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Called to Leadership: Reflections on SVLT from Young People Around Europe

Sarah Bick [London, England]

This August, around 60 student volunteers from across Europe arrived in Belfast for the SVLT conference, a week to be equipped for our mission in university outreach. The week was all about vision and leadership, and arriving at the conference we heard about how one of the fundamental qualities of a leader was “teachability,” a willingness to be taught and changed. We kicked off the week with the desire to be exactly that – a teachable people, set on fire for service!

One of the first things that struck me was how international the group was: we came from Krakow, Bielsko-Biała, Leuven, London, Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow, creating a rich atmosphere of different languages and cultures. We got the chance to hear about each other’s home culture in presentations every day, and bonded both in our networking times over crisps and drinks in the evenings, and on the volleyball courts. A valuable aspect for me was the chance to learn from each other. Conversations with fellow student leaders gave me so many useful ideas and approaches which I am excited to bring to my own outreach, Koinonia in London, in the coming year. And we got to do all this in the beautiful Northern Irish countryside, right between scenic hills and the seaside!

Another highlight for me was receiving daily reflections from Don Schwager in the mornings, which gave insights on different character traits and how they are modelled on biblical characters (and on scenes from Lord of the Rings!). I was inspired to have courage in leadership. We then received practical wisdom in building teams and being effective in talks later in the day, like handling conflict and planning events.

Every time I’ve been to an outreach training week, it’s been with a different mix of people. This year, God called new leaders who had just recently joined a university student group as well as those who have been around for a while, and it was exciting to see people take up their place in leadership of our outreaches and really engage with the vision and call that the Lord has for our generation. I’m eager to see how the Lord will use that in the coming year.

Paul Fletcher [dublin, ireland]

Taking part in SVLT this year was an amazing experience altogether. From the range of speakers to personalities to nationalities, it was a blast and very helpful for all involved. From the start it was evident that we would walk away trained and able to better serve our student groups and God.

One of my favourite parts of the week was certainly the talk on practically organising an event and how to do it well, given by Dominic Perrem. The practical information we received was excellent and useful, and he had us all laughing in our seats entertaining the thought of having a student meeting in the wackiest location we could think of.

It wasn’t all work and no play: we had a whole host of activities each day, including Frisbee, cards, a walk on the beach, and more. Playing football with guys from all over Europe in the beaming sun was definitely an amazing experience for me.

From the time I spent at SVLT I hope to better serve my UCO in the coming year and beyond. We certainly have the tools to have an excellent and successful year in our UCO in Dublin.

Michael Potter [London, England]

God was definitely present at the SVLT conference this summer, and it was a week to remember.

The social and networking opportunities were real positives for me; the sheer diversity of people and nationalities led to great conversations that could never have happened anywhere else. It was especially good to have a large Polish group with us. Everyone made a real effort to cross geographical and linguistic barriers, and the Poles brought their joy, energy, and new ideas. We also received some great teaching during the week from a number of speakers. Talks on Conflict Resolution and Structure & Team Building particularly stood out for me, as these gave good practical advice on how to work with people to build a strong outreach and to keep it going and expanding. Another great strength of this week was that it had plenty of time for prayer, with daily times for worship and meditation, as well as larger prayer meetings where the Holy Spirit was working powerfully.

I very much feel equipped after this week, both personally and as part of an outreach. I am sure that we will benefit a lot from the wisdom we have received, and I myself will take away lots of the practical lessons on running events and planning as well as all the things we heard from the Lord about the coming year. I am convinced that this week will directly impact the work of Kairos outreaches and students across Europe.

Cathy Holmes [Glasgow, Scotland]

This year I attended my first SVLT, and I absolutely loved it! I have been a member of UCO Glasgow for a year now and was excited to find out new ways to improve our mission. Throughout the week we were given a lot of time to build relationships with other outreaches. It’s very easy to focus solely on my own local group, so being given time to mix gave me a glimpse into how other outreaches work and allowed me to gain a few ideas as well! Fellowship was a really key aspect of the week with relay races, volleyball tournaments and card games being some of the ways we got to know each other a bit better. These bonds were especially helpful when it was time to discuss our various outreaches during the sessions because we were able to be open and honest with each other when trying to find solutions to our different issues.

God is truly present in our lives and will reveal himself if we ask. I got to witness this first hand when our injured star volleyball player was healed by the side of the court after some brief prayer! It doesn’t matter how ready we feel to take on this mission because God equips, guides and leads us. That is the main thing I am taking forward from this training week – this is God’s mission; ask and receive.

Mark McMorrow [Dublin, Ireland]

This year’s SVLT was an unforgettable experience, and I don’t use that phrase to describe just anything.

Perhaps one of the most immediately striking aspects of SVLT, if someone were to walk in on us at any time during the week, would be the number of nationalities represented, and the lack of significant barriers because of it. The sessions were given in English, with translations readily available for those who wanted them. One could easily find Polish, Scottish, German, English, and Dutch participants sharing lunch at a table, or enjoying a quick game of volleyball during free time. The entire week was permeated with a palatable sense of camaraderie and community, lending the event a relaxed, comfortable and welcoming atmosphere.

The main track running for the course of the week was ‘Leadership.’ This track dealt with the practical, personal and spiritual aspects of leadership, including how a leader acts, how a leader thinks, and of course, how to become leaders ourselves. This series of talks formed the backbone of the conference and epitomised SVLT’s intensely practical focus. Nobody left a ‘Leadership’ talk without pages of notes and a head full of ideas to take back to their country and student group.

The week was an incredible experience of teaching and formation, and I am one of many who look forward to attending future SVLTs.

Asia Mrowiec [Bielsko-BIala, Poland]

The theme of the SVLT conference could be seen through the entire week, and all of us who were there – leaders, coworkers, friends, and people we had only just met – pursued this goal during all of our various activities. During the week we prayed, ate meals together, and participated in various sessions and activities. It was my first time at SVLT, so everything was new to me.

The thing that I most liked was meeting people from different countries who came for one purpose: God was our bond, and through Him I can say that they are my friends. Despite different cultures and personalities, during our stay we became closer to each other than I imagined. Through common prayer times, sharing groups, and sessions in which we could express ours thoughts, we taught each other. I liked our prayer times the most because we sang a lot. Each spoken word is very important for me because it shows God's closeness, and our unity felt deeper.

The sessions were different. Each had an interesting message given in a good way. Each session had a new topic, but together they formed a coherent whole. For example, the ability to resolve conflicts in both private life and in our community groups increases our mutual respect and tolerance. With no conflicts, we would not know one another’s thoughts and needs, and we might not express our opinions as well.

Being part of this conference in Northern Ireland and now returning home to Kraków, our Christian student community is like a tree which has grown deeper roots. Now it depends on us whether this tree will bloom here at home. We already have light that is God, and water that is our knowledge. In this way and together as a community, we all can grow.

Maria Ćwierz [Krakow, Poland

I had a great opportunity to be a participant at the SVLT conference. The week of the conference was filled with many activities which taught us how to be good leaders in our group. There was a lot of time during which we were able to get to know each other well, such as during international cluster groups or during free time while playing games. By talking to people I could not only improve my English but also learn from them about their cultures, experiences, and their attitudes toward leading and serving in a student group. It was my first time at such a conference, so I am very glad that I could meet so many interesting people. We were able to make friendships that would help us to work together as a team in our student groups.

During the week we had a lot of sessions on different topics focused on effective leadership. The teachers gave some hints how to prepare, build and serve in a community in connection with God.

To sum up, at the end of the week, I had changed my attitude to my service and realized that leadership is a big responsibility given by God. By participating in the sessions and by talking to other people who were there, I came up with some practical ideas, and I now feel better prepared for my service at home.

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