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Positively Overwhelmed!

6,500 Christians Celebrate New Year’s in Switzerland

The congress centre in Lucerne was filled to the brim for four days between Christmas and New Year’s with Christians from the state Reformed and Catholic churches as well as 20 other denominations and congregations. More than 6,500 people participated in the event, with the motto “Fresh Faith”, and thousands more viewed plenary sessions via livestream. 

“I am overwhelmed when I read all the responses from conference participants: stories of people who were touched by God’s Spirit – some for the first time, others in a new way, so many special encounters between Christians from various churches and denominations, profound worship sessions during the event – all of these things move me and make me feel deeply thankful… Worshipping God together with so many Christians from different backgrounds was a foretaste of heaven. It is a blessing for our country when Christians stand together ready to offer themselves in service to others, following Jesus as a role-model.”

Andreas “Boppi” Boppart, national director of Campus für Christus Switzerland (our Agape ministry in that country).

A Varied and Well-Attended Program

Main sessions featured nationally and internationally renowned speakers, who encouraged participants with their unique perspectives on faith. For example, Brian Houston, founder and leader of the global Hillsong movement, challenged listeners to, “step out and be the person you really are.” Heidi Baker, founder of the international aid organization Iris Global called on the audience to renew and deepen their relationship with Jesus. Pater Raniero Cantalamessa, the official pastor to the papal household, spoke to a packed auditorium, sharing how he was moved by the atmosphere of unity during the event, “The Lord wants Christians to be unified.”

Besides main sessions each morning and evening, participants could choose from around 40 afternoon seminars designed to be practical and easy to apply in daily life. The seminars were attended by some 1,300 people. In his seminar, well-known speaker Mike Pilavachi encouraged the faithful to walk on water like Peter, trusting in God as they take steps of faith to live exciting and fulfilled lives.

Those looking for a break from the crowds could visit the spiritual Oasis, where visitors spent time in prayer or received a personal blessing. Free time between sessions and seminars, provided opportunities for fellowship, discussion and reflection on the teaching.

The Missions Exhibition hosted stands from some 110 Christian organisations offering training and education opportunities, social projects, Christian media and much more. One woman, a retired pastor, described her experience at the stand where she worked: “I was so excited to see how many people visited our stand and took time to stop and talk with us.” A representative of the modern Christian clothing label Love your Neighbour remarked, “The variety of people her is amazing. We met Christians from all denominations – and of all ages – at our stand.”

EXPLO-Song Tops the Charts – modern worship music a crowd-puller

Corporate worship played an important role in the program and featured modern hymns and songs in a variety of musical styles, including pop and rock, jazz, and even a traditional Swiss alpine blessing on New Year’s Eve. At midnight, everyone joined in song and took the opportunity to share good wishes and blessings for 2016. It was a wonderful opportunity to ring in the New Year as part of God’s large family. The official EXPLO song, Oxygen – Fresh Faith - started the year by topping the charts on iTunes and Google Play.

“My faith was refreshed”

“The variety among Christians was exciting for me. Until now I had only heard about it, but now I experienced the remarkable freshness myself,” explained a 23-year-old Catholic woman. She was just one of many hundreds of Catholic participants at the conference. The largest group, with around 20%, was from the state Reformed church, and more than 20 different free-churches were also represented. Commenting on the variety of people in attendance, the women added, “I was positively surprised by the depth and the peacefulness during the worship sessions.” Another young man continued, saying, “If I had to organize the EXPLO, I would do it exactly the same way. The organization and the breadth of the content was excellent.” He was part of the 25% of participants between the ages of 20-30, although some participants were over 90 years of age!

Around 150 children and 300 teens took part as well. The Teens Camp was separate from the main program and offered kids the opportunity to practice and perform a musical based on the Biblical figure Bartimaeus or participate in football and floorball tournaments. Younger children attended a program with games, arts and crafts and story times.

Help Continues beyond the Conference

During the conference, participants had multiple opportunities to offer practical help to others. “EXPLO 15 should be a source of blessing from Switzerland that flows out into the whole world,” explains Boppart. The “Helping Bags” collection drive allowed participants to pack and donate duffel bags for Ukrainian refugees. In the end, more than 300 bags were donated. Conference participants also heard about a portfolio of around 30 aid projects from partner organisations around the world, which they could support financially. Pledges of financial support were made in the amount of US $ 1.3 million.

A Thoroughly Positive Result

Kurt Burgherr, conference organiser and member of the Agape Europe leadership team explains, “It was good that there were no significant incidents during the conference and that so many Christians gathered together peacefully to celebrate and worship God. The fact that thousands of Believers received new inspiration for their faith makes me really happy. I want to say a special ´Thank you’ to the 600 helpers and volunteers who made sure that everything ran smoothly.”

Silvan Auf der Maur, director of guest services and member of the leadership team of the Lucerne conference centre commented on the event, saying, “Every year we host a variety of nationally relevant events here in Lucerne. For its size and scope, the working relationship was unusually cordial and at the same time highly professional.” According to Kurt Burgherr,  the next EXPLO conference will be held in Lucerne in December 2017!

Watch this video clip to get a taste of the Swiss Worship Night, and click here to order your copy of the CD.

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