Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Slovakia and Serbia do not border on each other. But in both countries there are Slovak-speaking United Methodist ministries. From May 1 to 3, 2015, the first international Slovak-speaking youth camp took place.

There have been long-standing contacts between individuals and local churches in Slovakia and in Serbia. As the leaders in both countries wanted to strengthen the connection on a nationwide level and particularly include a new generation, the idea of a joint youth camp was developed. And when Connexio, the network for mission and diaconia of the United Methodist Church (UMC) promised some financial support, the process of implementation could be started.

A preparatory committee consisting of four members from Slovakia and Serbia each found a Baptist retreat center in the High Tatras (Slovakia). This center met the program needs and offered enough rooms to accommodate a large group. Finally there were 39 participants from Slovakia, aged 15 to 30 – and it was a joyful experience that all eight United Methodist charge conferences of the country were represented. 16 young people travelled from Serbia to the High Tatras, which meant that a total of 55 people gathered in order to enjoy the fellowship and to think about the meaning of «Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.».

The program included lectures and Bible studies relating to the theme, worship and praise, as well as group discussions. All these program elements were against the background of the question how young people in both countries could be reached with the Gospel. Leisure activities, games and sports, as well as two excursions offered some variation and opportunities to kick up a breeze. Of a particular value and importance were the moments of personal conversations, in which young people from both countries shared their life and faith experiences with each other.

For Superintendent Ana Palik-Kunčak from Serbia, this youth camp was a source of encouragement: «My impression is very, very positive. Even the parents of the participants were surprised how much their children changed in only three days.» The camp also helped some young people to do some important steps on their faith journey – and to find their calling. Superintendent Pavel Procházka came to an equally positive conclusion: «It was a successful and joyful gathering, and it was very interesting to observe that through faith in Jesus Christ these young people could relate to one another quite easily and quickly.»

Ester Tagajova, a participant from Trnava (Slovakia) had a similar impression: «It was lovely to observe the diversity of people that are connected by the love of God.» She said that after such wonderful days, it was difficult to say goodbye. And then she added, what many other participants expressed as their hope and wish, as well: «I believe that this was just the beginning of new ideas, meetings, and blessings.»

These words found fertile ground among the leaders, and it would not really be a surprise if this youth camp was followed soon by a similar event in Serbia.

Source: Superintendent Pavel Procházka / Urs Schweizer
Date: May 11, 2015