Reflections on YOUTH 2011 and YOUTH 2015
My name is Asti White, and I am thankful to be writing to share my experiences of Youth 2011 and Youth 2015. I am currently serving as a US-2 missionary with the United Methodist Church and I would not be able to have this experience if it were not for the National United Methodist YOUTH Event. The quadrennial YOUTH Event gave me exposure to the many ways to engage, connect, and grow in my relationship the Lord, community, and church at large.
The quad-annual youth experience has strengthened me and empowered me to serve, to lead, to listen, to stretch, to grow, to be, and to love. Youth experiences such as this, help young people in the church connect on a larger scale. This has been so important for me as I understand the connection that I have with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
I remember my first experience at YOUTH 2011 where I joined about 4,000 youth from 42 different states. I went with a large group from Atlanta, where I was able to connect with youth in my district, conference, and state wide. To see a larger spectrum of youth from the United Methodist Church was incredible because it cultivated an energy and powerful spirit in learning all that God is doing in churches across the nation. The opportunity to connect with other youth and worship, learn, lead, eat, sing, dance, and serve was powerful for me to understand how truly we are called to be in relationship with each other in life. Being in community with other youth and young adults only encouraged me to be creative with the endless opportunities in learning and growing with the Lord. I found a place of belonging, a place to be accepted by peers, and a place to follow the footsteps of wonderful leaders from YOUTH 2011. I was able to be in community and strive to learn, grow, and stand on the shoulders of giants. All the while, I was able to lead as a young person. I was able to learn and lead in love. Surrounded by those who love the Lord, love me, and to press in and love others was a mighty experience.
The United Methodist Church, and events that draw students and young people together, has only continued to inspire me. By listening, observing, sharing, and experiencing all that the Lord is doing in the lives of young people here and now has strengthened my faith. We have a powerful amount of young leaders who are willing and able to glorify the Lord in all things and do so in some incredible ways.
I went to YOUTH 2011 with friends who I met during my time on Conference Council and Youth Ministries (CCYM) in the North Georgia Annual Conference for the UMC. To share God’s love, grace and mercy with each other and to extend outward with other youth was a blessing to share while we were in West Lafayette, Indiana at Purdue University. YOUTH 2011 gave me exposure to see other passionate youth members from across the nation. We joined in studying word, worship, singing and dancing, and breaking bread together. During my my time at YOUTH 2011, Kristian Stanfill was the main stage musician whom I had never heard of. The power of worship and singing together with the other participants had me in awe of our loving God. YOUTH 2011 gave me opportunities to live into a place of autonomy as I wanted to seek out the things that interested me and the many ways, I am able to serve God, my family, and neighbor. I visited different informational segments that shared extension ministry opportunities, continuing education, mission trips, and a variety of UMC agencies that exist that I wouldn’t have known about before going to YOUTH 2011. Little did I know at the time of YOUTH 2011, I was exploring my vocation and what God was calling me to as I identified and began to understand my gifts that I offer the world.
The power in Youth and this event stems from understanding how God is doing fascinating things in the lives of youth and young people. The youth are not our tomorrow, they are the here and now. I was empowered to know that my experiences, voice, understanding, and the Light of the Lord which shines in my heart is important and needed in the world and our church. Connecting and engaging with other young people and leaders only strengthened me where I grew to understand that I am not alone. Instead, I am very much in a large family of people who care and are invested as much as I am. I remember sharing our witnesses of God in and throughout each of our lives. My sharing only continued as my experience and faith has grown while engaging with my church family.
I was invited to share a testimony on how I have witnessed God in my life at the YOUTH 2015 in Orlando, FL. In my time of sharing, I was refreshed, revived, and I grew a spirit of perseverance to push past the places of complacency and continually being reminded of God’s love and spirit that is always with me. The YOUTH at 2015 reminded me of the blood of Jesus Christ and the love of our Lord. It gave me a breath of fresh air and reminded me of Jesus’ sacrificial love for each and every one of us. I was encouraged to keep running the good race. I shared about God’s love in my life through sharing and breaking bread together at the table. Growing up my mom was a chef. I really enjoyed food but, more importantly, I enjoyed my family coming together to share a meal. The relationship I have with food and how Jesus broke bread with His disciples is a parallel to my faith in the ways that I join in at the Lord’s table daily. God’s love in the world supersedes all the temporary things of this world and that is why the Youth event is so important. Young people can shift their perspective from the world to God and to embrace opportunities that will consistently encourage a posture toward the Lord.
The National YOUTH Event is needed and not only needed it is critical for both the individual youth members but also the church and the entire world. YOUTH 2011 and YOUTH 2015 has given voice and opportunity for youth to participate in the Life of God’s kingdom here on earth. Furthermore, this quad-annual gathering equips young people with the tools and understanding of how we as United Methodist are connectional- the connectional system and how we might engage in our local churches, conference, district, and statewide is one part. The nationwide Youth event goes the next step and provides a larger band of networking and sharing in God’s abundant grace in this world. We are called to be in community with each other and in doing so, to love God and to love one another. May God continue to be glorified in unique and different ways that youth share with the world daily.
-Asti N. White
Global Mission Fellow