Seventeen years ago OM workers Markus* and Loïs* participated in TeenStreet Europe as volunteers for the first time.
There they caught TeenStreet’s vision to motivate, equip and walk alongside teens to have real friendship with Jesus and reflect Him in their world. “It is the vision of small groups, which prevents the teens from getting lost and being anonymous in a crowd at a big conference,” Markus explained. The teenagers are divided into small groups of six boys or girls who speak the same language, and each group has its own leader, called a coach. The groups stick together throughout TeenStreet, eating, sleeping, learning about God and often spending their free time together.
A few years after their first TeenStreet experience, Markus and Loïs brought groups from their home church in the Netherlands to TeenStreet.“It was a joy to be the coaches of them and see them grow,” reflected Markus. “In the years that followed, we went with more teens from our church and new coaches. It was great to get more people involved.”
During this time, Markus and Loïs were preparing to go to Turkey as missions workers with OM. Having seen the impact of TeenStreet on Dutch teenagers, they dreamt of one day making it possible for Turkish youth to attend. “If it is such a blessing for Dutch teens, who have lots of conferences and camps, we thought it would be a great experience for teens who are never exposed to big conferences,” said Markus.
In 2009, 10 years after God had put the people of Turkey on their hearts, the couple moved to the country. “We still had the vision to bring teens to Turkey, but without knowing the language, it would not be possible,” said Markus. “We didn’t talk about TeenStreet with anyone, and we didn’t make any plans, as it seemed impossible in many ways, not the least because of the costs.”
But in 2012, their OM leader told them that a church in the United States had been praying for Turkey and received a vision to see Turks participate in TeenStreet. “We couldn’t believe it!” exclaimed Markus. “God gave them the same vision He gave us, people on the other side of the world!” Their leader asked Markus if he would investigate whether it was appropriate to bring Turkish teenagers to TeenStreet in Germany, keeping in mind the differences in culture. Markus participated in TeenStreet again, bringing along a local believer, and both were positive that God was moving them in this direction.
In 2013 the first group of Turkish boys attended TeenStreet Europe. “Although it was a great success we doubted often if it was really worth all the effort and money,” said Markus. “It was definitely not easy to get all the passports and visas, and it was hard work in many ways. But God encouraged and challenged us again.”
In 2014, Markus brought teenagers again, this time both boys and girls. “We had a very special group with teens with lots of different backgrounds,” he remembered. “Again it was a lesson in faith for us and the attendees. We bought the airplane tickets when we did not have the money. But God provided in a miraculous way.
“We were challenged again when one visa only came the day before the flight to Germany, and even at the border it was not sure if the person would be allowed into Germany. But once again God showed His faithfulness.”
The theme of TeenStreet 2014 was OPEN, based on Revelation 1-3. The teens learnt that God pursues us and wants us to get to know Him in a deeper way. The morning meetings contained Bible teaching, drama and games that illustrated the theme. The teens then gathered in their small groups to go deeper into the Bible studies. The afternoons were for sports, workshops, seminars, outreaches, free time and more. The evening worship times, called Throne Room, brought everyone to the main hall to worship God through music, led by The Outbreakband.
“Worship times were awesome,” said one Turkish teen, “especially because we studied that we could hear God’s voice. During the worship I experienced His Spirit so close. It was unbelievable.” Another teenager said, “I loved praising the Lord together with thousands of teens. There are very few people my age in the church we attend in Turkey; therefore, it was a great experience for me.”
During the week, the teens visited the Global Village, an interactive simulation drama experience that encouraged them to explore the reality of the needs of the world and reflect God’s love. “Jesus died for me—I knew that,” said a Turkish teen after participating in Global Village. “But that I, in fact, helped to have Him crucified was something I had never thought about. It helped me to look at this in a different way.”
The outreaches at TeenStreet gave teens an opportunity to share God’s love in the streets of Muenster, where the event was held. “Different people wrote that being involved in the outreach and experiencing Global Village impacted them the most,” said Markus. “Maybe it’s because they are living in a Muslim country, among people who are eager to believe and obey God but who don’t know the truth that they are aware of the lost and eager to share.” One teen responded, saying, “I loved the Global Village and the outreach the most. During this camp I realised how important it is to share the good news.” Another commented, “I love telling other people of Jesus, and I was really happy that we had that opportunity. We Turkish girls gave flowers with Bible verses to [people in Muenster]. Most of the people didn’t accept the flowers, but there were also some who were very interested in what we were doing and some were touched by God.”
Though he knows it will be challenging again, Markus plans to bring Turkish teenagers to TeenStreet 2015 in Offenburg, Germany. “We are very grateful how God made this all possible,” concluded Markus. “It is very special to be part of bringing Turkish teens to TeenStreet, knowing that God started it 17 years ago!”