Was it worth it?
Countless hours of preparation, little sleep, work throughout the holidays, tirelessly running around the clock to ensure that everything is up to par, traveling back and forth, talking to dozens of people…was it really worth it? Absolutely!
Organizing the first ever TeenStreet conference in Russia was nothing short of an overwhelming challenge. But that is always the case when dealing with such a project for the very first time. The preparation started a few months before as the work required to make this dream come true was not trivial. December is usually the time of the year when we are supposed to dial back a little and dedicate more time to family and friends, but this time it was especially busy. With the approach of the beginning of the conference and still so much that needed to be done, the MDT students and the members of the team involved in this undertaking sacrificed their own free time to make it happen.
When the third of January finally arrived, everything was finally in place. We were ready to begin. And soon enough dozens of teenagers started pouring in, their faces barely containing their excitement. They quickly removed their heavy winter clothes, donned their badges, and began exploring their surroundings. In an instant, the welcome session would be over, and the event would officially begin.
When everybody gathered in the main hall and the host greeted them with a resounding “Hello, TeenStreet!”. In response, the howl of over one hundred teenagers echoed through the church. While these numbers cannot compare with the thousands who join the TeenStreet conference in Germany every year, for Russian standards, such a large gathering was indeed impressive.
Although the thrill of the opening day was intense, it did not decrease throughout the week. Every day the teenagers were challenged to reflect either by themselves during their quiet time or together in their small groups. Both teens and staff were encouraged to look at their own lives through the lenses of the conference’s theme: Happy.
The conference not only gave them a unique opportunity to connect with different people from various cities and churches, but also encouraged them to ponder over the theme “Happy”. “I took part in this conference as a coach,” said one of the staff members. “On the first day, when I saw the name of the conference, I thought it was strange. It seemed that something was missing. For some reason I wanted to put a question mark. ‘Happy?’ Or even change the name of the conference to ‘happiness’. It is clearer. But going deep into this question, studying different facets of happiness with the teenagers and looking at the things, with the help of which we want to find happiness, I realized that I wanted to put an exclamation mark. For me, this conference finished as ‘Happy!’ This conference completely upended the way I understand happiness. It refocused me from the things that claim to be happiness, to real happiness.”
The various lectures also gave them the chance to learn how to deal with questions they might be asking themselves, such as “How to share the gospel with your friends?” or “Why do I go to church?” At the end of the week, one of the teenagers declared, “What I remember most is the workshop about how to share the Gospel with friends. There was a good thought, which touched me. Whenever you come to a person and whatever he answers, you win in any case, because even if they do not accept you, you did everything you could. And God will always remember it”.
At the end of the five-day conference, the staff were exhausted. The event really took a toll on both their bodies and minds. However, the grateful smiles of the teenagers as they thanked the team for their effort was priceless. All the hard work had resulted in dozens of lives “transformed by the renewal of their minds, not conforming themselves to the patterns of this world”. And although we are not exactly sure how long the memories of these days will last or how much fruit the words spoken will produce, we are confident that God worked on us and through us. And as we rest after such an intense week, the smiles on our faces clearly display the feeling in our hearts. It was worth it.