YMCA leaders from five continents gathered last week to lay the foundation for the next YMCA World Mission Conference. This conference will be held in conjunction with the next World Council of YMCAs gathering in Chiangmai, Thailand in July 2018. Meeting last week at the Silver Bay YMCA, these 12 leaders of the various Mission Networks of North America, Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia met to renew relationships, share an update on the Christian mission in their region, and outline the objectives for theWorld Mission Conference.

The World Council of YMCAs is the highest decision making body of the World Alliance. The World Council meets every four years, and is responsible for setting the policies and direction of the World Alliance, electing its Officers and Executive Committee, evaluating the work of the last four years, and deliberating on priorities for the next quadrennium.

The last meeting of the World Council took place in Estes Park at the YMCA of the Rockies in June 2014. It was immediately preceded by the 2nd World Mission Network Conference.  Representatives came from 21 countries to gather with other Christian leaders for one purpose…to see the “C” lifted up in the YMCA!

Front Row (L to R): Sam Stephens, India — Caesar Molebatsi, South Africa — Annie Ngwira, Zambia — Janele Nelson, Washington, USA — Stephanie Gibson, Mississippi, USA — Oscar Ordenes, Chile Back Row (L to R): Steve Clay, England — Joachim Schmutz, Germany — Larry Whittlesey, Oregon, USA — David Newman, Ohio, USA — Bjorn Dixon, Minnesota, USA — Josh Heaston, Indiana, USA
Front Row (L to R): Sam Stephens, India — Caesar Molebatsi, South Africa — Annie Ngwira, Zambia — Janele Nelson, Washington, USA — Stephanie Gibson, Mississippi, USA — Oscar Ordenes, Chile

Back Row (L to R): Steve Clay, England — Joachim Schmutz, Germany — Larry Whittlesey, Oregon, USA — David Newman, Ohio, USA — Bjorn Dixon, Minnesota, USA — Josh Heaston, Indiana, USA

Set against the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, over 160 representatives from YMCAs all around the world worshipped together, listened to stirring messages, shared their personal Y stories in small groups, and joined their hearts in prayer.

As the weekend moved forward it became evident that those who had descended upon Estes Park for the World Mission Network had a common bond in Jesus Christ, no matter what country they came from or what language they spoke. The sense of God’s direction over this event was evident to everyone in attendance. As the delegates left the grounds of the YMCA of the Rockies they knew they had shared a true mountaintop experience that would not soon be forgotten.

As plans are being laid for the event in Thailand, it is our hope to expand on the blessings of this worldwide fellowship.

Something to Think About

I heard a phrase during a message last week in Silver Bay that caught my attention.  Former YMCA International President Caesar Molebatsi was speaking about how Christ is our “shepherd” and we are His sheep. We enjoy His care, His protection, and His presence. In return, He expects that we will “reproduce” and increase the flock. It’s a simple proposition and one that all of us should participate in.

But he asked the question, “Where are the lambs?”  Too often we seem to be over-fed, constipated sheep that aren’t reproducing at all. We’re content to “take it all in” and enjoy our relationship with God, but aren’t reproducing effectively. The flock suffers from a lack of new lambs brought into the fold. They bring energy, excitement and a fresh set of eyes that clearly see the benefits derived from being under the care of our Shepherd.

Let’s not stink up the sheepfold of the YMCA with a stagnant form of Christianity. Let’s do whatever we can to bring new lambs into the flock through our collective efforts in to reach others for Christ in our community.         –Larry Whittlesey