"We are one body, sharing one spirit, formed by one body on the cross" was the reverberating musical anthem for the fourth Mission-Net Congress in Offenburg, Germany from 28 December, 2015 – 2 January, 2016.
Since returning from the congress, memories of the vast sea of culture, language and denominations punctuated with vibrant national flags waving in the indigo glow of the evening worship continue to flood my heart with joy. Worshiping in the presence of over 2,100 missions-minded young adults from 49 nations, it wasn’t hard to imagine the glorious future that awaits us in heaven.
One of the most memorable moments of Mission-Net was joining in prayer and worship with 2,100 people from 49 nations on New Year’s Eve.
Yet, it wasn’t the pulse of the crowds that was as riveting as the heartbeat of humility present in nearly every detail of the congress. From the opportunities for spiritual reflection among peers during “Family Group” time, to the local service outreaches, to the day of fasting, Mission-Net modeled authentic, missional living for a generation of those “without spiritual mothers or fathers.” A quick glance around any given room during the week and you could see a small group of people laying hands and praying over someone. Beyond the lights, the music and even the gifted speakers, there was an undertone of humble worship and heartfelt prayer, which is undeniably a result of Founder and Director Evi Rodemann’s servant-leader approach.
The embodiment of missional living, Evi has faithfully worked a “day job” for the last 10 years as assistant to the CEO of a prominent aluminum company, in addition to organizing Mission-Net in her “spare time,” with only the help of a volunteer staff. When she introduced herself at the first session, she described herself as merely “part of the team,” and at the celebration on New Year’s Eve, she could be seen making her way through the crowd of 2,100+ people to give hugs and greetings to everyone personally. As much of a well-oiled machine that the congress appeared to be, and as quickly as mountaintop experiences have the potential to melt into routine, the foundation of Mission-Net was undeniably rooted in the glory of Christ, and its eternal value on European young people is unquestioningly profound, practical and long-standing, even if the full effect is yet to be seen.
The ladies of TWR Europe meet Evi Rodemann (third from left), Mission-Net founder and director who so beautifully practices the missional living she preaches.
I was blessed to be one of six members of the TWR Europe team who served as an exhibitor. For five days, we perched at a corner booth in the area known as the Global Market Place, shared about TWR’s media ministry and job/internship opportunities and helped participants take part in the congress-wide treasure hunt by playing a language identification game. We had many fun and unexpected encounters through this experience.
Matt assists participants in the language identification game.
"I’ll never forget this moment! How did you know I’ve been wanting this? Can we take a picture?” exclaimed one brother from Zambia. He bubbled over with gratitude after we spontaneously presented him with a small Israeli flag we found lying on our table. We thought he was joking until his sustained, profuse zeal continued for well over five minutes. This moment made us smile, but ultimately reminded us that though we have nothing to offer on our own, God can bless our gifts, which can in turn bring great joy to the recipients.
Beyond the Global Market Place, which housed over 80 booths containing displays and staff from various missions-related organizations and ministries, Mission-Net offered an incredible array of workshops, events and opportunities for those aspiring to follow Jesus in missional living. The experience was enriched by immersion activities such as the Global Village and a rice lunch. Throughout the day, participants were encouraged to engage in activities such as taking computerized assessments to find their ministry match, receiving prayer and counsel at the “Oasis,” “Dream Center” or “Mission Advice Center,” visiting the various country tables on the “European Street,” or joining with other participants from their country for a time of national prayer.
Exhibitors got in on the fun, too. I found myself at a meeting for Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and a time of prayer with the founder of Frontiers and long-time missionary, Greg Livingstone. On a more serious note, I also had the opportunity to personally speak with missionaries who had been imprisoned and expelled from certain countries for their faith. “There’s only three reasons I’ll leave,” stated one missionary to Libya, “if I’m thrown out, if I’m killed or if the job is complete.”
These words embody the beautiful and hard lessons that Mission-Net taught us about the true cost of missional living. As exciting as the week was, Mission-Net did not shy away from the fact that missional living is a life of joy mingled with hardship, gain eclipsed by loss and freedom steeped in surrender. Even the bubble of joy and security we felt was a reminder that the missions we might be sent out on would likely be very different from our congress experience.
Echoing the theme of the congress, one worship song we sang throughout the week built to the following chorus:
You are the beating heart of love at the center of it all
You are the reason that our hearts come home.
We can never give enough for you gave your blood for us,
This pulse brings life to all.
These lyrics from worship leader Andy Flannagan answered the question that rested on my heart for the week. What other religion, purpose or person can draw so many diverse people together in unity with the goal of changing the world through love? The Olympics? The Red Cross? Just as the lyrics convey, it’s amazing to think of the uniqueness of Jesus to bind the nations together.
One missionary to Tunisia I talked with recounted how he only knew a handful of believers in his town. For him and many others, Mission-Net was a rare opportunity to see so many believers gathered in one place. Yet, as many people were there, it was sobering to think of the many thousands who were not, and the many more thousands who do not know Jesus personally. More than a missions conference, Mission-Net left me encouraged that whether God keeps me in Europe or calls me beyond, it is his beating heart of love that will sustain his purposes to the ends of the earth. Please join me in praying that participants will be encouraged and strengthened in the days to come through our experiences at Mission-Net.
Mission-Net is a biannual congress and movement among young European Christians. The goal of the congress is to connect and encourage those primarily between the ages of 16-30 to live a missional Christian lifestyle in every aspect of life—locally and globally, publicly and privately. Mission-Net needs your support to continue! To learn more and find out how you can help visit http://new-congress-site.mission-net.org/.
Story by Anna Waller
Photos by Mission-Net (top), and TWR Europe (bottom two)