“I grew up hating my father. I had a wish to beat him one day when I got older and stronger,” admitted Baggio in a gentle tone. “But learning about the Father’s heart, I heard God challenge me to forgive my own father.”
The 25-year-old Malaysian grew up in Sabah, East Malaysia in a nominally Christian family where his father drank too much and his mother eventually left her husband and took her two children back to her village when Baggio was only six. Lack of church leadership and biblical teaching meant that many may be Christian in name, but lived compromised lives.
“The youth in Sabah lack mentors, [people] who have a heart to disciple them and to live as an example for them,” Baggio said. “Discipleship is not really emphasised in the interior of Sabah [rural inland] – but discipleship is really important to equip young people before they go to [the capital] or elsewhere to study. [The teens] can easily be converted to other religions, or fall into temptation and sin because they have not been prepared.”
It was while Baggio was living in a hostel, run by OM partners, that he first learnt about God’s Father heart for His children – that they would know Him and be in close relationship with Him. These hostels enable children from rural communities to attend high school when their families live too far away to get to school otherwise. “While learning about God as my Father, I was struck by the thought that I hadn’t forgiven my earthly father,” Baggio admitted. So instead of beating his father, Baggio sought out his father and extended forgiveness; rebuilding a relationship with him and his new family.
Another platform that influenced Baggio was that for three years he had the opportunity, alongside others from the hostels, to attend Teenstreet Malaysia in the capital city; an OM run youth camp held in various countries that aims to motivate, equip and walk alongside teens who seek a real friendship with Jesus and want to reflect Him daily in their world.
“Teenstreet [Malaysia edisi Sabah] opened my eyes in learning more about God and knowing people in different ways. And about how we can offer ourselves to God in more creative ways. I kept coming back because I always learnt so much,” Baggio explained. “Later I became a leader in my hostel, which naturally made it possible to be a coach at Teenstreet [Malaysia edisi Sabah].”
The first Teenstreet [Malaysia edisi Sabah] saw very few participants from East Malaysia attend because they couldn’t afford it, shared Pari, a leader of Teenstreet. In later years, funds were raised for almost 100 teens from that part of the country to travel to the capital to attend the annual event, but as of 2018 the main bulk of the organising for Teenstreet in Sabah is done by committed volunteers from local churches.
“We’ve been working very strategically with the hostels, who have a group of young people together for the whole year, so that we disciple and build them up as a community [at Teenstreet Malaysia edisi Sabah], and then they can hold each other accountable for the rest of the year, so that we will see more fruits from the event,” said Pari. And another distinctive of Teenstreet is that it is not just for teens, but also for the youth leaders, equipping them to serve their teens after the event.
OM in Malaysia now hosts two separate Teenstreet events, to allow for as many people as possible to grow in their walk with Jesus. In August 2019, a total of 285 teenagers, volunteers and staff gathered together in Sabah to worship, learn about the armour of God and grow in fellowship together and with their Father. “This is my fifth Teenstreet [Malaysia] and they have helped me, now that I’ve left the hostel and am not living with family, to make good decisions and stay close to God,” said Abiezer, 18. “[Quiet time] and the worship helped me in my walk with God, and since I first attended Teenstreet [Malaysia] I’ve grown in those disciplines. Even though I’ve had relationships that would pull me away from Him, I’ve stayed strong.”
“We help [young people] to see the potential in their own lives – especially the coaches are vital,” Baggio shared as he explained the importance of the event. “We train leaders among the youth because many of the coaches are quite young and we train them to be able to help others grow in their faith, as well as their skills in communication and leadership.”
Since early 2019, Baggio has served with OM in Sabah, discipling teens at a hostel, tutoring them in math and English and serving on the leadership team for Teenstreet Malaysia. “The teens look up to their older brothers and friends around them, who aren’t really living as good examples,” said Baggio. “I try to live in a spiritually disciplined way – to dedicate myself to God and choose to turn away from sin. If the teens see that you sin, they won’t listen to you and they will assume that what you have been teaching is compromised. So it is important to make a stand against these things and to live as set apart.”
Baggio plans to attend a five-month missions discipleship training in South Africa with OM, before returning to Sabah to continue serving the youth by teaching them about Christ’s character, living as a Jesus followers and helping them to face the challenges they face as young people by turning to the Bible and the life of Jesus.