Credit: Dean Hughes
Arabic-speaking members from the Middle East participated for the first time ever in a young single adult conference earlier this year. The gathering was held in Beirut, Lebanon, a nation with a large Christian population and a tradition of religious pluralism. Sixteen young adults from the region wore T-shirts bearing a logo that expressed the theme of the conference: “I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 11:19).
The young adults attending the conference included a new member, a man soon to be baptized, two returned missionaries, one young man about to submit his missionary papers, a very young branch president and members from two districts in the Middle East.
The young single adults conducted their own meetings, led discussions and workshops, visited local sites of interest, carried out a service project and spent free time mingling. At the conclusion of the conference, during a testimony meeting, many expressed thankfulness for their new sense of unity and strength and for their individual spiritual growth.
Two brother-and-sister teams, Aram and Marwa, and Samah and Morad, led workshops on building relationships and on leadership. The participants worked together in groups that combined members from differing national and religious heritages. The leaders challenged small groups to build structures out of spaghetti, masking tape and marshmallows. They strategized, combined their ideas and cooperated in holding pieces in place as the structures took shape. At the end, when one little building twisted and crashed to the floor, they also shared in the laughter.
One evening was spent at the home of Karim Assouad, former district president, where the young adults participated in competitions, games and dancing. Then they sat down to a wonderful meal in a beautiful garden setting. As they worked, served and learned together, friendships developed among them.
At the end of the conference, a new member of the Church admitted that he had never been comfortable with people of other nationalities. But during the testimony meeting he expressed gratitude for a change of heart. “I have new love and respect for my brothers and sisters from other countries of the Middle East,” he said. “We’re all children of God.”
It was what the conference had aimed for: One heart and a new spirit.
— Dean and Kathleen Hughes, senior missionaries serving in Beirut, Lebanon