More than 6,000 youth from nearly 90 countries gathered in the Leipzig Congress Center in eastern Germany for the opening session of the 15th Baptist Youth World Conference last month.
The conference, held every five years, is the largest global gathering of Baptist youth, and is a celebration event that includes worship, fellowship, cultural exchanges, networking, evangelism and mission.
Dean Miller, missions learning coordinator for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, chaired the international program committee which planned the event.
Opening night, which culminated with an address by Aaron George, a pastor and former youth director from the Caribbean island of Grenada, was a lesson in German history, depicted by a mime, a string quartet, singers, video and narration. Emotional moments in the history of the German nation — the reign of the Third Reich and the fall of the Berlin Wall — as well as Germany's rich history in religion (Protestant reformer Martin Luther and Baptist pioneer Johann Gerhard Oncken) and music (Johann Sebastian Bach and Robert Schumann), were highlighted.
Greetings and welcome to the large gathering were brought by Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam, German Baptist Union General Secretary Regina Claas, BWA Youth Director Emmett Dunn, and mayor of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung.
A “Global Village” opened on Wednesday afternoon and ran the length of the conference. The village comprised four main areas, including the Global Exchange, where participants exchanged information, discussed personal faith and engaged in theological sharing. There also were discussions on social issues such as persecution of Christians and HIV/AIDS.
Global Prayer offered a garden tent for personal reflection. Described as “an oasis,” the garden tent allowed persons “to find time for yourself, to concentrate, to savor the peace, to get your thoughts in order to pray.”
The Global Sports and Funpark within the village allowed youth to fellowship with persons from other countries as they participated in light sport and recreational activities such as volleyball, soccer and basketball.
Youth had an opportunity to reach out to communities in Leipzig, an eastern German city that is home to half a million people. On Saturday afternoon, conference participants ministered through music and arts in five locations around the city, followed by a large worship celebration in Leipzig's city square.
The Baptist Youth World Conference is a global event planned by the BWA.