Young people who are enthusiastic, involved, and motivated should be able to participate in the work of furthering the gospel of Jesus. Introducing YEP – the church’s international Youth Exchange Program.
Historically, Brunstad Christian Church has been committed to promoting international fellowship among young people. Now this commitment is being taken to a new level, and YEP, the Youth Exchange Program, has been established as an international youth program, with Brunstad – the mission center of the church – as its headquarters.
“This is for young people who are passionate about the Good News and who wish to contribute their enthusiasm toward furthering the purposes of the church,” says Trond Eriksen about the youth program.
YEP is geared toward young people who are involved and eager to volunteer for the church. Each year about 250 young people ages 18 to 25 are invited to participate in the year-long program. The program’s objectives are to provide an increased understanding of the church's faith and history, and to contribute to mutual respect and understanding through cooperation in a multicultural setting.
“We also set it up so that the whole church will benefit says Trond Eriksen. He also states that an important foundation of the youth program is to encourage personal development as Christians.
The program has grown due to the strong desire of many young people in the church to be involved in contributing to the global mission work.
How it started
During the expansion of the conference center and accommodations from 2002-2005.
“When the building project was completed, there was still a strong desire among the young people to continue working and being together,” says Trond Eriksen.
The work project at Brunstad had a positive domino effect among young people in the church, and eagerness to participate spread throughout world.
“Therefore we opened it up so young people from different countries and cultures would continue to be able to come together,” says Trond Eriksen.
Culture and Christianity
Education, cultural awareness, and Christianity have an important place in YEP. Volunteer work for the church’s projects is also a central part of the program.
“There are many projects in the areas of music, translation, media production, operations, and property maintenance,” says Eriksen.
YEP youth provide the staffing at Brunstad during the church’s events. Youth who participate in the program have a variety of evening activities including sports, outdoor activities, prayer meetings, meetings on special topics, and other gatherings.
Centralized at Brunstad
YEP’s main center is Brunstad in Vestfold, Norway, where most of the participants are based. Here the young people are involved in different tasks as well providing staffing for events and activities that the church arranges.
“They learn to work, to take responsibility, and to relate to people from other cultures,” says Trond Eriksen.
Brunstad Christian Church has also established an exchange program to other countries in various parts of the world. More and more people are participating in YEP satellite-groups outside of Norway. Trond Eriksen tells us that there are projects in Finland, The Netherlands, USA, Ukraine, Argentina, China, and Brazil.
Encouraging cultural awareness
Youth Exchange Program also aims to develop respect and mutual understanding among different cultures.
“Communication is important; therefore, there is a strong emphasis on language instruction,” says Trond Eriksen.
Today 30 countries are represented at Brunstad: one third of the people come from Norway, one third from elsewhere in Europe, and one third from other parts of the world. All foreigners receive intensive Norwegian instruction, and after one year most people can communicate well in Norwegian. Where YEP is represented in other parts of the world, the young people learn the language of that locality.
Today, there are about 250 participants in the youth program, and new people arrive each spring and fall. Ingrid Risa is a 27 year-old teacher from Melbourne, Australia. She came to Brunstad in March and has already become well acquainted with new cultures in the short time she has been in the program.
“I have gotten to know many people from many different countries. It is easy to get to know people; people are very open,” she says.
She wanted to come to the youth program, and was able to take a leave from her teaching position and learn something new, but the most important thing she wants to experience during this time is personal growth.
“I want to gain a greater love for people, be finished with being judgmental, and be full of joy regardless of the circumstances,” she says.
“You get a unique relationship with these young people,” says Trond Eriksen, who has been involved with the personnel aspect of the program for several years.
YEP participant Ingrid Risa can confirm that.
“Everyone is so open and friendly with each other. The cultural differences are not even an issue,” she says.
Ingrid says that it often happens that she is in an evening gathering with nine people from nine different countries.
Super interesting, exciting, and very fun,” she says.