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Singapore 2013

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Why do thousands of children and young people attend Baptist Youth World Conferences? Since the first of these conferences, BWA records reveal that 57,000 persons have attended and, no doubt, many have been enriched by the multiple opportunities to listen to narratives of faith shared by Baptist youth from places they never knew existed. Many have had their faith in God strengthened and some have discovered their own spiritual vocation at these meetings.
In July 2013, when young people from around the world gather in Singapore for the 16th Baptist Youth World Conference, they will be continuing a tradition that reaches back more than 82 years. The formation of the World Baptist Young People's Union in Stockholm, Sweden, at the 3rd Baptist World Congress, and the naming of the BWA Young People's Committee during the 4th Congress in Toronto, Canada, in 1928, led to the First Baptist Youth World Conference (BYWC), August 1- 4, 1931, in Prague, Czechoslovakia, (now the Czech Republic). Since that time, thousands of children and youth from the Baptist world family have met in Zurich, Switzerland, 1937; Stockholm, Sweden, 1949; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1953; and Toronto, Canada, 1958.
Beirut, Lebanon, was the conference venue in 1963; Berne, Switzerland, in 1968; and Portland, Oregon, USA, in 1974. These were followed by youth conferences in Manila, Philippines, 1978; Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1984; and Glasgow, Scotland, 1988.
In 1993, Africa hosted its first BYWC in Harare, Zimbabwe. After this, it was the turn of the USA when the 13th conference took place in Houston, Texas, 1998. Then, it was back to Asia for the 14th conference in Hong Kong, China.
After the most recent BYWC in Leipzig, Germany in 2008, Baptist youth meet again in Asia for the 16th conference in Singapore in July.
According to Tony Cupit, the 1993 BYWC in Harare, Zimbabwe, had a profound impact on Leena Levanya of Andhra Pradesh, India, who was to become, in Cupit's words, "a Baptist Mother Teresa from India." It was a workshop she attended, led by American Baptist leader Tony Compolo that made the greatest impact on Leena - then a young woman in her mid-20s. Compolo pointed out that, while young people sing, "All to Jesus I surrender," in reality they surrender very little." Leena determined that, from then on, she would serve Christ and his neediest children in India.
Cupit reports that a visitor to a location where Leena serves the poor said this: "Even if the Harare Youth Conference had only inspired this one ministry, it would have been worth it, for many lives have been touched with both the practical love and the powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ."
There are many reasons why our children and young people should be encouraged to experience a BYWC. Denton Lotz, BWA General Secretary Emeritus, was on target when he told the General Council meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in 1997, "Youth ministries in our conventions and unions cannot be treated as orphans. A high profile commitment to youth must be exhibited in the highest echelons of Baptist leadership." Lotz added a passionate invitation for support of the scholarship fund to enable young leaders from parts of the Majority World to attend the youth conference.
After they return home from the conference in Singapore, let us ask the young people to share with us their reflections on the experience. Of course, for this to be possible, we need to offer them the opportunity the upcoming youth conference presents! Help them go to Singapore, July 17-21, 2013, for a possible life-transforming encounter with Christ. Then, enlist them in the program to evangelize the world that so badly needs the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Neville George Callam, a Jamaican, has been serving as general secretary and chief executive officer of the Baptist World Alliance since his election in Accra, Ghana in 2007.


  • Guest
    Dave Collymore Friday, 17 May 2013

    Good read. Interesting stuff. I hope I can go to Singapore!!

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