Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday in Leipzig

As in all days, this one started early and ended with a bus ride to the hotel at 10:00 PM.  We usually have a meeting when we get back - to go over the next day's schedule but Lynn called it off tonight since most everyone is quite tired.  

The past two days were spent mostly at the sprawling conference center on the outskirts of town.  The only thing around it is a German equivalent of a Kroger (certainly not a Ukrops). Today we got some rain which cooled the temperature down from the 90 degree days we've had.  The barrel-shaped glass space which holds some exhibits gets quite warm.  The meeting spaces are in another space - much cooler.  It is interesting to be in that glass barrel when there's lightning and a heavy rain outside.

The conference program and speakers and topics challenge everyone but are geared to have the youth step out of their comfort zones - and try to "bring a little heaven to earth".  The main speakers at the evening services have been 16, 24, and 28 years old and spoke to some very big issues that they are leading.  The 16 year old spoke of his petition to the UN with 160,000 signatures to end slavery in some countries.  I saw him profiled a while back on CNN "Heroes".

The speaker last night (Shane Claiborne) had some provocative views on world events.  When he was right out of high school, he made his way to Calcutta and worked for a period with Mother Theresa.  He uses his activism to highlight social issues.

The young lady tonight spoke of her work in "Volunteers Without Borders".  She is in Brazil now and works as a coordinator for conferences.  All these young people are quite impressive and want to create big changes with their lives and faith.

With regard to our youth, they seem to be having a good time and are getting along quite well.  The 10 Slovaks who came with us are interacting well with our youth and have become fairly integrated.  The college-age kids have been feeling a little cooped up out here in the suburbs and wanted to see Leipzig before all 7000 go down there tomorrow afternoon.  Lynn consented and let them take the tram to the center of town provided they were back for dinner at 6:00 PM.  Despite few English signs, they got around quite well and managed to see much of the central city in just a few hours.

As I mentioned, the entire conference is moving downtown tomorrow night.  Our conference will set up in 3 squares for early musical performances - John Ivins is one of the performers.  Their local TV channel will broadcast the event live.  Isn't it amazing to think that 20 years ago, this city was in Communist East Germany and the practice of Christianity was forbidden?  While there are many challenges around the world for Christians, one thing this conference really makes clear is that some countries like Ukraine are having a revival of faith.

There are 4 Nigerians now in my family group and they speak about their faith in very clear terms.  They spoke of how they use their faith daily to stand out in their country where the Christian ethic and culture are not the norm.  To be a Christian in some countries, one must endure isolation and more.  One young man in our group came from Bangladesh and spoke of the challenging time getting to the conference because of politics. 

I see that there are many messages since the last time I was able to log on.  These will be passed on at breakfast in the morning.  I bring this computer to breakfast and let the folks read the messages on the blog.  The internet is wireless here so I can bring it down there.  We leave for Berlin on Sunday so I'll try to log in once more Saturday night before we leave.

All for now, tomorrow will be a fun day for everyone as we go into town for the entire afternoon and evening.  I'm not sure Leipzig is ready for 7000 Baptists - but here we come.

Mark Larson