The ONE Encounter programme gives young people opportunities to encounter a different part of the world, a different way of life, or some other experience to open and broaden their minds. Louise Westoby is one of a group of young British Methodists who went to Haiti in July this year on a trip organised by the ONE Encounter programme in partnership with the World Church Relationships Team of The Methodist Church in Britain.
We visited youth groups in several churches, taking part and leading workshops with each group. Together we explored life as a young Christian in Haiti and Britain, and the broader challenges our churches face.
In the UK, it can be easy to go through your week without giving your faith much thought, saving it for church on Sunday. However, for these young Haitians, faith seemed to be weaved into all aspects of their lives – even affecting how they dress, their social groups and the music they listen to. Faith was integral for them and they seemed very keen to be actively involved in church life. This is great news for the Church in Haiti, in which the average age of attendees is relatively young. If you are over 35, you are considered an older member of the congregation – a far cry from the situation in Britain!
Many young people we spoke to are already putting themselves forward for positions of responsibility in the Church: leading worship, helping in children’s activities, reading Scripture and even teaching. However, conversations with them revealed that even though they were in these roles, they still were unable to influence much change within the Church. Their voices were not being heard and there was far more that could be done to equip them better for the jobs they did.
As a group, we came away from this trip massively inspired and encouraged, having seen the strength of faith and enthusiasm these young Haitians had. We were challenged to look at the ways we and other young people serve in our own churches, and to do this with the same joy and enthusiasm we saw. Bigger than this, though, we saw a challenge to the wider Church: to look at ways that we can value the young people in our congregations and support them in the roles they are called to. These young people will go on to shape the Church of tomorrow. The journey has already started; what can we do to help?
Watch the video below to meet the team and hear more about their experiences. https://vimeo.com/244011283
This article originally appeared in World Church News.