The world versus God.
In a culture characterized by sensuality and promiscuity, where evangelicalism often carries a stigma and many people are looking for a “quick fix” or a “feel good” religion as opposed to a long-lasting commitment to God, Brazilian youth face competing messages.
So, when the Brazilian Free Church brought 350 young people together for their second-ever youth gathering in April, the theme focused on transformation — a transformation that begins in the heart of one but grows to include the community, the nation and the world.
Conference keynote speaker, Olgálvaro Bastos Jr. (Latin America coordinator for Tribal Generation), challenged the mostly high school-age youths to adopt a biblical worldview.
“I wanted to bring discomfort to everyone to awaken them to the Great Commission,” explains Olgálvaro.
“He called the young people to think about their values, think about their decisions, think about the way they live and breathe and laugh and cry,” says Steve, EFCA ReachGlobal missionary serving part-time in Brazil. “But mostly they were called to think about who they are in Christ and how that impacts (or doesn’t impact) who they are in their daily lives.”
Break-out seminars challenged the youth on topics such as “Removing the Mask,” “Hearing the Voice of God” and “Revolutionary Thinking.”
“I feel God can use this conference to raise up church planters and leaders from amongst the youth,” says Johny Stutzer, church planting secretary for the Brazilian EFC and the main program coordinator for the youth gathering. “We [the church leaders] need to help them hear God’s call to ministry. It’s amazing to see them respond.”
Olgálvaro agrees that the response of the youth was encouraging to him.
“We could see in the students a growing interest with each day. The participation of the youth was incredibly expressive,” he says. “That shows the great potential of the church in its development both in Brazil and in the world.”
Many of the youth posted their reactions and responses to the conference on the event’s Facebook page.
“The great marvel is that even though we’re separated by thousands of kilometers, we discovered that the love of Christ unites us in a ‘super cool’ fellowship with one common objective: Transform the setting where we live, become the salt of the earth, light that transforms and reflect the love of God through our lives,” wrote one young woman.
More than just an idea
The conference leaders didn’t just talk about transformation. They also presented the youths with real opportunities to put transformation into practice.
- Serve the country’s indigenous population.
- Work with street children, prostitutes and the homeless in inner city Sao Paolo.
- Travel to Haiti in September as part of a Brazilian EFC short-term team partnering with ReachGlobal.
- Help with church planting efforts in New Orleans, specifically targeting the Latino community, as part of the upcoming EFCA’s biannual youth conference, Challenge 2012.
“Each church was charged with helping the youth continue to grow in their ministry life,” says Johny.
Johny, Steve, and the other conference leaders only want to see the spirit of the conference grow as the Brazilian students commit to a different life — a transformed life that goes against the grain of the culture.
“Our greatest challenge is to maintain the passion for Christ and His work, as we work toward growth in the church, and enrichment to both families and churches,” Olgálvaro says.
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- That the passion for transformation and for serving Christ in Brazil and beyond its borders is maintained among the Brazilian youth.
- For the leaders in the Brazilian Free Church who are investing in the lives of the young people, equipping them to be the next leaders.