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

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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)

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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.

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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!

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The Power of Volunteering

Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action. These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud.

– Submitted by Helen Dyer, Parks Funding and Volunteer Coordinator, Teller County, CO Division of Parks, Colorado, USA

We all have choices to make; choices about how to spend our time, our talents, and our treasures.  Let me be more precise.  We do have choices to make but perhaps not about anything we possess.  As a person of faith, I believe that what we have is given to us by our gracious God.  We are stewards of everything we own, the time we have, and even  life itself.  So the question becomes… what are we doing with our life?  Are we living for ourselves or others?  Is our life making a difference in the world around us?

Nelson Mandela quoted, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Volunteering is a powerful way to make a difference and be the change we want to see in the world.  This does not have to be a 2-week trip to remote parts of an African jungle. This could mean volunteering one Saturday morning a month for your local community center or soup kitchen.

At my church we are privilege to have many opportunities for volunteering locally and globally.  No matter your religious affiliation I encourage all to discover opportunities to volunteer and serve,  Through service opportunities, both global and local, it is our hope to positively impact others through our presence and resources.  This happens whether we are physically constructing a home or school, providing medical aid, feeding the hungry, teaching, or bringing laughter and smiles of joy upon the faces of children.

I believe  there exists opportunities for everyone to use what time (great or small) they have and match it with a passion.  When this occurs, the power of volunteering impacts the volunteer as well.  What happens is that volunteers discover  their hearts touched and changed.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,  ”It is one of the beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself.”  

 By volunteering you discover that by giving you receive!

You may never know the power of your volunteering, but every single act of kindness and generosity does make a difference. Regarding her work with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta India, Mother Theresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” 

This reminds me of a story:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son”, the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You cant make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

-Nelson Mandela