They came from Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and France. They are between 19 and 27 years old and have one thing in common: they are all inspired at the thought of the International Youth Convention 2019 (IYC) and that’s why they have become IYC ambassadors. They came together for the first time on Friday 27th April, 2018 in Düsseldorf.
Raphael made a video which he shared in Instagram : a few flares flickering in the darkness; they are moving, coming closer and now you see them: the young ambassadors are carrying them through the night. Simon added his part by including a few photos in the online service, where two hands could be seen, stretching out toward each other. One of the hashtags is labelled #iyc2019logo, under which the New Apostolic youth can find the photos, share them and add their own photos depicting the IYC logo to the collection. Simon, Raphael and most of the other IYC ambassadors have only had their Instagram accounts since April 27th.
The ambassador’s meet up
This gathering in Düsseldorf is their first time together. They met in a hotel, whose restaurant had a direct view into the stadium. Some of the ambassadors were also previously at the European Youth Day in 2009 and were immediately drawn back nostalgically to that time. “For me it could begin right now – pity that we still have to wait another year,” said Raphael, from Switzerland.
As the meeting‘s discussion began the nostalgia faded with the knowledge that there was still lots of work ahead for them. Frank Schuldt, head of the IYC’s communications project group, explained to the ambassadors what tasks would lie ahead of them; for example, they must inspire the youth with the same enthusiasm for the International Youth Convention and raise awareness of this mega event. They must encourage the young New Apostolic Christians to send in their ideas and to create their own projects and so bring the Convention to life. They must be representatives and role models of the IYC, for instance, by showing their presence to create awareness and anticipation of the IYC, especially through the social media.
After the evening meal together, the prospective IYC ambassadors bought drinks from a nearby kiosk and found a place to sit on the banks of the river Rhine. Now was the time to become closer acquainted - and to one degree or another, to chat in English with each other: account had to be taken that Pascal, from the Netherlands, Elise, from France and Miguel, from Portugal could understand what was being said. At around 9:30 p.m. the ambassador for Northern and Eastern Germany, Anna-Sophia, from Hanover, arrived to join the group. She had to work during the day and had therefore missed the beginning. The others then briefly introduced themselves. Elise is a law student, Miguel and his brother are the only New Apostolic youth in their home city of Porto and Simon and Raphael, who were both at the EYD, infected the others with their enthusiasm and joyful anticipation.
Elise told how one of her friends reacted to her nomination as an ambassador. “As he heard that I was going to be an IYC ambassador, he said, ‘So now you are someone like an Apostle’! She shook her head and laughed. Darkness was falling and the lights of Düsseldorf were mirrored in the water. Pascal began quietly to sing, “Der Herr ist mein Licht” (“The Lord is my Light” in English). The others began to hum the melody – a goose pimple sensation!, firstly because it is such a nice song and secondly because of the evening cold which was creeping in. Therefore, they went back to the hotel, where Frank had prepared another surprise: the IYC ambassador t-shirts. After everyone had found a t-shirt of the right size, no one had the desire to turn in for the night: the discussions about the tasks which lay ahead of them were very thought provoking. There was no shortage of ideas and enthusiasm.
A flood of ideas
The following morning the work continued. Elise and Miguel explained that the French and Portuguese youth were aware of the IYC but didn’t have any information about the costs, sending in ideas toward the programme and travel options. To try and change that, the ambassadors formed groups to brainstorm their ideas. What could the ambassadors do in the following months to make the International Youth Convention 2019 tangible for the youth?
Raphael told how he had ordered mini torch lights in the internet and had had the IYC motto imprinted on them. The youth were asked to take photos of their glowing torches and share them in the social networks. He hopes that it will start a chain reaction, beginning in Switzerland for thousands of the youth around the world to form an IYC chain of light. He gave the action the motto, “Shine your light”!
Pascal is thinking how he can motivate the youth in the Netherlands to become really active. As he said, “There aren’t many who want to take on responsibility and that is a big problem. They have some good ideas but don’t want to put them into action”. Elise doesn’t have that problem: the French are already active. For some months now, groups of the youth have been making visits to congregations in France where they greet the newly confirmed youth, bring them into their midst and bring the brothers and sisters closer in looking forward to the IYC.
Pascal and Simon have plans to visit all the church services for the youth in their region, bringing the IYC to the attention of the congregations and Anna-Sophia thinks that the ambassadors could sometimes visit in pairs when they travel to their congregations and districts. The youth could also meet in groups ahead of the IYC to get to know each other and so meet up again in Düsseldorf in 2019.
Kevin, from Austria, suggested that short videos could be made together with the youth, where the motto, “ Here I am ” could be complemented by a further word, for example, “loved” or “happy”. The videos could be shown to serve as teasers in Instagram and also compiled as a longer video to be shown at the International Youth Convention.
Kevin was very impressed by the number of ideas gathered at the discussion following their brainstorming session. “I thought that being an ambassador just meant occasionally uploading a short video in the internet and that would be all, but now I have the feeling that the job is going to be hard work ...”
Raphael called for the social media campaign to involve as many youth as possible. As he said, “Each person can be an ambassador when we make the social media contents attractive. They can share the contents with others, including the more senior brothers and sisters.”
Raphael and Elise are considering whether the French, Swiss and German youth could meet up and help each other with some language lessons. That would help to break down language barriers and they would also personally get to know each other better. She continued, “In France, we are raising money to finance English lessons. We aren’t so good at speaking foreign languages and the Chief Apostle has said that we should learn English, so that we can understand more at the IYC”.
The discussions about the tasks and options open to the IYC ambassadors were so constructive that it was taking much longer than anticipated. As a visit to the Messe (exhibition) site was planned for the afternoon, Heike Stiegler, a social media expert who was holding a workshop on the subject of Instagram, had to shorten the workshop, with all the necessary information, from two to one hour. Luckily, she is flexible. The youth have little experience with Instagram, so that there is lots to learn. How do you make a respectable video from a mobile telephone? How do you put a tag on a post so that you can find it again? How do you make the IYC posts attractive enough for them to be given lots of “likes” and be widely shared? The next 30 minutes was spent on practicing, after which two members of the Messe organisation entered the room – so off they went together to start the visit. First stop was the stadium: what would be the best place to make the first videos of the ambassadors, introducing themselves and the International Youth Convention 2019? This was followed by a few photos of the group and the seats, which are normally used by the visiting football team. Next stop was the Messe halls. When they are so empty they look huge. They were all eager to look again, when they become filled with life at the IYC. The ambassadors made more video recordings in one of the halls and, outside, Elise and Anna-Sophia topped an IYC ambassador pyramid, perched on the shoulders of the others.
The videos and photos will be available in Instagram in the coming days and weeks, to be viewed, liked and shared in the network. The two days spent together has brought them closer as a team, so that they know they will miss each other shortly before they go on their homeward journeys. Therefore, they have already planned another get-together for November. They are looking forward then to meeting the other ambassadors who couldn’t be there this time and want to work together in making the International Youth Convention 2019 a big success.
Four questions for Elias:
You aren’t one of the ambassadors. What’s your role in the project?
My role is to be the coordinator. I plan the meetings and have helped to create the ambassadors’ task profiles.
I will meet the others soon who couldn’t be here in Düsseldorf and will brief them and try to enthuse them for the IYC, just as the ambassadors have experienced during these two days together.
How did you come to get this job?
I work in a project of international cooperation and so I was able to put some ideas together on organising participation to the IYC for the youth from other countries. I then contacted Frank on the subject and offered my assistance: so I became involved with the ambassador project.
What’s the next step in the ambassador project?
We will be dealing, in November, with concrete preparation plans for the second six month period before the IYC and for the Convention itself, for example – will the ambassadors have a role to play at the IYC? I prefer to remain in the background as far as possible and let each ambassador go his or her own way in finding the best options for putting their ideas into action.
What motivates you?
My aim is for young enthusiastic Christians to be able to enjoy friendly interaction with each other. I wish that that which I experienced in 2009, at the European Youth Day, is made equally possible for as many youth as possible.