Neither Switzerland nor the European continent had ever seen anything like what occurred when more than 7,000 young people from over 20 countries converged on Lausanne for MISSION 80, the Second Missionary Congress for European Youth, held the last five days of 1979.
Most observers called the historic event the largest missionary gathering for young people in Europe’s history. But that was what had been said about the event’s predecessor, MISSION 76, attended by 2,500 in December 1975.
Conference director Eric Gay, a Swiss, and his colleagues had planned for 3,000 this time. But the 3,000 mark in registrations was passed on November 13, with more coming in. “It was impossible to get word to all the countries [about a closing of registrations],” said congress information director Luc VerLinden of Belgium. “So we prayed, sought the mind of the Lord, and felt we should keep registrations open.” By the end of November, 5,500 persons had registered.
But doubling the size of a highly subsidized conference 30 days before opening, in a country where the cost of living ranks among the highest in the world, seemed impossible.
Because of gifts from individuals and churches throughout Europe, students from countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain were able to attend the congress, paying as little as $12 for registration plus room and board for the entire week.
The registrations, completed opening night, showed 7,155 participants. Most participants were under 30, but organizers estimate that students were a minority. The most startling delegation figures: 935 from France, 665 from Sweden, 560 from Spain—and Greece. “When the registrations from Greece the last week went over 200,” VerLinden admitted in a press conference, “we had to tell them, ‘No more!’ ” Even so, one Greek pastor said, “I think half the evangelical young people in Greece must be here!”
Though the $400,000 budget included heavy subsidies, many individuals still attended at personal sacrifice. A young woman from Portugal used a whole month’s salary for transportation costs to the conference. At the conclusion of the conference, over $30,000 of the subsidy had yet to be met, due to the last-minute increase in registration.
Because of the unanticipated numbers, congress directors had to divide the conference into two completely separate programs—one in the main hall of the Palais de Beaulieu, and a second divided among three other halls linked by a closed-circuit television system obtained from the University of Geneva.
The congress was conducted in 11 official languages which, because of the two virtually identical programs, required a team of more than 50 interpreters. Coordinated by veteran interpreter Neil Britton, an Englishman who is the pastor of a Swiss church, the interpreters came from all over Europe—many at the last minute.
The schedule included traditional plenary sessions; but they ran as long as three hours, with up to a third of the time devoted to singing. Daily Bible studies were led by Michael Griffiths, general director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship (who is resigning to assume leadership of London Bible College). Other speakers were Tokunboh Adeyemo, secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar; David Chan, regional director of Scripture Union in Singapore; Thomas Wang, director of the Chinese Coordination Center for World Evangelization in Hong Kong; and well-known Eastern-bloc figure “Brother Andrew” (Anne van der Bijl).
But there was a heavy emphasis at the conference on action—practical steps toward world evangelization. A full hour and a half daily were given to seminars on what young people could do in their local churches when they returned. Congress directors provided each participant with a letter to his or her pastor, suggesting ways the attender could be used as a resource person in the church.
The action orientation of the congress included a march through the streets of Lausanne by the 7,000 participants. Grouped by country, marchers moved through the narrow streets of the old city, passing out literature, and singing as they went. The “demonstration of Christian testimony and unity” concluded with a large rally in two city squares, where coffee bars were set up for contact with the local population, and singers and entertainers presented programs of witness.
The conference was very much a European affair. Plenary meetings revealed some of the cultural differences: Germans would arrive ahead of time in their designated seating areas, whereas the Spanish would often drift in for 15 minutes after the program had started. And despite their common language, the French and French-speaking Swiss and Belgians plainly differed at times over management techniques.
Even the professional staff of the Palais de Beaulieu, one of the most heavily used conference centers in Europe, expressed amazement at the MISSION 80 staff’s ability to run the oversized, complex conference smoothly. Computers helped make this possible; the registration system used at Urbana 76 was given to MISSION 80 by its developers, Intercristo, of Seattle, Washington, then modified to meet MISSION 80 requirements. The registration system sorted out for the 7,000, 12 workshops each day in the 11 languages, requiring more than 450 workshop leaders. What was the reason for the tremendous increase in response over MISSION 76?
Some said it mirrored the revival of religious interest in Europe among the young, rejecting the materialism into which their parents—preoccupied with repairing the ravages of World War II—had slipped.
Other observers suggested it represented the growing cumulative result of God’s quiet moving over the last 20 years. They repeatedly mentioned U.S. launched youth ministries such as the Navigators, Youth for Christ, and Operation Mobilization. These have worked in Europe for many years, and more recently have been joined by Youth With a Mission and Campus Crusade. These groups, they said, have had a profound effect on evangelism among Europe’s young people, preparing them for an event such as MISSION 80.
Other influences were the European Bible schools, many founded by American mission boards. These schools are seen as providing a basis for much of the groundswell of student interest in missions across Europe, TEMA, The European Missionary Association and the congress sponsor, is an outgrowth of the European Student Missionary Association, which in turn got its start at Greater Europe Mission’s Lamorlaye Bible Institute on the outskirts of Paris.
Floyd McClung, American missionary of Youth With a Mission and a speaker on the last night of the congress, said he felt the conference had happened because for the first time Europe had “some indigenous visionaries who are doing something big.
Participants gave nearly $65,000 in a cash offering for two missionary projects—inauguration of a new Arabic Christian magazine for Muslims in Europe, and radio programming by the Far East Broadcasting Company directed to Southeast Asia.
An exhibition center housed displays for some 200 European-based Christian and missionary agencies. Students had nine hours each day to visit these displays, manned by an estimated 700 Christian workers.
At the conclusion of the congress, the participants had Communion together at midnight. Afterward they spent the remainder of the night in prayer and singing. Two thousand of the young people visited the exhibits one last time, stopping to pray for the various ministries of each as they walked through the hall. The group disbanded as the gray dawn broke over Lake Geneva and ushered in the new decade.
Pope John Paul II met with Cardinal Leo Josef Suenens and other leaders of the Roman Catholic charismatic renewal movement in December. “I am convinced,” he said, “that this movement is a very important component of the entire renewal of the Church.” Ralph Martin, a movement spokesman from Belgium, assured the pontiff of the loyalty of charismatics. “We rejoice …” he said, “when we hear you talking to theologians and telling them not to destroy the faith.… We are at your disposal.”
Six Western church leaders who tried in December to visit the seven Pentecostals in asylum at the U.S. embassy in Moscow were rebuffed. Five Baptist and Assemblies of God clergymen—including Baptist World Alliance general secretary Robert Denney—were in Moscow to attend the congress of the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians and Baptists in the U.S.S.R. They were refused permission to see the families of Pyotr Vaschenko and Maria Chmykhalova, as was Keston College specialist Michael Rowe.
A group of Reform rabbis has provoked an uproar in Israel by encroaching on the exclusive right of Orthodox rabbis to perform marriages. They did so by performing a ceremony last month, then prevailing on an Orthodox rabbi who witnessed the marriage to register it with the Interior Ministry. Since the founding of Israel in 1948 only Orthodox rabbis have been allowed to marry, bury, or receive converts into Judaism. The influence of Orthodox Judaism—out of proportion to its numbers—stems from the fact that no political party, right or left, has been able to form a government without its support.
Algerian Christians in the capital city, Algiers, organized a church late last year. The North Africa Mission reckons that the congregational election of elders and deacons makes this church the first in the mission’s project of establishing 25 churches across North Africa.
A recently established Muslim mission academy in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, recently graduated its first class of 36 imams (teachers) and preachers, according to Willi Hopfner, executive secretary of Orient Dienst, a German evangelical agency at work in the Muslim world. He also said that attempts are under way to unite Muslim missionary organizations and to train Muslim missionaries in specialized subjects.
The new Islamic order in Iran embodies a strong moral impetus.Bambad, a Tehran newspaper, reported last month that the Islamic authorities have established a center (on authority of the prosecutor’s office) that is intended to prevent activities harmful to Islamic society, particularly its youth. Agents of the center reportedly will issue warnings to owners of places of entertainment that spread corruption by permitting prostitution, distributing drugs, showing or publishing provocative pictures, and allowing women to perform as dancers or singers.
American missions whose properties in China were confiscated when the People’s Republic was established could possibly receive greater compensation than previously reported (see issue of Apr. 6, 1979, p. 38). A bill submitted to the Senate in December by Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.), and Frank Church (D-Idaho) would increase the share of agreed compensation of $80.5 million for religious and charitable organizations from one-fourth to nearly one-half. Businesses would receive less. The reasoning behind the bill: businesses were allowed tax write-offs, while charitable organizations were not.
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