Part of a bigger family

Youth program encourages trust-filled interactions
By Laura Kraybill

“But The Lord said to me, ‘Don’t say “I am too young,”’ proclaimed a chorus of young voices 24 July 2015 at the youth program for MWC’s PA 2015.

Andrew Kipfer, USA, does a trust fall with a group of youth at PA 2015.  PHOTO CREDIT: Laura Kraybill

Andrew Kipfer, USA, does a trust fall with a group of youth at PA 2015.
PHOTO CREDIT: Laura Kraybill

Sprawled across the concrete floor of the youth hall, several hundred teenagers began their morning with this affirmation from Jeremiah 1:7–8.

Scripture recitation led into an energetic message by Domink Bergen. He encouraged participants to minister to and receive ministry from others, including their own parents.

In response, participants partnered up with someone new to discuss who they want to emulate in life. Partners physically mirrored one another as they took turns acting out leading and following.

“We didn’t just want to talk to them and then have a band play music,” said Egon Sawatzky, youth pastor of Concordia Mennonite Brethren Church in Asuncion, Paraguay, and program coordinator for youth and children at PA 2015. “We want the youth to have experiences with each other and with God.”

This means getting into pairs or small groups for activities and discussion related to the themes on “Walking with God.”


Yujin Kim from South Korea and the United States, Melanie Jonnalagadda from India and Canada mirror each other’s movements.

Sawatzky is encouraged that youth are crossing barriers. He mentions a 17-year-old “who looked almost grown-up” and a 12 or 13-year-old boy. “They sat together talking and laughing.”

These interactions “help us get out of our comfort zones,” remarked one young person.

A group of youth that had just engaged in a trust fall exercise were enthusiastic about the connections they were making. “You don’t feel alone. You have a larger family,” said one group member.

Another chimed in, “This gives us an idea of how big the Mennonite church is.”

Jonas Beachy of New Hope Bible Church in Oregon likes the challenges of what he’s hearing. “It gets you thinking about your relationship with God, praying about many things.”

After this experience, are youth planning to attend the assembly in 2021? A chorus of voices responded: “I hope so!”

Laura Kraybill is from Elkhart, Indiana, and will begin studies at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary this fall in the Master of Divinity program. For the past five years Kraybill directed the theater program at Hesston College in Kansas.