Monday, May 29, 2006

YMCA

Sitting by a swimming pool, at 10am, wearing a t-shirt and looking for the shade… yes, you guessed it right… I’m in Portugal! More precisely, I am close to the city of Albufeira, in the Algarve, the south coast of Portugal. I arrived on Wednesday to represent the European Youth Forum at the General Assembly of the European Alliance of YMCAs. I will be leaving in a couple of hours to Lisbon, where I’ll spend the weekend, together with my son and good friends. The forecast says that the weather will remain nice, with blue sky and temperatures around 30 C. I’m glad I decided to bring the swimming suit!

Attending these kinds of meetings it’s always a bit weird… in one hand, it’s nice to meet new people and find out more about the Member Organisations of the European Youth Forum; on the other hand, it means to hang around with people I don’t know, trying to be nice and to follow discussions in which I feel completely lost… But there are always highlights and some of them deserve to be shared.

My favorite anecdote from this meeting, which I want to share today, was the Secretary General’s speech yesterday. Rev. Johan Vilhelm Eltvik is an easily approachable Norwegian in his early fifties, with a whitish beard and a quite big belly. He looks nice and I think he must really be. His report to the General Assembly was a very good and truly inspiring speech, full of metaphors and parables, with references to the Holy Scriptures, but also to things he heard and learned from people he met in his YMCA work. One of my favorite parts of his speech was when he referred to how some children he met express their understanding of eternal things; or, as he called it, the Gospel according to John, 6 years, Nicole, 5, and Carl-Fredrik, 6. I give some examples:

“Jesus died on Good Friday. Then he came back from death three days after. He was dirty and full of mud, but in excellent mood.”

“Jesus flew up to heaven and there met Jesus. Now he is sitting on the right side of himself. That is completely impossible to understand and nothing to worry about.”

“The best thing with God is that he likes children who are not nice. He is the only one who likes children who are not nice.”

Apart from these apparently funny but really deep quotations from these little children who seem to understand much better than the vast majority of adults the powerful message of the empty grave, the speech included another really funny story which can also be considered a very nice parable… It’s about church gossip and it happened in the State of Missouri.

Mildred, the church gossiper and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several members of the church did not approve of her extra curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused Henry, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon. She emphatically told Henry and several others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing. Henry, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend or deny. He said nothing. Later that evening, Henry quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house… walked home… and left it there all night…

You got to love Henry!

Albufeira, May 26, 2006 (10.30am GMT)

3 Comments:

Blogger Pedro said...

Good laugh :-)

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