‘Identity’ – knowing our identity is vital to young people today

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The AEC National Youth Camp 2019 is supported by SIM Malawi project #MW96658 Youth Ministry Capacity Building

Young people face any pressures to conform to an identity which is not necessarily their own. Modern culture, peer pressure and other outside influences make it difficult for young people to know what their identity is. The Africa Evangelical Church National Youth Camp 2019 looked to redress some of these imbalances and let the young people be more confident about their Identity in Christ

 

The AEC National Youth Camp 2019 was held at the Nalikule College of Education, a teacher-training facility on the outskirts of Lilongwe. It allowed around 300 young people from across the AEC in Malawi to come together for four days of teaching, fellowship and fun, to help them get a better understanding of their ‘Identity’, the theme for the week.

The vital nature of the topic of ‘Identity’ was underlined by Peter Ong, SIM Malawi’s Youth Co-ordinator. “It is very important because there are many competing voices which are telling them ‘this is who you should be’.

Identity:  Young people from the Africa Evangelical Church learning about their identity in Christ

“Our hope is that these young people will go away from this camp knowing what God thinks of them. We want them to walk away from this camp with that confidence, and therefore live as a child of God,” he said.

The keynote speaker for the Camp was Pastor Felix Gilbert from the Restoration Christian Fellowship in Denver, Colorado. Over the four days of his Bible studies he took the young people through some key parts of our Identity: we are created in the image of God, our Identity is in Christ, we are Children of God and, as a result, we have Access to God.

“Young people are plagued with temptations from their peers, from the world in which they live,” he said.

“If you look at culture, particularly contemporary culture or modern culture, times have changed and people are growing up in what I am going to call an anti-church era; the church is losing the Millennials. Young people are growing up and once they finish high school they are straying away from church.

Modern venue:  The camp was held at the Nalikule College of Education near Lilongwe

“A lot of that is because they are going out in search of ‘identity’ and they are being attracted by all the things that the world has to offer. So if we can help young people, especially here in Malawi, to understand who they are, and more importantly to have a strong foundation, rooted and grounded in Christ, it will enable them to withstand the storms of the temptations they are going to face in the world.

“So when they leave here, if they know who they are,; if they know their identity is in Christ, if they know they have access to God, if they know they are children of God, if they know that they are made in the image of God, then when the temptations come they will be able to stand firm and the likelihood of the Church continuing or their returning to the Church is very, very strong and is being improved more because they know who they are.”

Relationships are one of the areas in which young people come under a great deal of pressure. This key area was also covered at the camp by Cynthia Sundman, SIM’s Point Person for Youth and Young Adults. She looked at the subject through games as well as talking about it head-on.

“I was asked to come and to share about relationships from a biblical perspective and to give the kids some tools they can use in relationships in everyday life,” she said.

“Our identity is in Christ, but we are also called to be in the world; so, everything that we do in our life, which includes relationships, we need to do for God’s glory and to honour Christ. It is also a testimony to the world.

“I think the most important thing we talked about was marriage, looking at God’s perspective when He created it and then what the world has to offer. We looked at both of those critically, and then we compared them so you can have wisdom to know the differences and which one to choose.”

Prayer Points

1. Keep praying for the youth that when they go back to their home churches and home youth groups, they will keep meeting up together and that they will not forget what they have learned. They will share that with other youth in their groups who weren’t able to come this year (Pete and MacDonald)

2. That the young people would have a greater understanding of what God has been teaching them, that they would take those lessons to heart and that they would seek God’s guidance in the future, so that, when it comes to relationships, they would turn to God first (Cynthia)

3. That they would stay strong in their faith, that the teaching would take root, that they would continue to dig deeper. Pray for them as they are faced with all kinds of challenges. Pray for the youth leaders that SIM and the AEC have here, because they are positioned in a country which has predominantly young people, so they have their work cut out (Felix)

Having helped regional youth camps for the last couple of years, why was the decision made for 2019 to bring everyone together in a national camp?

“One of the reasons we are holding a national camp is to allow all of the youth to come together and to share their Christian faith. When they come together, they make friendships, they know each other and they share challenges in their day-to-day lives,” said MacDonald Chiutale, AEC’s National Youth Co-ordinator.

“Our hope is that, through the teaching at the camp, young people will change their behaviour and understand much better what it means to have our Identity in Christ. I hope that many will take the message back to their homes and churches and share this with those who were not able to attend the camp.”

This hope was echoed by Felix Gilbert as he reflected on what he thought the impact of the four key areas covered could mean for the Church in Malawi as well as for the country, 73% of whose population is under 30 years of age.

“I think it will have great impact on the Church because then the Gospel is being propagated,” he said.

“You will have young people who are confident in their position in Christ so when they go out, they are equipped to share their faith to bring others in: the other image-bearers out there who might not know who they are.

“This means that the sustainability of the Church from a longevity perspective is enhanced, improved  because you have more young evangelists, if I can use that term, going out spreading the Gospel. Because of this, the impact the Church can have will be strengthened and continue going on.”

But, now that the camp is over and the young people have returned to their day-to-day lives, what impact do the organisers and speakers hope Identity 2019 will have on the participants, the AEC and even Malawi as a whole?

“We want the young people to be confident of who they are in Christ, for them to walk away from this camp knowing who they are; therefore they will live out that identity accordingly and share that with other people around them,” said Pete.

Cynthia’s hope is focused on relationships: “I would really want them to see what God created when it comes to relationships and marriage,” she said.

“To see what pure Christian love, that comes from God, looks like, and that is what He wants for them. And also to understand the world and how to combat that, as Joseph did – running away and protecting yourself.”

Felix is looking for the impact to be felt across communities: “There are representatives from many villages and communities here.  I am hoping that when they leave here, they can take this message to their places of residence, to their villages, to their townships and to their communities.

Group work: The extensive campus at Nalikule College of Education gave delegates a chance to enjoy their surroundings  while working

“That message is: ‘Hey guys, guess what we learned – we are made in the image of God. Guess what that means? Our identity is in Christ. Here’s what happens, you accept Christ into your life, you too can be a Child of God, more importantly you have access to God.’

“What will that do for the Christian Church? The impact that Muslims and other faith teachers and other prosperity doctrines have on the evangelical church will be minimised because you will have young people who are strong in their faith, and they will be propagating that message throughout their community. Then, eventually, they will become threats to the enemy’s kingdom,” he said.