Open Paris…in review

Open Paris

This past weekend, 50 youth workers from across the E.U., U.K. and the U.S converged upon Paris for the inaugural Open Paris.

We were tremendously blessed with a stacked lineup of diverse speakers and seminars including Mark Oestreicher, Andrew Marin, Chris Kidd, Chris Curtis, Gemma Dunning, Markus Eichler, Tabea Weiler, Tim Eldred among others.

Tim Eldred

1385849_10153353236685246_36276769_n

For the full range of the schedule, seminars and vision for Open Paris you can check out the website here:http://paris.openym.org

Hosting was fun and I really enjoyed playing tour guide in the city of Paris and The American Church in Paris.

More importantly, I loved connecting up with such a wide array of youth workers from 6-7 different countries. Each person shared his or her unique story, context, struggles, successes, hopes and dreams for God’s work in the lives of their students.

Some of the highlights for me included a very delicious traditional French dinner served for all guests on Friday evening followed by a sacred time of worship in the church’s catacombs.

(photos courtesy of Tim Eldred and Andrew Marin)

1380531_494316293997801_1802729810_n

1390681_597146333679203_458460514_n

Open Paris was highly interactive, participatory, inclusive and relational.

In my opinion that is the way forward for youth worker gatherings.

Though some well-known speakers were on site, Open Paris was NOT about creating a dichotomy between the “professionals” and the ordinary youth workers.  We were all together all the time, and this is unique among these type of conferences.

Open Paris was about taking some bold risks and opening up honest conversations about real issues facing youth workers today including ministering to the ever-increasing LGBT community, embracing ecumenicalism as a way forward,  and inter-faith dialogue in pluralistic contexts.

panel

I applaud the vision of The Youth Cartel (Adam and Marko) for desiring to create this kind of atmosphere and am excited to see what the future holds for other Open events and also for the connectivity and friendship of youth workers across Europe.

We have much to learn from each other and I hope to see more of these gatherings in the near future!

ACP sanctuaryThe American Church and Eiffel Tower copy

Advertisement

post mission trip reflection

*this was originally posted on bccyouth.wordpress.com on July 23 following my 2-week mission trip to Gabon, Africa

This trip has been truly one of these greatest joys of my life.  Though challenging and stretching in many ways, it provided for the perfect conditions and opportunities for growth.  I engaged and embraced each moment the best I could and was honored to be here in Africa.

With so many great stories and memories…saying good bye is always difficult.

Tearing eyes, long embraces, realizing that those moments will be some of our last.

I have learned the importance of cherishing every single experience.  I cling to these last few days with all that I have.

It is hard to let go and give all to God.  Good byes are painful and sad.  You never know when you may see them again and what God has in store for their life..and your own.

This is the one trip of them all that I deeply want to last.

It’s hard to say good-bye.

Especially when its to your students who have become family to you throughout the years.

This mission trip is bittersweet because it is my last one with my dear family at Bedford Community Church.

It has been an honor and privilege serving at BCC the past decade.  I believe this trip marks the 12 official trip I have led and each one has a special place in my heart.  Each trip has been to different contexts and countries and each year the team members change.  What has never changed has been the amazing spirit of selflessness and reckless abandon to God that students and leaders have displayed throughout the years.

If I could have scripted an end to my time at BCC…this would have been it.  So while I am extremely grateful for this opportunity it is hard to see so much life-changing work being accomplished in and through this team of students and to know that I will not be around to help cultivate (and really watch) all that God has in store.  Years past we would all return and begin dreaming together and casting a vision for ministry, faith, and life together at church.  We would return with a heightened sense of God’s presence and mission for our lives in community.

Seeing what God has done to transform the lives of these students and adults has been incredible. they are ready and willing to head back to NY to share God’s love and make signficant impact in our area.  For that I am proud and grateful

Saying good-bye to those who touched my heard and life is equally as difficult. Each year I go through a similar mourning process.  You begin to get used to seeing the same faces each day and working alongside people. You fall in love with the children who are so free and eager to trust you and give and receive love.

these good-byes bring tears as well that are difficult to wipe away. Time heals, but the wounds of loss still linger for me from trips 10 years ago.

I will miss young Christopher at the Hope House whose huge smile brightened my day every time I visited.  On my wrist I wear the 4 silly bands he gave me, one for each visit and I cherish those memories. It is hard for me now to sit here in relative comfort while this amazing young boy remains behind in Libreville.  He gave me so much love, I can only hope and pray that he received a portion of that back.


I will miss Eric Bill, an incredible 21-year old man who was a team leader for Envision in Gabon.  Raised as a missionary kid in Gabon, he now works with the C&MA denomination during his summer break from college to help lead short-term experiences for team’s such as ours.  His maturity, patience, leadership, commitment to prayer, humility, and servant’s heart deeply touched and inspired me.  Though 10 years younger than I, Eric serves as an example to myself as one who exemplifies Christ.  I will miss our conversations in the bumpy van rides and blazing trails through the deep jungles of Africa.  I will miss him translating our words into French with such zeal and passion.  I will miss his tireless service to our team.  I will miss his friendship.

But more than anything I will miss this mission team from BCC.  I have been holding on to each day; each moment; every conversation and cherishing them all.  I am grateful to God for providing this time for me to share with these students and adults before I head off to Paris.  I could not have scripted it any better.

Hearing countless stories of hearts and lives forever changed brings me both much joy and confidence.  I can rest knowing the God is with them and they are in Christ.  I can now trust their future, and the future of the youth ministry into God’s care and provision.  If I could hand off a youth ministry to any group of student leaders….this is the group.  And now after sharing 2 weeks together in Africa, I know that they are ready.  I only wish I could physically be around to watch all that God will accomplish through them, but they know that my heart, prayers, and support are forever with them.