Over the weekend, the first ever Methodist Northern European youth leadership conference was held. Representatives came from six Nordic and Baltic nations: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for fellowship and training.
"This is a historic gathering," said Bishop Øystein Olsen. "This is the first time something like this has been arranged for the Nordic and Baltic states together." It is particularly important for fostering a sense of unity and cooperation among the youth leaders since the Methodist church is one of the smaller churches in northern Europe.
The event, sponsored by the Methodist Nordic Youth Council with major planning done by the Youth Department of the United Methodist Church in Finland, drew nearly 100 youths to Finland.
Worship service, teaching, seminars, and bible studies were held all weekend long. The seminars were impressive in scope and useful to those in attendance. They addressed topics such as leadership and practical tools for youth and childrens ministry (UMNS).
One such seminar was "Pioneering Front-line Mission in Todays Europe," whose main purpose was to inspire young people to evangelize creatively.
Andy Frost from Share Jesus International and whose father was an English Methodist evangelist, was the lead speaker during the conference. His other activities included speaking on Bible teaching along with the Rev. Hans Växby from Finland and the Rev. Üllas Tankler of Estonia.
The United Methodist Church is one of the smallest churches in the Northern European region, numbering 13,000 members according to the 2002 General Minutes, and therefore it was deemed important to show youth from the various nations that they are not alone in their faith as Methodists. And the conference was a way to unite these youths empowering them for greater cooperation.
UMNC reports that the event enabled youth leaders to network with one another and build relationships, paving the way for more cooperation and youth exchanges in the future.
Forging those ties was especially important for those from the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where the Methodist traditions are not as strong.
Participants gave thanks and glorified God stating they were amazed at how strongly they felt Gods presence during worship sessions.
"This was a truly fantastic amazing conference," said Andreas Forsbäck, one of the organizers. "God moved in a much stronger way than we even had dared to pray for. We are really excited to see where this will lead. We are really excited about what God is going to do among youth in our nations in the future."