A huge black tower stands in the center of the dining hall at TeenStreet (TS), the words “Maison de Ville” glowing against the dark wall. Everything indicates that this is a five-star hotel. Desk clerks distribute keys to groups of teenagers, who then check into the luxury hotel. But what awaits the teenagers after this point is probably the best kept secret at TeenStreet which was held from 1-7 August in Offenburg, Germany.
In its’ fourth year at TeenStreet, Global Village is an innovative and interactive project that allows teenagers and adults to have a living missions experience, and is a ministry of OM Europe. While encountering a broken world face-to-face, participants discover more of God’s heart for people and are challenged to reflect Jesus into difficult places and amongst some of the world’s most unreached people. Complete with full debriefing, prayer, and opportunities to talk with experienced missionaries, Global Village has and continues to impact individuals in a variety of ways to go out and make a difference in the world.
Ole Karlsson* is OM Sweden’s Missions Motivator, and as part of his job, he took groups on missions trips. About five years ago, he took a Swedish confirmation group of around 37 people, most of them 14 years old, to the Ukraine. This trip was not voluntary, however, as the teenagers had to do it as part of their confirmation class. As Ole sat in the bus with the teenagers, one boy said, “You guys are ruining my holidays!” At this point Ole was not sure what he had gotten himself into and how many of these teenagers felt the same.
In Ukraine, the group visited orphanages, went to schools and churches and did practical things. “We worked as a team, lived as a team and experienced things together,” explained Ole. On the way home, the same teenager turned to Ole saying, “You know what? This has been the best week of my life!”
Ole wondered what happened during that week and concluded that it was the experience. This boy experienced missions. “He didn’t just see it or hear it, he was engaged with all of his senses,” Ole said.
Back at work in Sweden, Ole was part of a team thinking about how they could present OM better at TeenStreet. They already had something called ‘Global Village’, a market where OM’s ministry areas were displayed, yet it was not how they wanted to represent OM. Oleremembered the boy from the confirmation trip and asked his team if they could do the same with the teens at TeenStreet, and take them to another place.
It is definitely impossible to physically go to another country during TeenStreet, but why not pretend to go to a different place? Ole wondered. As Ole recalls, the idea was there: “Let’s build an airport and take them out of their own little world, out of their comfort zone, and take them to another place and let this place come alive to them. That was the beginning of Global Village as we have it now here at TeenStreet.”
In 2012, this new Global Village appeared for the first time at TeenStreet, when the teens were challenged to travel into the land of the blind, the poor, the persecuted or the oppressed. “It was a risk,” remembers Ole, but the team was overwhelmed by the response of nearly 2000 people visiting Global Village that year. “I believe that it was God’s idea!” says Ole. “We had no idea how it was going to work, but I thought if we try it, and if God wants it to happen, He will make sure that people come.”
Since then, Global Village has grown and a new team formed to manage the experience. In addition to TeenStreet, Global Village has been in five countries at events such as ‘Opwekking’ in the Netherlands and ‘Mission Net’ in Germany. In addition, a three-hour experience was set up in Sweden and in the Faroe Islands. According to Ole, this is just the beginning.