Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) Missionary Sarah Berta-Somogyi shares with us about a recent international weekend retreat for youth (March 12-15) organized by Sarah, GEO Missionary Benjamin Helge and former GEO Missionary Melissa Karges.
–By Sarah Berta-Somogyi
What do you think of when you hear the word ONE? Maybe the best something that you know, maybe the singular aspect of a family or friends coming together, or perhaps even the joy of a first (birthday, anniversary, etc.). Well, all of those would serve to accurately describe the first ever Central European Christian Youth Gathering, held March 12-15 in Révfülöp, Hungary, under the theme of ONE. Our theme verse, Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV), says: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Thirty-eight people attended the gathering, ranging in age from 10 months to over 60 years, hailing from four different countries, and being able to speak around six different languages (three mother-tongues). Twenty-eight of them were high school students from the Czech Republic and Hungary, and it was for them that this conference was organized.
Three years ago, former GEO missionary to Hungary, Melissa Karges, and I organized the first gathering in this location for Hungarian high school students because we saw a need for them to have a safe place to gather, study the Bible, ask questions about faith, and encourage each other. Many of them said they didn’t have even one Christian friend and that they felt alone sometimes as they tried to live out their faith. This conference was a way for them to get connected to others and dig deeper into the Word of God. Last year, we also organized the same conference, but this year, we teamed up with Ben Helge, GEO missionary in the Czech Republic, to make the gathering international. Other missionaries also pitched in like Pastor Rex Rinne and his wife Linda, GEO Denise Schlesselman, and my Irish colleague and fellow believer Aisling Dundee.
The gathering was a mix of fun activities and sectionals aimed at producing discussion and learning through God’s Word. We played get-to-know-you games, had a Minute-to-Win-It game night, enjoyed s’mores over a bonfire, took a hike up to a look-out point, and were creative while we completed a photo scavenger hunt. Divided into four small groups, we also worked through three sectionals: One Lord, One Hope, and One Body. We discussed Jesus being the only way to heaven, how hope in our one Lord never disappoints, and concrete ways we can help each other face challenges in this one body of Christ. We heard devotions on the related theme of “Looking Out for Number One” and how instead of living out this idiom, we can live with J(esus), O(thers), Y(ourself). We also had worship and prayer time together, and Pastor Rinne gave a sermon the last day summing up everything we had learned over the weekend.
Most of the students who came were Christians before the event, although there were a few who perhaps were Christians in name only and weren’t sure what exactly they believed. A couple weeks before the event, Aisling and I were discussing and praying for those who would attend, knowing that God wanted every one of them there for a reason and that the Spirit of God works through His Word to produce faith. I saw a huge change in one student who attended: by the last day, he was searching Scriptures and saying that he needs a change in his life (and it was clear to see that the change he was talking about was related to Jesus being in his life). Over the course of the weekend, he made close friendships with strong Christians who are now continuing to talk with him, helping to guide him, and taking him to Bible study regularly. I also saw another Christian student completely break down during our team time when we were sharing our highs and lows, as there was a low in her life that was weighing down on her. After sharing, we prayed for each other, and this girl and another strong Christian in the group prayed together for a long time afterwards. I had another student who messaged with me a couple days after the gathering and shared that he’d been reading his Bible every day, which he hadn’t really done before our weekend together. He shared specific verses that he’d found about grace, and he said that reading the Bible just makes his life better. Still others have begun attending Bible study regularly, and all my students said that they want to have another gathering like this as soon as possible!
These stories are just the beginning of what the weekend brought, and we praise and thank God for His goodness to us, for using us and this weekend to bring encouragement and change through His Word into the lives of our students.
- Pray for the students who attended that they would be brought to faith and/or encouraged further in their faith.
- Give thanks for the team-work of the many missionaries who made this event possible and strengthened it with their many talents and gifts.
- Learn more about past retreats in Hungary and the Czech Republic.