(EUROPE) Encounter Conf. - God Encounters the Young Generation
UBF Encounter Conference 2020 | Report
John 15:1-27 (KV.12,13) - “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Day 1 | Introduction
Day 2 | #Remain
Day 3 | #Love
Day 4 | #Testify
Day 5 | Testimonies + Outlook
The Theme of Encounter Conference 2020 was “AGAPE” based on John 15.
Through the preparations we were all touched by God’s unconditional and selfless love for us through Jesus Christ! We wanted to experience more of this love in our church community and to grow more together in God’s love. We praise God for revealing to us his amazing powerful love which hit many hearts during the conference.
The Core Team for the Encounter Conference 2020 consisted of 6 members - 4 members from Germany (Paul G, Jesin Y, Wesley S, Esther N) and 2 members from Greece (Pauline L) and Bulgaria (Cathy K). We started our 1st meeting in October 2019 after the ESBC and had regular Sunday meetings since then. We met twice in Germany, Cologne before the covid19 breakout with our supporters for the Conference who helped us with choosing the theme and structuring the conference organization. After that in March 2020, the covid19 pandemic broke out in Europe and we had to change our direction into an online conference. This was a new challenge for us and we didn’t know if the people would be willing to participate. But 175 people from 22 different countries registered. We even had participants from the USA, Latin America and Korea! We arranged before-hand interviews with them to get to know them more as well!
We believe that God worked through our weekly meetings! Everyone was faithful to attend the meeting every Sunday for almost 40 weeks! We were already learning practically how to remain in Jesus by keeping our weekly meetings despite everybody’s busy schedule. God’s presence was with us as we prayed and organized the conference. We also had the support of many older 2nd gens and well as shepherds and missionaries through prayer and guidance. We learned that God’s love Agape is with us through the smooth co-working with which God had blessed us! Praise God for the experience of the beauty of co-working we could experience.
Having an online conference definitely had positive aspects. The best of which was that a networking for communication was made. Teams were made for different tasks: Contents Team and Evening Program Team, Messengers’ team and Messengers’ mentors’ team, GBS facilitators’ and their mentors’ team, Worship Team, Tech Team and Prayer Team. Each Team was connected to a communication person in the Core Team and we could communicate in a pyramid system. We praise God for enabling us with smart technology so we could use it for his glory!
For the evening programs God had prepared the professional technology in Cologne UBF where the ZOOM Live meeting was administered very smoothly.
As there were 4 members of the Core Team in Germany, they could gather at Cologne UBF center and host the Evening program as MCs and facilitators for the ZOOM live meetings.
The Group Bible Studies were done before or during the conference period depending on the time schedule of the participants. There were 24 Bible Study teachers (facilitators) who were equipped with the Words of God! Many hearts were opened for the conference messages through the Bible Studies! Praise God for the work of the Holy Spirit!
Day 1 | Introduction
One of the challenges of holding an online conference is its anonymity. Who is there? Whom do I know? Who are new faces? Around 40% of our participants were there for the very first time. Our idea to give people the chance to connect with one another as our vision for Encounter also aims at, was to use breakout sessions, a tool provided by Zoom, the online platform used at this conference. This means participants are randomly put into groups of a certain size during our meeting times.
Here, people have the chance to get to know each other and start exchanging thoughts and opinions about the topic of the day. On our very first day, this was a big challenge for our participants! You are “thrown” into a group of people you most likely don’t know and have to get into conversation in a limited time frame.
You can imagine there were some awkward moments but day by day we heard people got more and more used to this way of connecting with one another and stated that this was a great way to feel part of the conference. With these breakout rooms we were able to start every day with a “meet and greet” and to end with a small group prayer time. On some of the days we also used the breakout function for discussions on certain questions or topics.
All of us were very moved by the video that was sent in by many chapter leaders from all around Europe, incl. our UBF director P. Moses Yoon. Everyone wished us a deep and enriching time in the Word and in fellowship in their various languages. Their prayers were a tremendous support and spiritual backup for all of us and this video simply and beautifully displayed their heart towards us and God’s working in us. Thank you for that!
A recap video of the previous Encounter conferences with the themes “The Gospel, “The Kingdom” and “True Worship” and an interactive quiz introduced the conference and this year’s theme “Agape”. We realized that Encounter conferences have steadily grown in numbers over the years and we are thankful for the many lives and ministries God has impacted through it.
Throughout the years God has used Encounter for young people to have a platform to encounter God personally outside their “normal” environment and meet friends in Christ. The vision for Encounter is that: Participants may encounter God and other people so that others may encounter God and other people through them. The vision of Encounter, however, is bigger than a conference. The mission statement of UBF church reads: “Our goal is to obey our Lord’s commands to love one another and to go and make disciples of all nations (Jn 13:34; Mt 28:18-20). We pray that God may continue to call and raise lay missionaries through us and send them to the ends of the earth (Ac 1:8).” So we pray that we as young people from Europe may unite in the calling God has placed on us, search for His heart, tell others about Him and strengthen each other continuously.
In closing of the day and kick off for the sermons that followed the coming three evenings, we shared how the theme Agape relates to us practically. Agape is the Greek word for God’s unconditional love. It was God's love and his love in Jesus that enabled us to live in love, to practice the Agape love. At one point, Jesus says that we Christians will be recognized by our love for one another. Agape love is therefore a distinctive mark of Christians. It is a basic quality that shows our understanding of God's love and a shining example for all those who haven’t tasted the love of Christ yet. So the Agape love became the driving force during every Encounter because, according to Jesus, it is a basic characteristic of all Christians. “God is love” is a statement that the Bible makes about God. Therefore, it is not surprising that the highest commandment is also the double commandment of love: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." The highest commandment God has given is to love. And it is up to God to ask that of us because it was he who was the first to move towards us and, using the example of Jesus, showed us that we mean everything to him. Freed from any conditions, humanity was allowed to experience his love. At this point, we can only speak of grace. And God wants us to pass this love on to one another and live with it. Does this also apply to us? In spite of all our differences, is it this unanimous love by which people can recognize us? Or do we at least see the effort to do so? We prayed that this week was a time of reflection on this, that we hold up the mirror and experience the power of change and gain the ability to love through the thorough examination of Agape love.
Day 2 | #Remain
The second day of the conference started with much joy and excitement from the previous day. As every evening program, breakout rooms were made and the participants could meet new people (or old friends even) and have a 15 minute to share items that described the word “Remain in Me as I remain in you”. After that all groups could choose the best picture in the group and upload it to Instagram from where the MC could select some and ask the groups about their choice. There were pictures of a chair, USB ports, hand-drawings of a child hugging its parents and more. This part of the program was always exciting because you didn’t know with whom you will be in a group, yet God gave all participants much grace from this fellowship time.
The Prayer time and Worship time helped us to prepare our hearts for the message. We sang 2 songs - Good Good Father and Broken Vessels. Both songs filled our hearts with grace of our Good Good Father’s love for us.
Sermon by Grace about #Remain
The first message of the conference was on John 15 verses 1-8 with the title “Remain in me” by Grace J. (Sweden), key verse 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Grace’s message was filled with God’s grace and love. She confessed that John 15:5 was her life key verse through which she met Jesus personally and now, years later, this passage was speaking to her even more! We could vividly see Jesus and the disciples talking about the vine and the gardener. Grace also shared her personal testimony with tears of grace as she talked about God’s pruning in her life. “Pruning is not a punishment. God, the Gardener, knows how and what to prune to make me the best branch I can ever be, because he is my Creator; he knows me and has only a good purpose for me. Through pruning, I came one step closer to God. Maybe you are in a hurtful pruning process right now wondering where God is. Keep on believing and trusting in him, he knows you more than you know yourself. He alone will make the best version of you.” We were also challenged to ask ourselves “Do I remain in Jesus?” We can remain in Jesus by remaning in his word - holding onto his word and obeying his word. Jesus invites us to be the branch of the True Vine, to remain in him and know the satisfaction of a full life, bearing eternal fruit.
Praise God for pruning us into the best version of me - to stay strong in remaining in Jesus and bear fruit for his glory!
At the end of the program we had prayer breakout rooms where we shared the grace we received and our prayer topics. Many participants were touched by God’s words and by Grace’s testimony! Thanks be to God for his love in pruning us and giving us the command to remain in him!
Day 3 | #Love
As we approached the 3rd day of the conference the faces of many participants were becoming lighter and joyful! During the breakout rooms this day each participant was asked to show something in their house which they love. Many people showed their belongings like the Bible, their headphones, or coffee. But the BEST voted was the pet-dog of the sisters from Vienna! This made us think more about what “love” means.
The best worship song for this conference (in my opinion) was “How He loves us” which opened our hearts to God’s love AGAPE.
Sermon by Henoch about #Love
The second message of the conference was on John 15 verses 9-17 with the title “Love one another ” by Henoch H. (Germany), key verses 12, 13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Henoch traveled from Heidelberg to Cologne and he could deliver the message from the HQ. He was filled with God’s love. We could see the small tears of grace even through our screens! Henoch’s message was very innovative in format and filled with grace! He talked about 1. The origin of love 2. The nature of love 3. The way of love. God is love and this love is rooted deep inside our beings. “You have been designed for a purpose. Because love is at the center of the universe, you have been made to be loved and to love others. Every one of us, we have been created for relationships. And unless you live in healthy, dynamic, functioning relationships, you will never feel like thriving and flourishing; you will actually never feel like truly living no matter what else you achieve in life.” Also, we were enlightened to see that love is God’s character. And as he loves us we become more like him! Henoch challenged us with 2 practical applications: Growing in love takes spiritual discipline. Start a love list of the people closest to you - starting from family, to church community, and then friends at school, at work, at the gym etc. As we pray for the people, God transforms our character to love them. But the most important thing is to understand Jesus’ love for us - “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) “Jesus is the great example of how we should love others - but he is so much more than that! Jesus is the great savior who forgives us when we didn’t.” When we remain in Jesus’ love - we can become the person who we are supposed to be - a friend of God and a friend of people.
Praise God for his perfect love for us - eternal, life-giving, and friendly!
After the message, the MC’s opened an online board where everyone could post bible verses, worship songs and words of grace they have received during the conference and everyone could see.
During the breakout prayer rooms the participants were in awe of God’s love! Thanks be to God for the wonderful fellowship we could have through the internet despite the time and space difference.
Day 4 | #Testify
After an introduction of the moderators, there was again the possibility to go into breakout rooms. In the breakout rooms people should get to know each other like the last days and talk about their challenges when it comes to testifying about Jesus to other people.
Each group had again 15 minutes time for the breakout session.
After the breakout session, we had the chance to share our results with all people. With the help of the website menti.com various challenges to testify Jesus could be shared. The terms that were shared most often were displayed most visibly to everyone. Most shared terms were fear, rejection, judgment, and relationship.
As this day was the last day with a message we sang two “Since your love” and “Build my life” that could strengthen us to have bold testimonies of Jesus’ love for us.
Sermon by Darren about #Testify
The third message of the conference was on John 15 verses 18-27 with the title “Testify about me” by Darren (UK), key verses 26, 27: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” Darren’s message was filled with tears from the Holy Spirit! He shared his testimony and gave everyone 4 big words: Get Alone With Jesus.
In the first part, Darren emphasized the words “keep in mind”. We are often mocked, hated, and persecuted because of our faith. So we feel alone. There are two ways to overcome feelings of being alone. First: assimilating with the world. The result is that the world loves us, but we lose spiritual influence. Second: keep in mind that it hated Jesus first. We are not hated not because of what we do, but because of the person, we are becoming - like Chris!. In the second part, Darren talked about persecution. People who persecute, don’t know the father. So rather than getting angry at them, we should introduce them to our father God. In the final part, we learned that we should receive the advocate and be with Jesus! We can call the advocate to be beside us - “Parakleitos!” We can pray that he can come upon us. We learned that testifying is easy when you are with Jesus. If you’ve been with Jesus you won’t be able to stop yourself from testifying Jesus! We were challenged to reflect on this fact: I am with Jesus? The main reason we find it perhaps difficult to testify about Jesus is because we’ve not been with him. We were much encouraged to get ALONE with Jesus: “Get into a room with your Bible and take some worship songs and praise Jesus.” was Darren’s life experience and his practical advice for everyone!
On the final day of the conference, there was an Altar Call which is an opportunity to make a decision of faith for Jesus. The participants had the opportunity to share the decision by using the chat. They could either write a private message to the Encounter core team or a public message to everyone. This gave us the opportunity to pray for them.
At the end, all were invited to pray with others in breakout rooms and pray for those who had made a decision of faith to repent and live for Jesus!
Praise God for giving us this precious and vital advice through Darren - GET ALONE WITH JESUS!
Day 5 | Testimonies + Outlook
The last day – a day of celebration of what God has done. Johanna from Switzerland, Paul from Greece and Lukas from Germany shared how God has been working in their hearts and lives during the pandemic, how they met Jesus personally, what spoke to them from John 15 and what they look forward to grow in more in the upcoming time.
Johanna shared how she used to be angry at God because she did not understand how God could love her when she could not even love herself. She was ready to find an answer to this question and learned that a heart of gratitude helped her to grow closer to the love of God. Proverbs 3:5-6 has been a transforming word for her path to knowing God personally. She experienced God’s abundant provision during the pandemic through several job offers that she needed at that time. John 15 encouraged her to testify God to other people no matter their reaction. She learned that a hostile reaction is not automatically an offense against her. A person who is hostile against God might not yet no him personally, this is her motivation to make Jesus known to others.
Paul shared how he used to struggle with the question if he had a personal relationship to God since he grew up knowing a lot about him. To him, God used to be like a statue. You cannot talk to him and it doesn’t respond. But upon reading a psalm of David who identified himself as a sinner from birth, Jesus started to make sense to him and he became convicted of his sinful life in need of a savior. The pandemic hardly had any impact on him because he is used to doing “his own thing”. However, his PhD studies challenged him on a daily basis because he felt like he did not do anything significant. During that time he was encouraged by Joseph and Moses who also had seasons of insignificant tasks that were necessary to learn the lessons their future responsibilities required. Through the conference he is encouraged to spend deep quality time with Jesus and wants to find out what that looks like practically.
Lukas was invited to a European Conference in 2009 and started to grow in his relationship to Jesus gradually. He used to be a boy of no purpose and direction, with a tendency to being depressed. He used to spend his days mostly playing computer games. Today he says that Jesus has changed him into a man who is searching for purpose and God’s will in his life. He has great passion for young people and kids to know Jesus personally and has invested much joy and passion into serving them. Coming from a non-Christian, and even non-UBF home, Lukas inspired us to stand firm in faith and love for his family. The pandemic has challenged him a lot to live his faith actively. That is why he started a group with some friends to share devotion and prayer to uplift encourage one another.
Sh. Walter shared a blessing with us and prayed for the whole community of Encounter to continue to live in our world, remaining in Jesus and being witnesses of Him.
We ended this last day with lots of thanks and praise from the heart. Although we faced several technical issues on this day, we saw that God was still working and using this conference as a blessing for many.
With this in mind, we also want to thank you for praying for us and supporting this conference and young people from Europe UBF and beyond. We are looking forward to what God is using us to do in our various places.
MCs at Cologne UBF
Behind the scenes at Cologne UBF
Group Bible Studies (some pictures)
Participants (some pictures)
Blessing from elders
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