On May 29th-30th, 2020, about 500 youth from the Philippines-Micronesia Field gathered through Zoom for their Nazarene Youth Conference (NYC). The event was originally scheduled in April but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Philippines-Micronesia NYC Coordinator, Leody Echavez III, the cancellation disappointed the youth and the organizers. They jokingly said that the theme of NYC, which is “MOVE”, seemed to fit the recent events. However, the National NYI Council met and decided to create an online NYC event in Zoom since many of the youth are already using it. The organizers of the event did not expect that about 500 participants would register and the leaders would be supportive of it. So the Philippines-Micronesia NYC 2020 theme became “Move. Reboot.” Echavez continued to explain that because of the pandemic and lockdown, the young people have started asking difficult questions such as: “Why is this happening? Did God cause this?” Thus, the NYC team decided to promote introspection and help attendees to make sense of what is happening around us now. The desire was to engage the youth and help them think of what the Christian response should be.
Some of the conversations and heart-to-heart talks included: “COVID19 & I: My Response”, “Responses of the Church”, “The Questions I Am Afraid to Ask”, and “The Questions and answers the Church Must Respond To.” Other workshops on compassion, discipleship, worship, and several other topics were also available.
Rev. Stephen Gualberto, Philippines-Micronesia Field Strategy Coordinator, challenged the young people in his response to being radical in their faith to Jesus. He also admonished them to create effective discipleship movements characterized by compassion, courageous, servant leadership, and a radical incarnation of Jesus into this broken world. Finally, he launched the youth by saying, “We believe in you, young people. God has a special calling and purpose for each of you. Honor what the past and current church leadership have done for the church. If we made mistakes, be gracious to us. But, young people, take the church to the next level. Never give up on the church.”
According to attendee Eufemia Verde, from Negros District, “Online NYC was a great privilege for us, young people, that despite this pandemic, we still have a chance to unite as one online… We, of all ages, have now come to know the pain and sorrow of true isolation… I’ve learned that we are the Church, and we must build our relationship with one another where Jesus is the center of this relationship we made. We may be far apart but we are connected through Christ.”
Angeline Joy Cabatingan from Metro Manila District shared what she learned: “Even though I don’t know what will happen to the future I should trust in the Lord. There are a lot of things that we can do to reach young people so we should not be shy. We can help other people through compassionate response. We can pray for other people who are in need and we can cry or lament for our nation. And lastly, we can use this opportunity to grow spiritually and physically.”
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Leianne Joy Gura from the Metropolitan Luzon District said, “Worship and fellowship with other young people from different districts are not only limited to face to face interactions. The Holy Spirit is still moving among us even though NYC is only in Zoom…Being isolated is not being lost.” She continued, “I believe that this lockdown is a way of God for us to find Him more and have a deeper relationship with Him. It is a way of God to help us find ourselves more and our true identity in Him.”
Sam Galino from Luzon District said, “Connection is very important, especially in ministering to the youth of today. The root problem of the youth before is the same today. The solution is the same but may take a different contextual approach.”
Girl Ann Dado from Eastern Visayas District said, “Embrace the changes, a.k.a. the new normal. Be proactive and productive…During this period of community quarantine and physical distancing, we can be creative in reaching out to young people. The Holy Spirit is moving in our midst in a fresh way.”
Though there were difficulties with the internet connection in the Philippines, many of the youth tried their best to participate and worship together. They engaged in conversations through the 20 breakout rooms created where they responded to the heart to heart talks presented. Bible Quizzing Games and raffle prizes also added to the excitement of the two-day gathering.
Contributed by Janary Godoy, Asia-Pacific Regional NYI Coordinator