FEATURE: The Lutheran World Federation Listens to Youth
Stewards Lend a Helping Hand at the LWF Eleventh Assembly
STUTTGART, Germany/GENEVA, 2 August 2010 – For Dénes Horváth-Hegyi, 25, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, it is both positive and significant that “the youth are also listened to at the Lutheran World Federation.”
Horváth-Hegyi was a participant in the Eleventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Stuttgart, Germany, from 20 to 27 July 2010. He explained that it could not be taken for granted that older people listened to younger people, at least not in his country and church.
A student of French literature and linguistics, Horváth-Hegyi served as a steward at the Assembly, providing organizational support, while also playing an active musical and artistic role during Assembly worship services.
Without stewards, the Assembly would not have photocopies of documents, and delegates would not have the headsets they need to follow the proceedings in the language of their choice. Stewards are responsible for much of the logistical support at the Assembly. And their work, running around and getting things done, continues long after the last delegates have left the plenary sessions.
A total of 34 stewards from all over the world worked in Stuttgart. They undergo a nearly two-year preparation process, explained Rev. Roger Schmidt, Geneva-based LWF Youth Secretary. The young men and women received training in their home churches to carry out projects in their own parishes, for example, initiating campaigns against HIV and AIDS or drugs, engaging in projects related to climate change, or pursuing missionary work.
The steward training program was created as a means of involving young people and future church leaders from LWF member churches in the work of the communion.
Sergio Eloy Rios Carrillo of The Nicaraguan Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope actually only wanted to learn to play a musical instrument when he first contacted his local Lutheran congregation, but he soon became very active in the church. Sergio learned to play guitar and drums and joined the church choir. And now at the age of 26 and with a recently earned degree in sociology, he works as an assistant in his church’s Office for Diakonia and Development. His work has focused in particular on HIV and AIDS, which, as he explained, “is chiefly a matter of education because the disease is often a taboo topic.”
Rita Kabanyana, 22, represents a newer LWF member church, the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. The church was founded in 2002 when Rwandan refugees returned to their country from Tanzania, Rita explained. The church now has approximately 40,000 members. Rita has known since 2008 that she would be present in Stuttgart and took part in the Lutheran World Federation training program in Nairobi, Kenya that year.
One of her church’s initiatives teaches unemployed women how to sew and provides them with sewing machines. Part of the income from the sale of the clothes is later returned to the church. Rita explained that, at both the LWF Pre-Assembly Youth Conference in Dresden, Germany, and the Stuttgart Assembly, she received a great number of new ideas for more long-term and precisely planned projects.
Richard Effiong Eyo, a 27-year-old computer specialist, represented the Lutheran Church of Nigeria in the LWF Youth program. For 12 years, Richard has been responsible for the youth work in his church district, Ekpene Ukim, and was co-founder of a Protestant kindergarten and an adjacent primary school, currently attended by 250 children between one and nine years of age. He is also the vice president of his church’s youth organization and is in charge of public relations and the youth Bible studies provided during his church’s worship services.
Richard’s work also touches on HIV and AIDS. He explained that there was a lack of awareness about the illness in his country, as well as a lack of information; in his view, this and poverty contributed most to the spread of HIV and AIDS. (658 words)