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MI Young People in South Africa

Over 330 young adults gathered for conversation, worship, and fellowship at the 4th Global Young People’s Convocation in South Africa. Among them two youth from Michigan–Ciere Turner (Detroit) and Izzy Nowak (Pinconning).


EVELINE CHIKWANA | 
United Methodist News Service
KAY DEMOSS |
 Content Editor MIUMC

More than 330 United Methodist young adults gathered for five days of conversation, worship, 
and fellowship at the fourth Global Young People’s Convocation.

The delegates from 40 countries in four regions of the world came together for the leadership development event organized by Young People’s Ministries, a division of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

Among them were two young people from Michigan, Ciere Turner, and Izzy Nowak. Ciere is active at Detroit: Conant Avenue United Methodist Church. Ciere represented the Division On Ministries With Young People for the North Central Jurisdiction. Izzy, a member of Pinconning United Methodist Church, participated as a delegate to GYPC 2018 for the North Central Jurisdiction.

A loving send-off by his family as Ciere Turner left for Johannesburg, South Africa to attend GYPC 2018. ~ photo courtesy of Rev. Dr. Willie Smith

The delegates discussed issues affecting young people and unity in the church.

Ciere spent two days as a witness to the legislative process. “I was not voting but saw that there are some topics very headstrong in the church right now,” he said. His role was to “see how the people were thinking and what direction they were pushing.” What stood out for him above everything else was the African people. “Even before I left Detroit,” Ciere noted, “I was determined that GYPC was not just about meetings and legislation but about people. Those relationships will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

Kakou Francois Moro, 29, of Côte d’Ivoire, said his group discussed politics and theology. “We looked at how the church can help implement democracy in countries holding national elections,” he said.

Another group discussed “Interfaith dialogue in the South African context” and agreed the call to love our neighbor includes those outside our faith.

Lily Majamaa, 27, of Nigeria said he learned The United Methodist Church offers resources for spiritual growth through discipleship and leadership development.

“This is my first time to attend GYPC. I really enjoyed the group discussions with people from all parts of the world. I made connections and will continue to communicate with my new friends after this event,” he said.

Arkansas Conference delegate, Miller Wilbourn, 22, was part of the workshop that discussed migration.

“We talked about how the way our Christian faith and our understanding of scripture informs the way we should act towards strangers in our countries, whether they are migrants looking for work or fleeing violence and other situations at home,” he said.

“We heard different stories from people who had to flee their homes and we discussed the political forces which cause global migration and how governments failed to adhere to United Nations guidelines on treatment of migrants.”

Anna Shipley, 18, attended the workshop on discerning the call to ministry. “We talked about different prayer practices and ways to listen before you try to move forward. I also participated in group discussions about feminism and women’s rights,” she said.

Delegates sing during worship at the Global Young People’s Convocation. The gathering brings together young United Methodists from 40 countries to discuss issues affecting young people and unity in the church. ~ umns photo/Eveline Chikwanah

Deinah Lurpo Quire, 28, of Liberia, was interested in responding to the call to ministry.  “I learned how to respond to a call, how to listen to the word of God and how to discern if God is speaking to you,” she said.

Quire, daughter of Liberian Bishop Samuel J. Quire Jr., said she received the call to ministry before her father was elected bishop.

“I still had to find my place — whether to go into discipleship or become an ordained minister. I finally got the opportunity to serve as a Global Mission Fellow, so I feel I am called to discipleship,” she said.

Tyler Smoot, the worship coordinator for the convocation, said the theme “United We Go” was selected by the worship team to highlight the work of the church in the world.

“The situation in the church is tense right now and we wanted to speak about uniting. For young people, it is important that the church does not simply exist, but it goes out serving in the world and mission,” he said.

“The planning team realized each of the words could be isolated and stand as a miniature theme. On the first and last day, we brought all the words together, but on other days we had worship focusing on single words.”

Smoot, an Alabama law student who is a volunteer on the event planning team, said the colors were chosen from the South African flag.

“The symbol is an artistic design of a tree. The concept was devised when we visited Constitution Hill in Johannesburg and learned that trees were a community of meeting places.  We were told in many African cultures, chiefs would gather under a tree to settle disputes or have conversations,” Smoot said.

“Indaba is Zulu, meaning gathering or conversation, so the venue — Indaba Hotel and Conference Centre — is an appropriate place for our global gathering.”

Izzy Nowak on the ground in Michigan July 30. More about her experience next week. ~ Facebook photo

He said it is challenging to hold conversation in the church right now because there is a lot of tension about sexuality and the nature of the church and Bible interpretation.

“The legislation at GYPC2018 is about conversation and trying to build relationships,” Smoot said.

Bishop Joaquina F. Nhanala, leader of the Mozambique Episcopal Area, which includes South Africa, said it is important for the church to be united.

“There is strength in unity and weakness in division. You are very important in the body of Christ because you were called by God,” the bishop said.

“If you want to move fast, move alone, but if you want to go far, you must move together.  We want to go far as a church.”

Mighty Rasing, director of program development for Young People’s Ministries, said the convocation is an opportunity for young people to come together, build relationships and share their personal stories about engagement in the church.

“At GYPC2018, we have intentionally provided spaces for those conversations and for those stories to be shared.  I am really excited about the stories that will be told and the ministries that will be celebrated and the connections and partnerships to be formed at this convocation,” Rasing said.

“We have come together as United Methodists from around the world to pray together, discern together and journey together.”

Ciere Turner is optimistic about the role young people have in charting the future of The United Methodist Church. “It is kind of an upward battle,” he admits. “Some adults recognize young people are serious about being effective in the church but it becomes, ‘you keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing.'” Still, he believes that the delegates and representatives at GYPC 2018 “added their footprint and got a foot in the door.”  

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