Reti is the human resource manager and the coordinator of short-term projects for MECO International, a mission organisation that works specifically into the Arab Muslim World. Based in Larnaka, Cyprus, for the past five years, Reti’s local church ministry involved working alongside youth, leading the youth band, ministering to international students and leading church services at Larnaka Community Church. Her home church is Bridge Community (Mangere Bridge).
The youth club in Larnaka is unique. Around 20 years ago there were six English-speaking congregations in Larnaka but none of them had enough young people to establish their own youth work. An agreement was reached that the churches would send all their young people to one English speaking youth club. I love this model of church.
When I first began as a helper in youth group we had around 20 young people. Today, on any given Friday evening, you’ll find 45-65 young people attending Larnaka Inter-church Youth Club. I’ve just completed a four year stint as the senior coordinator. Let me tell you about some lives transformed.
Three Romanian young people branded as troublemakers were referred to us from a local public school. This was a last-ditch effort to turn them around. A local priest was incensed when he heard they had been referred to an evangelical group. This changed, however, when he examined our Bible study material and he wondered aloud why his church didn’t produce booklets of similar quality and truth.
The young people were indeed transformed. One of the girls, just 13 years old, had been heavily involved in witchcraft. She quickly developed a real fervour for God’s word and often took her Bible and Bible study worksheet to school to do during study period. The school counsellor was so impressed with the change she saw in all three young people that she came to a youth meeting to investigate and thank our leaders.
This August we held our largest youth camp yet – 49 young people. When I asked how many of them had not yet made commitments to follow the Lord, only five hands went up. Two days later one of these young people accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour and two weeks later a second followed.
I asked one of the remaining three why he had raised his hand. He replied that it was because he had already accepted Jesus. I asked him when and he answered that he’d only been coming to youth group a couple of weeks and thought he should, so he did.
We’ve been nurturing and discipling our young people. We were able to send three away on missions trips and support a further four in similar work. Four of the seven served for various periods, from a week to a month, in Cairo. One distributed Bibles in Greece and two others assisted in a church summer school in Jordan. Three of these served alongside me on a MECO Short Term Encounter Team.
Just before I left Cyprus a 14-year-old daughter of missionaries passed me a note. She told me that when she had started at youth group she’d been a nominal Christian and thanked me that now she was an eager and committed follower. Wow! What an encouragement.
The majority religion in Cyprus is the Greek Orthodox Church. The evangelical church has made attempts to work more closely with the majority church but few links have been established. Many label the evangelical churches as heretical, in the same light as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. At one point 80% of our young people were non-believers from unchurched backgrounds. Now 70% of them attend church weekly and in some cases have been the catalyst for parents or family members attending for the first time. The youth group is truly multi-national coming from Ireland, Sweden, Sri Lanka, India, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Chile and Romania.