Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Niuean youth uplift spirits

Written by Tagaloa Matagi-Vilitama

For the first time the Niue National Conference of the Uniting Church in Australia handed the reigns over to its young people to organise its annual gathering. One of the organisers Tagaloa Matagi-Vilitama reflects on how it went.

Leading up to first ever Niue National Youth Conference, it was exciting but nerve racking.

Realising the high significance of this being the inaugural conference for youth put us on our toes. We had a committee of six young leaders, three mentors and a Minister who all worked hard.

The leadership role required confidence in public speaking which was something the youth leaders were all most anxious about. But I am pleased to say that we overcame that fear. In fact, on the last day we all wanted to take the mic and run with it!

The theme was ‘Living and thriving in Christ - Moui mo e Tupuolaola ia Keriso.' The aim of the Conference was to connect young leaders and groups, identify issues that concern the life of young Niueans and to share our stories.

We started our conference on Friday night with an explosive praise and worship service. Everyone loved it. It was full on and the young people enjoyed worship with amazing and very moving songs. Everyone felt the Spirit moving, feet tapping, bodies moving left to right, big 'Luna Park' smiles. We ended with light "palagi" refreshments. The tone was set for a great weekend.

Our second day, following the opening devotion and formalities, we created a safe space for all to express their issues, challenges and opportunities. The space was called the "Umu Space" where the youths raised important issues and shared many great stories.

Most of the topics raised we rarely speak about in public: racism, teen suicide, church politics, peer pressure, alcohol and drugs, mental illness, gender identity, relationships with our parents and also our personal relationship with Christ.

After we identified our concerns, we then discussed strategies on how these topics could be addressed and what resources and support could be needed from our church. We felt that this "Umu Space" was much needed. It was also a real eye opener for our parents and many who were there. Now the issues have been identified, we hope that we can focus on them in upcoming workshops and conferences.

We closed our Conference with a worship service with Holy Communion, reflecting on what it means to live and thrive in Christ. A great message was shared using the metaphor of the Cedar and Palm tree - great and wide is our God’s love for his people. No matter how far away or lost we are in this world, there is only one answer - Jesus Christ!

During the conference, I believe, our goals were achieved. We developed a network for Niuean youths. A social media platform is being created to ensure ongoing communication. We put the focus on the social, cultural and spiritual issues affecting many second and third generation Niueans living here in Australia and in New Zealand.

I received such amazing responses from the children, youth and from parents - all had different highlights from the conference. Some of the young people I saw who walked in facing the floor did not want the fun experience to end. One parent said, ‘It was really uplifting for me, haven’t felt like that in a long time’. I was greatly impressed by the young people's personal stories, sharing jokes, the laughter, singing and just having fun. The whole conference was a great success.

God is great. Thank you Jesus!

 Kia monuina, blessings and love,

Tagaloa Matagi-Vilitama
One of the Youth Organisers, Niue National Conference 2018