Youth camp reaffirms hope for church in Chile

Young participants in the annual youth camp in Puerto Fonck organized by the ILCH Youth Ministry. Photo: Karla Güttler/Lutheran Church in Osorno (ILCH)

Young people explore theme of mission to strengthen their faith

(LWI) - Though young people often feel left out of the running of their church, this is not the case of youth in the Lutheran Church in Chile (ILCH) who are active leaders in different levels of the church structures. The youth voices are heard and their contribution welcomed. That’s the view of Rev. Hemir Ochoa, who, alongside Rev. Miguel Núñez, led a camp for young people, youth workers, and youth leaders. The activity took place from 17 to 31 January.

Organized by the ILCH Youth Ministry, with the support of pastor Ochoa and Núñez, together with theology student Karl Michael, the camp took place in Puerto Fonck in southern Chile around the theme of Mission. Through a daily program of morning prayers, plenary sessions and group work, the theme was explored with relevance not only to the church’s missionary activities but also to the life of each participant.

Young women and men representing Lutheran communities from nearby Puerto Montt to Valparaiso, north of the capital Santiago, joined participants from the Lutheran Church of Costa Rica (ILCO), the Lutheran Church of Guatemala (ILUGUA) and the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala (ILAG). The Mexican Lutheran Church (ILM) also sent a young person to participate in the Leadership Camp and to exchange experiences of youth work and ministry.

Friendship, support, inclusion

"The theme of mission touched me so deeply that I can say I arrived home with a much clearer idea of what I want to do with my life," said one young participant, Ariadna Mutizabal. The location in Puerto Fonck was also an important part of the experience for the young people and the organizers. "It exceeded all my expectations, from the beautiful landscape, to moments of reflection, from the songs, to the laughter and games, all within an open and friendly atmosphere that strengthened our faith," said Eduardo Luco, one of the youth workers at the camp.

Another participant, Nathalie Miñana, commented that she felt "friendship, love, companionship, support and inclusion", giving thanks for the inclusive space which meant that her disability was not an impediment. "When we sang, I felt something special, I felt that God was holding me in his arms and telling me not to be afraid, not to be sad," she said, adding that she felt "very happy that my dream of doing things like everyone else has come true."

Several young people stressed that the camp helped them to feel they are growing in faith. "Puerto Fonck is an experience where you can learn, share, think, clear your head and free yourself," said Vicente Palma. He noted that an important part of the experience is that the youth workers will always be there for you, at any time, supporting you, advising you and above all motivating you. Two other participants, Sophie Patri and Sebastian Behn, described the camp as “a retreat to improve myself as a person, to strengthen my faith, to know myself better and to learn more about the word of God.”

Pastor Hemir Ochoa remarked that “the young people surprised us with their musical, contemplative and empathetic spirituality as they face the challenges of contemporary society.” Though they may feel left out of the more "formal" aspect of church life, he said, "they insist on being part of the spaces of our church structure, and thank God they do!” In this sense, he defined the Port Fonck experience as "the renewal of hope as the young people tell us again and again that they too are the soul and spirit of the Lutheran church and of the Christian world.