Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2nd FWCC AWPS Young Friends Gathering Epistle

Greetings to Young Friends everywhere,

The 2nd AWPS Young Friends Gathering of FWCC, 7-9 April 2011, was held in the breathtaking surroundings of Bukal ng Tipan, Maryhill, Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines.

We adopted the same theme as that of the AWPS General Gathering, “Faith and Action.”  It was very fitting to the occasion as we all left each of our cities, provinces, and countries, bearing in our hearts and minds the eagerness to share and learn from others how to translate faith into concrete actions that will benefit the greater good.

As a Friend said, “one of the coolest things about being here is this big group of young evangelical Friends, singing and dancing with such vibrant energy of song and spirit.”  It was like a beating pulse that kept all of our blood pumping throughout the gathering.

The start was marked by a unique way of introducing ourselves.  Aside from our names, each of us gave a word from our own dialect and told everyone what they meant.  Not only was our global vocabulary broadened, we were also able to create a special kind of bond among us by using unfamiliar words that belonged to the mother tongue of another Taman (Friend).

We then moved on to Janet Scott’s talk which gave us an overview of Quaker history.  It was as inspiring as it was informative and we loved it because it spoke to all conditions, whether programmed or unprogrammed and everyone somehow found resonance in her words.  Next up was Helen Bayes who shared with us her thoughtful perspective on Elijah, using his story of prophetic vision under persecution to inspire us to find our own prophetic voice.

Julian Stargardt then joined us to share a few thoughts on the subject of his advocacy where we were made to feel the weight of his Concern.  We were challenged to contribute our personal experiences on Global Change (which here in the Philippines is substantial) to the cluster group process.

The final activity of the day was the Bible Study and it was such an amazing experience because Rev. Crisanto de la Cruz of PEFIM (the Philippine Evangelical Friends International Ministries) was very sensitive to the fact that people bearing other beliefs were in the same room.  None of the unprogrammed Quakers were made to feel excluded in any way.  It was a safe haven for Friends from diverse traditions to share whatever their feelings were, while Pastor Cris shared with us his passionate and inspiring love of Jesus Christ and the Bible.

Nadine Hoover conducted a workshop on non-violence and trauma healing, which was, to say the least, invigorating to the young Friend’s spirit.  Her youthful approach to things made it very easy for us since there was limitless room for self-expression.  Shortly after this, we exchanged ideas and finally came up with a way for us young Friends to maintain communication after this gathering.

The highlight of the day was that evening’s concert where the beauty of different cultures was shared in a new way when we expressed them through song and dance.  We gave praise to the Spirit with loud and beautiful voices, and shaking bodies.  To the varied styles of dances from hip hop and Bhangra, to songs from India, Nepal and Bohol, we quaked in the rhythm of the Spirit!

After that energetic concert, we gathered around a small campfire as we came to know each other more deeply, exploring our fears, hopes and secret kagalakan (joys) in the flickering light of the embers, and in the twilight company of the toko (gecko lizard), frogs and bats.

As the final leg of the gathering, two members of the United Religions Initiative interfaith movement, of which three young Friends in attendance are also a part of, joined us and gave a brief presentation on conflict resolution and interfaith community understanding.

As a conclusion to the gathering, several friends exchanged letters of heart-warming messages of aroha (love) and gratitude for the new bonds created in such a short span of time.  Those three days will surely be cherished throughout our lifetimes.  The kaanyag (beauty) of the place and the beauty of the people we spent time with will be etched in our hearts forever.

Thomas Owen
Madhavi Avinashika
Ludwig Bon Quirog

Epistle Committee