About 4000 people attended the conference this December and it was truly blessed. Many young people gave their hearts to the Lord Jesus and were reconciled to their Heavenly Father.
Buses transported youth from the Eastern Cape and other provinces in South Africa. Services were well attended and the response for personal prayer was wonderful to witness. Rev Erlo Stegen preached on Sunday morning on the Prodigal Son. Many of the youth testified how they had been deeply touched by the message that brought the hope of forgiveness for past sins.
The 3pm session on Sunday was an opportunity for representatives of political parties to present their election manifestos. The young people in the audience were given the opportunity to pose questions. Statistics indicate that not enough young eligible voters are registering and thus will not vote in the coming elections. This was a good platform for voters to express what is important to the Christians in South Africa.
On Monday the day was dedicated to sports and fun. Although it was a sweltering hot day, it was enjoyed by one and all. The day ended with a blessed service. That night the first buses left for the Eastern Cape again. Transporting the young people continued until Thursday, and services continued for those that were still on the Mission.
There was a wonderful, dedicated team of helpers, cooks, servers, marshalls, and many many other, sometimes unseen people, at work to bless attendees and helpers alike.
One helper wrote the following comments on impressions of the conference:
The food tent is hot and the clamour of eager, hungry young boys holds my attention. The six lines are moving fast and the porridge fills bowls of all shapes and sizes. Although busy, orderliness ensures that all are fed three good meals each day. Food is an essential part of the youth services.
A thin, gaunt young man looks at me appealingly and asks politely for another slice of bread. His eyes twinkle and his attitude is not demanding, rather needy. By his manner and courtesy I realise that God has touched his heart. He sees his need of the divine influence and control in his life. He knows who he is and where he has been and he now sees the opportunity of a new life before him.
On Sunday 16 December, Reverend Erlo Stegen preached about “the prodigal son”.
He referred to the story in Luke 15 where a son demands his inheritance from his father and then lives a wild life indulging in all the pleasures of the world, only to come to the realisation when he has spent it all that he was better off in his father’s house. When he finds himself friendless and needy, he is at rock bottom feeding off the food given to the pigs on the farm where he has been hired. He repents and returns home to his father who embraces him as his long lost son. He admits that he has sinned against his father and heaven and is no longer worthy to be called his son. His father calls for a robe and a fattened calf and there is great rejoicing.
Reverend Stegen, repeatedly emphasised that this should be the story of each one of us and that it should be true in all our lives: to realise that God loves us and welcomes us back when we humble ourselves before him and repent and return to him. There is great rejoicing in heaven when the lost sinner repents. This young man came back to life when he came back to the father.
Many of the youth who came to the youth services found the opportunity to put their lives right with God, to come back to the Father. Although many people are involved with the orchestration of the services all have the same desire that the young people may have a personal meeting with the Lord. All helpers and organisers aspire to lead others to the Lord even through their part is helping register the children, cooking food at the pots, serving food in the tents, keeping the luggage safe, transporting the children, giving technical assistance with the sound and so on. The ministry of the messages in the services and the faithful counselling available to all after each service ensure that all who seek to come to the Lord have the opportunity to find help and grace.
Reverend Stegen mentioned that the story of “the prodigal son” can be studied from many angles. The person who turns away from God is dead. Many of the young people who attended the youth services have lived such a life as the prodigal, wasting their lives on drugs and a life of crime.
At a testimony service on Tuesday, 19 December, several young men witnessed to the impact this service on Sunday had made on them. One spoke of a phone call with his father after eight years existing in survival mode as the dregs of the earth, and hearing his Christian father call him “son”. With that three-letter word the son’s heart broke and he wept, seeking reconciliation and forgiveness.
Another young man, who had been at the mission for a few days, overflowed with thankfulness and he encouraged other young people to put their lives right with God and repent of their wasted lives before God and their families. He stressed that their families would receive them and love them if they only let God turn their lives around. Many spoke with gratitude to Reverend Stegen and the co-workers for giving them the opportunity to change their lives and their futures by asking God to cleanse them and give them the strength to live a new life. It was clear from this service that many were helped through this week of the youth services.