YSA Conferences Bring Together Young Single Adults
Philip M. Volmar, Church News and Events
- A young single adult conference for members in Central Europe was recently held in Oradea, Romania. Some 160 young single adults participated.
- The conference shows how such activities can strengthen young single members and reduce feelings of isolation.
- Official Church guidelines teach that YSA conferences should include “meaningful service, gospel learning, and social activities.”
“We all got to mingle and know each other in spite of the language barrier. We all spoke the language of love, service, and friendship.” —Eniko Kiss-Maxim, a young single adult from Romania
On a wet summer morning in Oradea, Romania, dozens of young single adults dressed in raincoats and shielded under umbrellas arrived at a school near the center of town. Each group came from a different country. The rain poured and the sky was dark, but spirits were high and hopes were bright—it was time for the 2011 Central European Young Single Adult Conference. Themed “He Shall Direct Thy Paths,” the gathering was recently held in Romania’s diverse Transylvania region.
Many of the young single adults had difficulty getting to the conference; it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event for some. A group of Polish young adults arrived by a different bus than the one they started out with, the first one having broken down at the Romanian border. The paperwork needed to get the Czech Republic group into the country was lost en route, which slowed down their entry.
But in spite of obstacles—the inevitable “opposition in all things” that can precede spiritual experiences—160 young single adults from nine European countries arrived ready to be edified by local Church leaders and energized by their peers. The Spirit-filled five-day conference that unfolded from July 26 to 30 at the Transylvania Technical College made the rain, the auto troubles, and the lost paperwork all worth it.
Understanding the Purpose of YSA Conferences
The young single adults in the Church make up a significant portion of overall membership, but in many areas of the world they are widely separated. In central Europe and elsewhere, young single adult conferences help singles avoid feeling isolated while also giving them “confidence in their Church membership, a wider circle of friendships, and opportunities to meet future temple marriage companions,” according to Handbook 2: Administering the Church.
The handbook, which encourages leaders to hold YSA events, states: “These activities are especially important in areas where there are few young members or where they seldom associate with large groups of members.”
The experiences of the young single adults in the countries represented in the central European conference—Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Slovakia—show that language differences don’t always matter when planning a conference. Holding the conference and giving the young adults the opportunity to be together is what matters. Even though 11 languages were spoken at the Oradea conference, the gospel of Jesus Christ brought the participants together as one group.
“I got to know a lot of people with the same values who come from different countries,” said Ales Veverka, a young single adult from the Czech Republic who attended the conference.
“We all got to mingle and know each other in spite of the language barrier,” said Eniko Kiss-Maxim, a young single adult from Romania who attended, adding that although English was a common language at the conference, not all could speak it equally. “We all spoke the language of love, service, and friendship,” she said.
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, in his April 2010 conference address, taught that strengthening the young members in the Church helps them better navigate their lives.
“We encourage young people in the rising generation to see their own potential to build great spiritual strength,” said President Eyring. “Since the future of the Church depends upon them, all of us care.”
Planning a Young Single Adult Conference
By supporting a conference with their guidance and encouragement, local Church leaders demonstrate the kind of care President Eyring described.
Handbook 2 states that Area Seventies should work with stake presidents to establish committees to plan and organize such activities, making sure that travel and cost are not excessive.
And that’s what the YSAs in central Europe did. Under the direction of Elder Manfred Schutze, Area Seventy, a committee of young adults representing the nine countries started planning the event six months in advance.
Committee members worked under the direction of the Spirit and met with leaders often during the six-month planning process. “This was a successful conference because it was guided and led by the Lord,” said Sister Kiss-Maxim, who helped organize the event.
The conference started with a devotional delivered by Elder Schutze, who presented the theme of the convention, “He Shall Direct Thy Paths,” and taught that the Lord would direct each member on the path to exaltation.
Following Elder Schutze’s address, activities ranging from dances and socials to service projects and classes provided the “meaningful service, gospel learning, and social activities” that the Church handbook encourages for such events.
“This was the first time I participated in a conference like this, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Brother Veverka said. “I felt the influence of the Holy Ghost during all the meetings.”
In addition to general classes offered, such as “How to Prepare for Eternal Marriage,” “How to Forgive Others Better,” and “Communication Skills,” conference organizers also created sessions specific to men and women. In these sessions, teachers and learners focused on issues related to being priesthood holders or members of Relief Society.
“This brought a strong spirit that got everyone excited to learn new things, meet new people, and enjoy every moment of this conference,” Sister Kiss-Maxim said.
For service opportunities, attendees had options to help clean up litter in a nearby forest or make contacts with missionaries in the city.
But because most of the YSAs came from outside of Romania, many of them didn’t speak Romanian—a problem when doing missionary work there. So the young adults worked with the full-time missionaries using a common language: art. With chalk, attendees drew the plan of salvation on the cement and invited pedestrians to speak with the missionaries, who did speak Romanian, to learn more.
Other activities included a talent show, sports matches, a testimony meeting, and a choir that performed at the devotionals.
Recognizing the Results of YSA Conferences
The young single adult Saints in central Europe and other places where YSA conferences are held are strengthened by activities planned to fit their circumstances.
Petra Valášková, a participant from Slovakia, said that his testimony of Christ grew as he met other young adults who share his beliefs.
“It’s a great opportunity to know people of the same faith and make a new friends,” he said. “But, of course, it’s much more. I could see that everybody was really trying their best to live according to the gospel.”