Edinburgh 2010: How do young people get involved?
By Fofo Lerefolo
It’s been 100 years since delegates met in Edinburgh to discuss the state of world missions, and many momentous, world-changing decisions were made. I sit now, a young South African, in 2010, part of the centenary celebrations. My presence here shows just how much the times have changed. In 1910, a mostly male, all-Western, all-adult delegation met. I represent the opposite of all that – young, female and African. But I have to ask myself, what does this conference mean: for me personally; for the youth I represent; for the country I am from?
Mission is no longer an activity solely of the West – young Christian South Africans are as able to go into all nations and make disciples as any other. Africa is no longer a dark continent. The gospel and light of Jesus shines strong here. And it shines out of the youth. It’s time we mobilised and released our young people into mission, instead of only being a nation that receives missionaries. Edinburgh 2010 should not only be a meeting of minds, of discussions and academia. It needs to be a springboard, a reminder that all Christians everywhere carry the light of Jesus and can go into all the world, and that young South Africans (and indeed young people the world over) are a powerful missionary force.
This is a challenge and proactive look at how youth can do effective mission both within and beyond the church walls. There are shortcuts in youth ministry but there is an amazing truth in work alongside. How can the youth of today be missionaries and make our voice heard in issues that affect us everyday socially, politically, economically, socially and ecumenically?
Christian mission of youth is rarely recognised and this discourages us so we end up walking away from church or sit at the back. We deserve a platform, and to make our own statements in the issues of mission, unity, justice and peace. According to Kirk Sandvig, the Youth coordinator of the Edinburgh 2010 Mission, “most discussions of mission have tended to be dominated by more experienced and accomplished missiologists that we all know and respect. This perceived dominance has unfortunately created reluctance among many young missionaries and missiologists to freely express their thoughts on Christian witness. While many people have written about the role of the youth within the church, very little has been written from the perspective of youth”.
I believe mission can be done in many ways and different contexts by engaging in issues that affects us as both the youth of the world and the church, issues such as HIV/Aids, unemployment, drugs and substance abuse, child abuse and racism. Coming from a country which struggled because of apartheid, integration is still a challenge especially to those who faced the era but it’s a bit trouble-free to those who were born post 1994, after the democratic South Africa. Those can be used as a tool of mission to fight for integration and be one church.
Fofo Lerefolo, originally from South Africa, is a proud Methodist and active member of youth organizations in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. She is currently working as an intern with the World Council of Churches in the Mission and Evangelism programme.