– Pauline Marie Belmonte
The Lord has been busy in Asia. A hundred young people, inspired by the work of God at last year’s Asia Kairos Youth Camp in Manila, gathered in Penang, Malaysia, this July for this year’s camp, entitled Kairos 2016: Beacons of Light. They sought to fan the Lord’s flame into a great fire.
Penang, a state which once served as the convergence of Asian and European cultures, with its hills and quiet yet urban air, and home to Covenanted for Christ Community, provided the backdrop for this year’s Kairos camp – a meeting amongst youth from Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. At the four-day event, the call went out for the youth to become beacons of Christ’s light, ushering forth his glory.
Households: Dwelling in Unity
The Kairos camp was built upon Prep 7 – a group of thirty young people who came for 7 days prior to the main event to receive training to serve at the camp and also to grow personally in Christ. We lived in households – a men’s household and a women’s household. We did house chores, went out to the poor and needy, whilst living a life of prayer, scripture meditation and Christian relationships. The men’s Prep 7 built brotherhood through service and responding to God’s mission to the Sword of Spirit. At the place where the men’s household was living, the brothers helped out with serving the homeless and also helped with preparations for the upcoming camp. Meanwhile, the women’s household meditated on Christ’s “I Am” statements in scripture, and their activities included outreaches to children and spending time with the sisters in the community.
For participant JM Tallas, a Filipino living in Singapore, it was an extraordinary time of building brotherly relationships with guys whom, despite his having just met, he felt he had lived with for years. Sam Rentap, a brother from Malaysia, found household a way of growing in confidence to praise and worship God, encouraged by the presence of his brothers in the household who were unabashedly doing so. For Janica Javier of the Philippines, the household experience stretched her abilities to love and serve God and others as she was constantly challenged to do more and more – to look beyond her own abilities and look to God’s grace for her.
The two households with over 30 young men and women made a significant impact on the participants. Decisions were made to live out a regular prayer life, be witnesses to the faith, and to be simply extraordinary disciples of Christ. The households were not only memorable for those who participated but memorable for hosting Covenanted for Christ Community, as the households were the first of their kind in Penang. And the households received generosity and hospitality from the community, who welcomed them at the Lord’s Day celebration and joined them in fellowship.
The venue for the main Kairos camp, after Prep 7, was St Anne’s Church, in Penang. One hundred participants gathered there: some of them had travelled the previous night from Singapore and from all over the Philippines. Some even came from Sabah, a province of Malaysia near Borneo, and some participants came from the U.S. The event served as an intersection of people from different cultures and backgrounds.
The days began with a times of prayer, worship and scripture meditation, followed by inspiring input from Raoul Roncal and Jake Yap who have been for many years closely involved in serving the youth of Asia. They are members of a brotherhood of celibate men, the Servants of the Word, and are also part of the region’s largest Sword of the Spirit community in Asia, Ligaya ng Panginoon, in Manila. Their presentations focused on training men and women in skills to defend the faith and to share Christ with others. There were sessions in the afternoon to help equip leaders.
And of course, the camp wouldn’t be complete without letting out youthful energy in amazing races and competitions, and unleashing the creative juices in entertainment nights and music nights. Playing the entertaining games and concocting the imaginative performances were times for the participants to relax and to build relationships with one another.
A Call for Beacons
Raoul spoke on being a beacon – that there is a need to gather the light, for a lighthouse without a light is essentially pointless. He pointed to the unsettling darkness in our world which we can see in secularism, relativism, and atheism. He exhorted us to overcome “spiritual blindness” that has been caused by this darkness.
Jake reminded us that light shines in the darkness, “Light springs up in the midst of despair.” This light springs from God who sent his Son to overcome this darkness and, as St. John writes in the first chapter of his Gospel, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” So, the question for those at the camp was this: “Have I chosen the light?” We were exhorted by Raoul that all have been called and been given a choice to be bearers of Christ’s light into the world. While there is a joy in standing as beacons of light, there is also the challenge of feeling different, rejected and unworthy when one ventures to share and defend the light.
However, despite this seemingly immense cost, Jake explained that the cause of being a beacon of Christ’s light far outweighs the cost. He shared the image of a lighthouse that in its role of lighting the way for ships it is not spared the onslaught of incoming ocean waves. Only because of its strong foundation can the lighthouse endure the storm. Jake invited us to be beacons of light against the darkness, and strongly founded on Christ.
A Spirit-filled Response
“To be beacons of light for a cause far outweighing the cost.” This was the call, and it was in need of a response. The young people rose to this call in a powerful time of prayer and worship after the Saturday evening celebration of the opening of the Lord’s Day. As the appointed time came to respond to the call, people slowly began to kneel and raise their hands in awe of the mighty God who called them. Many young men and women had vivid personal encounters with God that night. This time proved be a highlight for many of the attendees.
As each person committed or recommitted himself or herself to Christ, we were encouraged to go around to pray for our brothers and sisters. The session hall filled with prayers, lifting up to God their new commitment, chosen ministries, and individual concerns. Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit was at work. Josh Miranda of the US said that these prayers allowed him to open up to God’s love and set aside inhibitions he had felt before. Denise Choon of Malaysia was struck by how God can use anyone to pray for her.
A Challenge to Shine
“Be a beacon of light and shine.” That was the challenge posed by Avi Leong from the Philippines at the camp’s closing gathering. The challenge was to shine – stand firm, listen to the Lord’s command, initiate, never back down, and be excellent. And with this war cry, Kairos 2016 concluded with powerful and confident worship.
This Kairos Camp 2016 in Asia saw the Holy Spirit forming and building up the youth to a more confident faith. Monica Pontejos of the Philippines shared that by the example of the brothers and sisters who were brave in living out their faith, she was encouraged to a more radical expression of her own faith. Adelene, who is from Malaysia, was reaffirmed in her identity as God’s daughter and her shared mission to shine Christ’s light.
God has put a desire in each person to take a step forward in their commitment to him. One of the radical responses of the youth of the local host community is a commitment to start a youth outreach in Penang, to be called Christ’s Youth in Action.
God is doing tremendous work with his youth in Asia. He never ceases to amaze. Kairos 2016: Beacons of Light is but one of those events that give testimony to this. And with every spirit-filled encounter between the Lord and his young people, he invites them to a deeper commitment to himself and to do greater things for him.
With God, something great and awesome is always brewing. How will the youth of Asia and the world respond next?
Pauline Marie Belmonte just graduated from university. She served as part of the core group who led the women’s Prep 7. Photos: Pauline Belmonte, Kaina Sitoy, Michael Cheong, Ian Ling.