We waited with bated breath for the electricity to come back on. It had gone out for almost an hour and we were afraid that a year’s preparation would be wasted. Then there was a bang, and the lights came back on, just in time. The drums began, the guitars and keyboard joined in, the dancers ran onto the stage, and the singers strode out holding their microphones.
Thus began the “One Way 146” Youth Concert in Phrao. Based on the theme of Jesus word’s in John 14:6, it was held on 15 and 16 Nov 2019 in partnership with a youth worship team from the Living Sanctuary Brethren Church in Singapore.
The idea of the concert emerged from our burden to reach the youth of Generation Z—those born with mobile phones in their hands and earplugs lodged their ears, who breathe Wi-Fi instead of oxygen. They live in the virtual world of social media rather than on earth; cyberspace is where they meet, vent, grieve, curse, announce a new relationships or advertise their availability. Z, in some ways, stands for zombie.
In the small rural town of Phrao, population 50,000, located 100km North of Chiang Mai, there are Gen Z youth who have grown up being hurt, abandoned and neglected. Chonny was raised by her mother; her biological father had left when she was born. She knew paternal love only through the sexual advances of her stepfather, and was frequently told that she would never achieve anything in life. She cried with relief the day he drowned while fishing.
Siri practiced shamanism as a young girl to earn respect of her mother after her father died of ill health. The spirits that frequently tormented her brought her to the brink of suicide.
As with many Gen Zs, both sought their self-worth through social media, romantic relationships and alcohol, which only caused them to sink deeper into the miry clay. But both of them, at 16, found Christ when they walked into Little Candles Methodist Church (LCMC). Now 19, they have both received scholarships in theological studies and plan to enter full time ministry when they graduate.
These are two of the many youth in Phrao that we have seen transformed through the church’s ministry. We took young broken lives and patiently restored them by leading them into a loving relationship with Jesus.
The concert was a manifestation of this work. Over six months, we took a bunch of shy, broken youth through a journey of of drama and dance rehearsals and worship ministry training undergirded by Bible study, discipleship and mentoring that led to the baptisms of several youth a week before the concert. And we saw cries of “we can’t do it” change into chants of “nothing is impossible through Christ”.
When the lights came on those two nights in November, these were the youth that ran onto the stage in front of and audience of 300 fellow Gen Zs, and who witnessed almost 50 of their peers come forward to commit their lives to Jesus.
We rejoice not just because of these commitments, but also in the lives of the youth transformed along the way, and the excitement of seeing even more grow in their faith as we diligently disciple a new generation of believers.
Pastor Daniel Loo and his wife, Sharon, have been missionaries in Phrao for 12 years with their four Gen-Z children. They founded the Little Candles Methodist Church and Kindergarten.
Photo courtesy of Pastor David Loo