Last week I was back in the Black Forest, in southern Germany, where nearly twelve years ago I first met with a small group of leaders from other organisations. Stuart McAllister, then with Operation Mobilisation, had gathered us together to explore ways we could partner more in our efforts towards the evangelisation of Europe. I still remember the sense of apprehension as I was introduced to the other European representatives. They were from Youth for Christ, the Greater Europe Mission, Campus Crusade/Agape, and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. As I scanned the room, I wondered what impressions they had of YWAM. They were probably mostly conservative-evangelical, non-charismatic, not very used to working with Catholics, or to church planting, I thought. How much common ground would we find? I wondered.
Much, I was to discover. Our common ground was Jesus. And we shared a passion to see Europeans (re-)discover the hope of the Kingdom.
That passion has blossomed into a partnership that has now spanned more than a decade. We called ourselves the Coalition for the Evangelisation of Europe (CEE), and met in many places across Europe – Vienna, Barcelona, Thessaloniki, Paris, Brussels, London, Kandern, Budapest… We prayed together for one another’s ministries and needs, and grew in respect and trust for one another. Deep friendships developed.
Once when we were meeting here in Heerde, we began to envision ministry networks spreading across Europe. What if teachers, artists, people working among children or youth, sports ministries, urban ministries, families, marketplace ministries, prayer networks, and so on, could be linked in prayer and ministry across national borders? After all, politicians and businessfolk were constantly seeking partnerships, trying to shape the New Europe.
Peter Regez, then of Agape and now director of Janz Teams International, mused on the fact that Europeans associated Faith with the Middle Ages, and had reduced Love to sex, but Hope spoke everyone’s language. And he who offered hope, led. We coined the phrase ‘Hope for Europe’ there and then to name this inclusive, pan-European umbrella we were beginning to envision. We agreed then that we needed to see a movement emerge, not a new organisation, something building relationally, slowly but steadily, like the gradual opening of a tap.
A few days ago we were meeting again in Kandern, in the Black Forest, where Agape/Western Europe and the Janz Team have their offices. What we had dreamed of was now beginning to build momentum. A dozen ministry networks have become operational, while another dozen are shaping up to be part of an unprecedented event planned for next April (2002) in Budapest, a congress named HOPE.21. This congress will bring together some 1500 evangelical leaders from across Europe east and west to explore ways of ‘shaping Europe’s future together’.
Never have so many evangelical leaders come together to take an honest look at Europe today, and to ask what role and responsibility we as God’s people have in the shaping of the New Europe. This is not designed to be a big-name event, nor an end in itself. It is a working congress that is part of an unfolding process. Some 25 consultations will take place simultaneously as each Hope for Europe network meets, and most networks are expected to continue as self-governing networks linked by e-mail forums and holding ongoing consultations.
Imagine, for example, if in the evangelism network consultation, leaders from churches and other organisations caught the vision to carry Impact World Tours across Europe together! That’s a major possibility we can pray for to become reality. We discussed this very scenario last week in Kandern.
The YWAM Europe office is playing an important role in preparing for HOPE.21. Romkje is liaison officer for all the network convenors. Kees, my assistant, is overseeing the administrative preparations, bringing his broad experience from organising many YWAM events to the task. I myself am assisting the congress director, Gordon Showell-Rogers, in programme matters and public relations.
I expect a good number of YWAMers to be involved in most of the 25 network consultations, as well as the two other main components of the event: the evening plenary sessions when we address the overall European situation; and a one-day session in national groups when we respond to the challenge of ‘shaping our nation’s future’.
You will be hearing more about HOPE.21 from me in the future, and about how to receive an invitation to this event. You can read more about HOPE.21 on the Hope for Europe website, www.hfe.org
Let me sign off with this thought. What relational networks are we helping to build in our neighbourhood, city, nation? We can achieve far more together than merely the sum of our individual efforts.
In Jesus our hope,