This year YMCA Baden in Germany (CVJM Baden) is celebrating its 125th anniversary. It has published a special edition of its magazine “Streiflichter” (“Highlights”), with the theme “125 years of YMCA Baden – young people in focus”.
World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee was asked to write a piece encouraging young people to look at the future with hope and strength.
By God’s grace, the hope of the world is in young people’s hands
COVID-19 has massively disrupted the lives of young people all around the world. They have faced massive struggles: isolation from friends, disrupted education, mental health issues – as well as major social and economic challenges. Faced with COVID from early in 2020, as a youth organization the global YMCA Movement had to adapt quickly to provide the tools and the support that the next generation needed, in a setting which was new to us all.
It is not the first time that YMCA has had to stay calm in the midst of the storm. 177 years ago in London, George Williams started a small movement to empower young people to have a positive impact on the world through their social actions and their active prayers, despite the fact that many of them knew poverty and limited opportunity. Many YMCAs joined the journey, including YMCA Baden 125 ago.
As an international family, we have weathered many storms: economic crises, wars, financial crises, and now a pandemic. We have had to adjust our strategies, our activities and our structures, but what has remained at the core of our work are our focus on young people, and our Christian values of compassion, support, respect and love.
Why is it key to keep focusing on young people, to make our world a better place?
We need young people’s creativity, their boldness and their energy. We also recognise they have a special anointing. When Jesus appointed His apostles, they were likely to be in their early thirties, like Him. They were eager to learn and to fulfil their potential. Matthew chapter 5 tells us that Jesus said to them: “You are the salt of the earth (v13), You are the light of the world (v14)”. These words resonate strongly today in a world where hope seems so fragile. Since the beginning of COVID-19, we have witnessed the courage and the generosity of the young women and men we serve all over the world. They have stood for their communities, distributing food, making masks, raising awareness and encouraging one another.
It is said that young people are our future, but their future is compromised. Many have felt disconnected from their education. Others have struggled with mental health issues or lost their jobs and income. So our role is to listen to them and to give them the tools they need so that they can shine again and find their way to a brighter and better place. Our mission is to provide safe spaces so that they can strengthen themselves to change and drive the world according to their values of equity and inclusion. We must help let them be salt and light, by reaffirming their dignity and their richness.
Jesus adds: “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5 v16). Ultimately, the message given to the world is a message of love. If our young generation feels cared for, valued and safe, then its love for the world will overcome any obstacles. Jesus has promised to be with them and with all of us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthey 28 v20). Generation after generation, let’s ensure that we nurture our young people the way Jesus took care of His disciples. He saw their potential, He guided them, He loved them and He empowered them to do their part. May His example inspire us, and inspire our youth, to receive and to give His Peace, and to be change-makers for our communities and those in need.
Download the “Streiflichter” magazine (in German)