Central American youth explore aspects of their Mennonite identity

Heredia, Costa Rica – Mennonite young people from a variety of countries came together for the annual Central American Mennonite Youth Conference in Costa Rica 27-30 March 2013. One hundred and twenty youth representatives from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico and Mexico shared with each other around the theme of “Mennonite Identity.” They were also joined by several North Americans who work with Mennonite Central Committee in Central America. This is the third year that Costa Rica has participated in the conference and the first time they have hosted it.

Some very important aspects of the conference were the devotionals, workshops and group reflection times, which all connected with the theme of “Mennonite Identity.” Participants explored the pain and joys that are experienced through one’s gender identity in a workshop about “Identity and Gender Relations.” Discussions began in small groups of the same gender, and then changed to mixed groups where participants could share what they had learned.

Participants also explored different points of view from which a conflict can be seen in the “Culture of Peace and Conflict Resolution” workshop. In small groups they analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of the different ways people approach conflict, such as the differences between those who tend to be more competitive and those who always work in teams.

Other workshops, like “Bible Reading in Community,” examined the importance of developing a community hermeneutic. As every text can be interpreted from different socio-economic and cultural contexts, it is essential to interpret scripture in community to enrich the experiences in the body of Christ.

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper was an impactful time. At tables with participants from different countries, they shared the bread, prayed for and ministered to each other. Rodrigo Pedroza described this as a time when they recognized that, “despite borders and national differences, Christ has made us one. We closed with a hug, as a sign of love and the fraternal ties that the Lord formed during this event.”

Another important part of the event was time spent getting to know the other participants. There was an afternoon rally, with numerous games and team building activities. A cultural night celebrated the different countries represented, as participants took the opportunity to share a part of their culture with the group. And on the final night the group had an excellent time of fellowship around a fireside sharing, telling jokes, singing and playing games.

The Central American Mennonite Youth Conference began 19 years ago, with a retreat between young people of the Iglesia Casa Horeb of Guatemala and the Iglesia Menonita Aurora of Honduras. The desire for unity among Mennonite youth has continued to grow through the years, and involve youth from more Central American countries.

News Release by Kristina Toews, MWC Web Communications Worker, building on a report by Karoline Mora.