m really grateful. (And of course I appreciate the love and prayers of non-Methodist friends!!)
God, I pray that you would help us to strengthen and deepen our relationships with others, those on our doorsteps, those we love, those we struggle to get along with, and those across the other side of the world. Through these relationships may we learn to become more like you Jesus.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend”