For those that do not know, this month I went to Italy and the Netherlands for two weeks. The first part was a vacation because I was already in Europe and so explored Rome. The second part was to attend and serve at Youth for Christ General Assembly conference in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the original idea was for Ashley to join me, but it didn’t end up working and so it was a solo adventure.
Because Instagram and Facebook are being dumb with posting vertical and horizontal photos, I’m just going to post everything here. Also, I plan to have a video come out, but that will take some time to edit for later.
I got three days to try to experience everything I could, eat as much as I was able to find, and just explore. The experience of Rome with modern restaurants and conveniences right beside 2,000+ year old structures. The history of the modern world starts in Rome with it’s rich culture, hostility with Christianity, and influence it had on all of Eurasia. It truly was beautiful and the weather was sunny and 85 degrees all week.
The one thing I wanted to see while in Rome was the Vatican and so spent a half day on a tour that I highly recommend. It was by far the best tour in Rome I went on and I could go three days without the tour and feel like I still did not see enough. The amount of art they secured is insane, though also sad in the besmirched history of popes in the Catholic Church’s history.
This was a happy accident because originally I was supposed to go straight from Rome to the conference, but I didn’t schedule my transition correctly and got a bonus trip into Amsterdam for the afternoon with a tour of Anne Frank’s life that was the most impactful of the tours I did. Two interesting revelations for me: Netherlands food is meh and in my opinion I love their architecture more than Rome’s. And while it was definitely too cold to ride the canals because I was in shorts and t-shirt from the airplane ride, they were wonderful to see throughout the city along with the crazy amount of bicycling.
Youth for Christ’s General Assembly
This is the reason for the trip, to go and offer support to the organization that I had eight years of employment to. Youth for Christ is an international parachurch youth ministry that evangelizes to youth and gets them plugged into the Church as well as supports churches in the area. This conference happens every 3 years (though it was canceled with COVID in 2020). I have a history of being a missionary staff for YFC for 8 years in Ohio for 3 years and then with military kids at the Air Force Academy in Colorado for 4 years, as well as being a product of YFC as a kid.
It was great to connect with several previous co-workers and supervisors who not only supported me and my family while we were out in Colorado, but have a strong friendship with them. It was great to visit with them again and share life updates between us.
I was able to meet with many people outside of the counseling time, including national directors, national board members, and upcoming Young Leaders of countries including Portugal, Uzbekistan, Cyrus, Canada, United States, Netherlands, Nigeria, Ghana, Korea, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Honduras, Italy, and more. It was exciting to hear about youth groups in partnership with churches that are happening in the schools, in the jails for teenagers, ministries for pregnant teenage girls in 3rd world countries, and youth ministries in at least countries where I take photos, videos, and share stories for their safety as it is hostile. However, my job was to offer counseling and care to these attendees.
I will not be able to share specifics of anything for privacy’s sake. But during my time there, I processed their feelings of inadequacy, frustration at leadership and needing to communicate better in marriage, worries about transitioning leadership as they move to retirement, resentment at peers who come from countries cultures that do not offer support during war times or even criticize them, grief of miscarriage, burnout, and communication with conflict. These leaders took several hours per session, several sessions a day, for the 6 days of the conference to open their hearts to God. We cried, we sighed with relief and release of tension, we untangled hurts and unveiled wounds, and they have homework to continue to heal and grow after this conference.
I would love for you to pray for the individuals I was able to talk with, the ongoing ministries in all of these organizations as they share the Gospel across the world, and the communities that are impacted by their ministry.