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Violence among youth – how does it affect TCK ministry?

I took a course on trends in violence as part of my post-grad course on urban youth ministry (through Fuller). In order to research the trends in violence among expatriate youth in Phnom Penh, I interviewed two administrators of international schools in Phnom Penh.

Both schools serve international populations of largely middle to upper class families. In both these discussions the issue of violence was treated in a general sense, including neglect and self harm. One school reported concerns about self-harm among younger girls (13-14 years old). The trends they reported were similar. Overall violent occurrences are rare. While they admitted there are occasional issues, these tend to be isolated and short term.

Some thoughts that came out of these discussions:

  • Most violence arises among the boys, often related to aggression that comes up during sporting events. It is therefore important to have men model healthy ways of handling aggression on the sports field.
  • Cyber bullying is a larger issue than face-to-face bullying. It’s important to be aware of cyber bullying and teaching media awareness (and the importance of integrity). This includes teaching responses for teens to use if a friend is being cyber bullied.
  • Important to be aware of cultural differences – some Asian families would consider “acceptable” what some Western families would consider “neglect”.
  • Helping parents network – where discussing challenges would be possible (this may apply more to schools than a youth ministry setting)
One of the schools is a Christian school. We discussed what violence could look in a Christian setting. Isolation can make it easier for a family to disguise domestic abuse issues. There is an assumption of health among Christian families (particularly among missionaries) which make this sort of disguise easier to maintain.

I also attempted to gain a better understanding of issues of violence in Khmer families. I spoke to someone familiar with cultural trends contributing to violence within families. Khmer cultural attitudes to be aware of include that boys are expected to get into trouble, while girls should be kept at home. Often in incidents of rape, the woman is held accountable and brings shame on her family. Women have an attitude of “deserving” violence. Better understanding the cultural attitudes towards rape and violence helps me better anticipate some of the identity issues raised in or adopted from Khmer families may deal with.

This conversation brought home to me the importance of understanding trends of violence among youth and differing cultural attitudes towards violence. This knowledge enables me to better serve the teens I work with – it gives me an idea of what they may be struggling with, helping me read between the lines of their stories and predict possible future issues (that I can then help the youth deal with).

All of this shows the importance of fostering relationships with teens where there is safe space for youth to share difficulties.

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Posted by on March 14, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs

 

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What does a youth leader’s influence look like?

When I was a teenager in a youth ministry, I learned a lot from the leadership training offered to me. Training students as leaders in all areas of ministry and giving them opportunities to practice their giftings is something I am very passionate about.

Aside from opportunities to be trained and to practice ministry, there is one other thing that affected me significantly during those years:

My observations.

I’ve never been a shy, retiring type. Although I can be quiet and intimidated by a large crowd of people I don’t know, most people would put me more on the chatterbox end of the scale – especially anyone who’s seen me engaging in youth ministry!

So while I did a lot of talking during my teen years, I often didn’t talk about the things that were affecting my faith the most deeply. Many of the big steps I took in my spiritual journey were heavily influenced by the words and actions of youth leaders – I listened to what they said and watched what they did. I rarely (if ever) had conversations with them about their influence, but influence me they did.

Nathaniel Hawkins was my youth leader in Connecticut, when I was 14-15. He was studying youth ministry at a Christian college an hour away (Nyack College, I believe) and drove down twice a week to lead the high school youth group and Sunday school (along with another student who lead the middle school group).

Nathaniel had a massive influence on my spiritual growth. He was the first person to challenge my opinions (as he did so I discovered that my opinions weren’t really my own – I was parroting what I’d heard my mother say) and the first person to talk to me about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

While I never talked to him about the struggles I was having and the ways I was growing in my faith, his loving questions and openness about relating to God personally were instrumental in my decision to follow Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.

As youth leaders, and especially as leaders of TCKs, we get only a short window of opportunity to feed directly into the lives of the teens we work with. It’s rare to have more than 3 or so years of closeness with any given kid. If we use the illustration of a person’s life as the growth of a tree, perhaps our task as youth leaders is to plant a seed, or water it, or put fertiliser on a young sapling.

We are mostly engaged in the business of preparation. We don’t always see the fruits of our labour. The kids we work with are young and still developing; they are just beginning their walks with God, just beginning to develop spiritual maturity. With some kids we are allowed to see growth and development – and doesn’t that just warm your heart and make you glad to be alive?? Still, a lot of the time we walk through questions with them, model integrity and authenticity to them, but see little response to our efforts.

And you know what? That’s okay.

Our kids are each on their own journey. Their lives don’t look the same. They have different preparations to undertake. Some, like Joseph, will have a long road to walk before fulfilment of the potential we see in them begins.

If we as youth leaders measure our “success” by what our kids are doing with their lives, I think we’re missing something.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Leading Youth

 

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4 perspectives on 1 youth retreat

The annual Cross Culture retreat was held in Sihanoukville on January 7-9, 2011 (Cross Culture is a TCK youth group in Phnom Penh, Cambodia). Attending the retreat were 5 leaders, 9 high schoolers, and the speaker, his wife and three kids. A great time was had by all! Camp always means different things to different people, and so we’ve put together the perspectives of different people who were at the camp….

Most of the Cross Culture retreat participants playing games at the beach...

Most of the Cross Culture retreat participants playing games at the beach...

 


Nathaniel Cheung – Sydney, Australia

The Cross-Culture weekend away down at Sihanoukville was an amazing experience for both the leaders and the youth. It was filled with crazy games, singing, great talks from the book of Matthew, and time just hanging out together. The weekend gave me a look into youth ministry in a MK/TCK context and the differences and similarities that it entails. Perhaps the most significant thing that I took away from the weekend was the conversations and relationships that continued on afterwards with the other youth leaders. There was a real unity in vision and passion despite the differing personalities, perspectives and styles present. Indeed this proved to be even more valuable in providing a fresh perspective and sparking new ideas as we all continued to talk post-camp. I am certain that God used that weekend to bring us together and to create a real sense of what He wants to do in our lives and in the lives of the youth we minister to. I will greatly miss the time spent with Christina, Tanya and Hannah. But I know that God has much in store for all of us as we each go back and deepen our own understanding, sense and outworking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and seek to faithfully minister to the youth that God has placed in our lives.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10


Hannah Pollock – currently in Phnom Penh, most recently from Christchurch, New Zealand

Where do I start? Rabid camels, amazing worship team, blessed speaker, giggles, girly chats, coffee addictions, sing-a-longs and of course, CHUCK IT!!! To sum up the Cross Culture retreat in one word: refreshing.  I had only been in Cambodia for 2 months and yet I needed refreshing. Spending time with awesome young people who are on fire for God was such a pleasure. It reminded me that our father is constantly working in each of our lives. Hearing new and different stories created in me a fresh awe of God. I loved the theme of camp; only Christina and Tanya could centre a retreat around rabid camels in Australia (you really had to be there, don’t miss out next time!) We dealt with how we include God in our lives: the desert times and the times we try to do it alone. Facing these issues is never fun, but God used our time together to challenge us.


Tanya Crossman – Beijing, China (originally from Canberra, Australia)

This was my second Cross Culture retreat. I love doing camps with the Phnom Penh kids. I love that they are at the same time both very similar to and very different from my kids in Beijing; there are TCK similarities, but every youth group has its own unique culture. The Youth in Asia vision is always stirred so strongly in me when I spend time with TCKs outside Beijing – I am reminded that there are so many groups with the need for quality youth leaders. Spending time with Nathaniel and Hannah (and Christina, as always) contributed greatly to this vision-painting and passion-stirring. At this camp, I was inspired by the concept of adapting and – how the same games can be adapted to fit different situations. I was also blown away by the power of a well integrated theme, with games and messages that connect to a central idea. The narrative of the weekend was a clear connection between all the different elements of the camp. In Beijing we’ve talked many times about creating “hooks” that messages hang on, things that anchor them in the minds and memories of the youth we minister to. The well integrated theme of the Cross Culture retreat provided a constant source of hooks – where games illustrated life lessons, and games/skits made for easier recollection of the message itself.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. – 2 Peter 1:12-15


Christina Valenti – Phnom Penh, Cambodia (originally from Massachusetts, USA)

Camp for me was amazing! Pretty amazing to think I’ve been involved with camp with Tanya Crossman for six years in two different countries. Each time she comes to Cambodia (this was her third time) it reminds me of God’s faithfulness, and that life is  a journey. His perspective is so much bigger than ours, and sometimes (times like this past camp) we catch a glimpse of what he seems to be moving towards.  Having Nathaniel (visiting from Sydney)  and Hannah (who moved here this past October) be part of camp and the shared sense that we were together to do this now, and would take away an appreciation of God’s heart and the importance of youth ministry in our own groups and each others – reminds me I serve a God at work in the world.

I loved watching my students bond during crazy games and beach time. I loved the late night opportunity for good chats, and memories that LOOOOONNG bus rides provide.  I loved hearing John’s solid teaching and his creative, crazy challenges to respond and watching my youth rise to the challenge  in a memorable way each time!  I know Tanya and Nathaniel were appreciated as they led us in worship times. And nobody will forget the rabid camel hunt on the beach . . or the antidote the next morning.  Creative, memorable, fun, crazy, community all these words sum up camp for me; in other words as the FB statuses stated days after camp . .   EPIC. . . now to do it even better next year  =)

Christina, Hannah, Tanya, Nathaniel

Christina, Hannah, Tanya, Nathaniel

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Leading Youth, Special Events, TCKs

 

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So what is this anyway?

This is the start of something.
This is a place to share.
This is resources and ideas.
This is where “Youthnasia” starts.

This blog is a combination of the thoughts of several youth workers across Asia with a focus on TCKs. The longterm goal is to support youth workers already in the field (to help them stay in the field, bearing good fruit) and to find and develop new youth workers.

More broadly, this blog will hopefully become a point of contact for anyone interested in youth work anywhere in Asia. The vision of Youthnasia (or Youth-in-Asia, YiA, and whatever else you may want to call it) is to build youth work across Asia. That includes work with local communities and developing local leadership, as well as work with TCKs, and supporting the people who work with them.

The vision is HUGE and I’m sure will always be several steps ahead of where we are on the ground, but that’s okay. It means we’ll keep running, dreaming, and growing.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2010 in YiA Vision

 

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