International Youth Festival - 2005 - Nitra
Nitra is the oldest town in Slovakia. Behind Nitra rises the mountain, and the river Nitra runs at its base, encircling the old town and the castle hill across from the mountain. Our festival was held at a university campus at the foot of the mountain, just across the river from the castle. Our theme was “Love can build a bridge”.
We had 130 participants from 10 countries:
- 4 from UK
- 7 from Iceland
- 18 from Hungary
- 5 from the Ukraine
- 36 from the USA
- 15 from The Netherlands
- 3 from Canada
- 10 from Romania
- 23 from the Czech Republic
- 10 from Slovakia
On a hill just outside of town is an old missionary institute called Calvary which sent out missionaries all over the world to spread the Good News. From this sense of history we created the story of the lost monk, a brother who came down from the mountain and shared with us his observations of the world, asking “Where is the love?”
Each day we had a Club Meeting, which was the main session where we all came together. Each Club Meeting featured a speaker who spoke on the day’s theme. At each Club Meeting somone read a fictional letter from our lost monk, which shared some insights about the day’s theme plus some exhortations.
We also had a "Love Report" each day by Margareth Ross from Iceland. She began her reports with the phrase, "The love is growing in Nitra..."; and she related stories of festival participants who were particularly helpful to others in a sacrificial way. For example, one girl from the Czech Republic accompanied a girl from Ukraine for much of the festival in order to translate everything that was going on because the Ukrainian spoke no English. They communicated in Russian. Margareth Ross also had little spies that informed her of one or two romances that began during the Festival.
After the Club Meeting the participants could discuss the main talk each morning in their small groups. These were drawn from all the participants and everyone was placed into one for the whole week in order to get know and interact more fully with a smaller number of people. The feedback about the small groups has been very favorable and they have become a basis for good friendships that many participants are carrying on through email.
One participant said: “Before the trip I was nervous about the language barrier and being open to other cultures. But then after being with new people from all over Europe, I got used to trying to communicate with them. I grew close to a lot of people from all different countries that I never would have thought I would be able to get as close to as I did in only a week.”
In the afternoons there were organized, optional activities and workshops. The four workshops were: Arts & Crafts, led by the Slovakian host team; Stepping, led by the step team SoW from Holland; Singing, led by the gospel choir Angels of Harmony from Philadelphia; and Hip-Hop, led by the YMCA group from New Jersey. These groups participated all week, but on Thursday night we got special performances from them and the pupils at their workshops. We also got to see the top three finalists from the talent contest, which ran all week with different acts each evening.
Wednesday’s afternoon activity was a Discovery Trip around Nitra; and unlike the other afternoon activities, this was done in small groups. Each small group became a team that visited three different points of interest in Nitra on foot and by bus. After about four hours, all the groups met at the castle to have the Festival group photo taken.
At the end of the week our "lost monk" actually showed up in the person of Nathan Corbitt from Build a Bridge Interantional. Asking us, "Will you love others?", he left us with seven questions to ask ourselves...
1) Do you know what is important?
2) Are you flexible?
3) Are you open and non-judgmental?
4) Are you willing to journey? (outside your comfort zone)
5) Are you willing to see the inside and not the outside?
6) Are you willing to serve others?
7) Will you sacrifice?
These questions will be used as starting points as we encourage the festival participants throughout the year. In this way we hope to get each participant to start thinking about how they can become bridge-builders themselves in their own communities; how can they become “outposts” of God’s love right where they are?
One young man from California said this of the Festival: "Probably once in a lifetime for me because I don’t get a chance to do stuff like like this; Also, I am not a Christian, so it was like a new, new thing to me; a good way for me to learn about Christianity and how other people live outside of the States. I’m really glad I came."