When several youth from Korea and Japan began practicing Tae Kwon Do under the rain and stars of Costa Rica during free time at Third Wave, Scottish youth leader Amy Warner and several others from the USA joined the group, who taught them Tae Kwon Do moves.
The spontaneous intercultural moment was just one of many that brought together 169 Nazarene youth from 35 countries 6-11 January around the theme of "Be. Do. Go."
Sixteen young people from the Eurasia Region attended Third Wave, hosted by the Mesoamerica Region.
Third Wave is held every four years on a different region and is a global forum connecting leaders of Nazarene Youth International from around the world, developing Christian leaders in a global context.
"There's nothing like it," said Michelle Robinson, NYI coordinator for the Northern Europe Field. "I don't think you can adequately describe the feeling of being in a room with people from around the world and you're just one big family."
The five-day event is packed with worship services, devotionals, training activities, and workshops, as well as blocks of free time for informal interaction and relationship building — all of which are designed to shape young people in different aspects of servant leadership.
High schooler Daniel Berdowski, who serves as an NYI leader in Poland, had previously been taught about servant leadership at a secular youth camp, but at Third Wave "it has been expanded in the Christian perspective of humbleness and Christlikeness, in which it reached its full meaning."
Humble servant leadership was demonstrated through a foot washing service at the conclusion of Third Wave, in which the Eurasia Region's outgoing NYI coordinator, Sabine Wielk, washed the Eurasia delegates' feet. The experience "made the idea alive, authentic, and very touching," Berdowski said.
A global marketplace, where youth from every country sold trinkets and items representing their home culture, raised more than US$2,000 to fund a project of the host region's choosing. This was a record amount for the marketplace, which is a signature feature of each Third Wave.
In small groups, participants went into carefully selected communities to conduct outreach ministries that will help the Mesoamerica Region launch local church planting efforts, except in three sites that already had Nazarene churches.
"It really was a brilliant day to make a difference in a community where they're hoping to start something," said Robinson, who was sent to a community called Tres Marias. "They said, 'You come back in a few years' time; you'll know you helped make a difference in this new church plant.'"
For Eurasia youth, Third Wave helped them "develop an increased awareness of the connection with the global church," Robinson said.
That was also true for Berdowski, who moved several times throughout his growing-up years and always attended small Nazarene churches where he rarely had the opportunity to experience what it means to be part of a youth group.
"I really felt strongly as part of a big global community and it was really beautiful — this feeling that we are all the church, we are the Body of Christ, we are brothers and sisters, and we can pray for each other."
For Warner, Third Wave gave her a new passion for the global church and new enthusiasm to bring a sense of mission to the youth in her local church in Erskine, Scotland. She remembers when her former youth leader attended a previous Third Wave, and that he also returned with an excitement for mission. He then organized a short-term mission trip for the youth group. She hopes to do the same for her youth group.
"[Third Wave] definitely gave me the goal that I want to be involved in advancing God's kingdom on a bigger level," she said. Her thinking was shaped by "the conversations about mission and how it's not on our shoulders, but God just asks you to go and show up and do it and He does the rest."
Berdowski and Warner echoed the idea that in their own culture they can feel their view is limited to their own church or district, and they might even feel isolated. Third Wave gave them a sense of connection to the larger body of which they are a part.