Anyone who has worked in youth ministry before is familiar with the question, “So how do I know God’s will/hear His voice?”
Very few, though, have heard it while working in a country under Sharia Law or Islamic law (derived from the precepts of Islam). At this camp, the question carries a gravity to it. These Christian teenagers face intense pressure in their day-to-day lives, and spiritual survival depends on the answer.
“The faith of the youth in this country is rather fragile,” a pastor told Open Doors last year. “Everything they face outside the church walls is Islam. Our government has incorporated Islamic values and systems into all its administrative policies.”
The effect on national education has impacted young believers the most.
Regardless of their faith, all students must study Islam, beginning in kindergarten up to the university level. They also face peer pressure from their Muslim friends who use love and dating to tempt them into converting. Muslim teens are actively encouraged to convince a Christian to convert–considered a meritorious deed that will help them gain entry to heaven.
Because of this intense pressure, more and more Christian parents are encouraging their children to study abroad, advising them not to return to the country upon graduation. The loss of this next generation of believers is causing the Church to face an emerging leadership crisis.
“I have been praying for 10 years for someone to replace me, but I have not found anyone,” says a pastor who has been in ministry for 40 of his 60-plus years.
Kick-Starting Teens’ Spiritual Journeys
His is a common lament from pastors in this country. Many have shared with Open Doors that they are even struggling to find lay leaders and cell group leaders. As we listened to the church leaders indigenous to the region, we continued to hear that youth first must learn to find God for themselves. Once they have that foundation, God will give some a reason to stay.
Open Doors thus developed a five-year youth program called The Quest. The goal of the program, according to an Open Doors trainer is that “through these once-a-year camps, we impact these youths to live an extraordinary life like that of Daniel. Though living in captivity in Babylon, Daniel did not compromise his faith, and God used him to impact the king and the whole nation.”
Currently in its first year, The Quest aims to kick-start teenagers’ journeys with God. It includes times of silence and solitude, encouraging students to listen.
“This will be a time when you must not talk with your friends or use your phones to connect to Facebook,” a trainer explains, answering a 15-year-old’s question on how to hear God’s voice. “You must be alone, remain silent and try to hear God.”
The idea of total silence shocked many participants. Like most teens around the world, they tend to have a noise addiction. But by the end of the exercise, they understood its purpose. In his evaluation of The Quest, one participant said, “I spent time alone with God, and in that silence I could hear His voice. This is something new and refreshing! I would do this more often at home.”
A girl named Esther wrote, “The 10:4 session was one of my favorites because I spent 30 minutes with God, and it’s the best feeling ever just to be with Him.”
‘A Big Impact’
At the camp, the youth also learn a variety of ways to worship God beyond singing and music. Stations providing multiple forms of worship opportunities are readily available, and students are immersed in biblical teaching.
A camp attendee named Emmy wrote, “Every activity was fun, enjoyable and important. It felt good to have that time where I could write my letter to God, draw art for God, and finally, pray for all the various prayer requests posted on the wall.”
A week after the camp, a youth leader wrote saying, “Thank you for organizing the camp. It was really helpful for us, especially the youth under my care. I have never seen them so pumped up about something that they volunteered to testify about it. In church, they talked about the programs and what they learned, especially how they were touched by God during praise and worship.”
“I came to this camp with no expectations,” another participant wrote. “However, now I am truly blessed and thankful that I came. This camp has made such a big impact. My eyes are wide open with everything I see.”
*photo used for illustrative purposes