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Blog: How American Evangelical Youth are Seeing the World

By Bob Roberts Jr.

You’ve heard about all the world leaders from business, government, and faith leaders that will coming to the Global Faith Forum – but there will also be many practitioners as well.  There will be evangelical pastors and ministries that will tell their stories of how they engage with the world and people of other faiths.  I will be writing about some of these so that those of you that are coming can get a feel for them before you come to the conference.  I want to encourage you to register as soon as possible – everything is in full gear and moving forward and I’m really getting excited about this thing more and more every day as it comes near.   

One of the practitioners you will be hear about is the President & CEO of Camp KIVU in Durango, Colorado.  Andy Braner is the “premier” leader in youth camping but also a youth specialist.  This summer he brought Palestinian Muslims and American Christians for a youth camp and it went over huge.  They talked about the differences and similarities of their faiths, their worldviews, what life is like for them – it was eye opening for all of them.  Some of them are going to try to come to the Global Faith Forum.  What makes this generation – what Zogby is calling our “first globals” so different from the past?

First, they’re connected like never before.  The internet has changed how they learn, think, and connect.  It has opened them up to the whole world and people around the world like no other generation.  As a result they are exposed to different people, worldviews, and ideas.

Second, because they are connected the internet is having the same impact on them that the television did on the boomers in the 60’s.  Ever wonder why this generation is more concerned about “justice” than any generation we’ve ever had?  Every wonder why orphan care and human needs globally are so huge?  In the 60’s, television in the US made stories alive and so issues were addressed be it racism, poverty, or the Vietnam War.  Now, young people can follow one another on Facebook, twitter, and other media and get different perspectives beyond a 3 minute news report.

Third, they have a sense of moral responsibility to use their resources to impact the world for good – that has been generally inherent in most Americans historically.  America has been the most generous nation ever in the history of humanity.  That isn’t by accident and it isn’t simply because our nation became wealthy – it is part of our psyche.

Fourth, among evangelical youth – the passion to make Jesus known to all peoples and the connectivity to do it with is significant.  I believe that this generation will continue to embrace new forms of global engagement like no other generation.  In the past engagement was join a “missions organization” – now it’s “let’s deal with human trafficking” or “orphans” or “water” or whatever.  This is good – because it moves “missions” from professional religious workers to everyday people doing everyday things in the name and with the love of Jesus.  I also believe this is far more welcomed around the world than us showing up to do religious work.

You can read Andy’s blog – some 50,000 people do regularly – here’s what he wrote a few days ago . . . . enjoy . www.andybraner.typepad.com

I’ll never forget the weekend after 9-11, every church seat was filled.  The church we went to at the time hosted nearly 2500 people in a single service, and it was standing room only.  People were crying out for healing, as they watched the news play over and over again the devastation in New York.

My pastor stood at the podium, and asked us to pray.  
He asked us to pray for our country.
He asked us to pray for our leaders.
He asked us to pray for those who lost family, friends, and colleagues.
And then He asked us to pray for our enemies.

PRAY FOR OUR ENEMIES?  I almost stood up and walked out.

I was in no way ready to hear the words of Jesus, “you have heard it said to love your friends, but I tell you to love your enemies.  Do good to those who hurt you.”

I just couldn’t bring myself to hear it.

It took years for me to even begin to face the hurt, the fear, and the sense of the unknown as I tried to bring myself to even speak of the bitterness in my heart. After all,  I had friends in New York that were there, family who worked down the street, and many believers who shared my intense need for revenge.

And then I began to meet people who live in ‘those’ places where the terrorists were from.

I learned, not all Muslims were ‘those’ type of people.  Most Muslims live much like I do.  Sure they dress differently, hold different values in culture, and have an eastern way of approaching many problems; but most just want to live their lives like I do.  They want to raise their family.  They want to get better jobs.  They want to be educated, and provide for their families.  They want to live in a world where they can enjoy their communities, and they long to worship.

The majority of the Muslims I met weren’t anything like those who live out a life centered around death instead of life.  And crazy enough, most Muslims I meet characterize ‘those’ muslims as evil, deranged, and a tribe doing more damage to the world than any ever desire to see.
Most Muslims I met were ashamed of the atrocities of 9-11.  Some of my new friends even weep when we talk about the events feeling the intense pain, anger, sadness, and hurt I held in my own heart.

I’ve learned there are evil people in the world, but in the most unlikely places, there are people who have learned the message Jesus taught, Love your Neighbors.

I find myself in the most unlikely place at this point in my life sharing my faith with people all over the world. I’ve had compelling discussions about Jesus with the most unusual candidates, and I’m always amazed how the Power of God works in those relationships to remove the blinders and help both parties to seek friendship.  So on this day, remembering the pain of 9-11, I’ve learned there are many around the world who also share our sadness in our remembrance.
Bob Roberts

Bob Roberts

Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.