Danilo lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania with his wife and two daughters. There he serves as a part-time youth pastor with two Mennonite churches and works part time with Mennonite Central Committee as the Summer Service National Coordinator. He studied at Eastern Mennonite Seminary (2013) and Eastern University (2010).

Our Allentown crew is looking forward to going to convention again. We have some who will be returning and a couple for whom it will be their first time. I like to have the returning kids share with first-timers one thing that they loved and one thing that was difficult. The things that they love are usually the free time, worship and staying in a hotel. The things that are difficult are the busy schedules and being away from family. Above all, I tell the youth that it’s going to be fun and that it will be a good experience. The youth in our group come from cultures where family is central. Sometimes the parents are nervous about having their kids away for so many days, so it’s important to establish trust with them and make sure they are aware of what we will be doing.

Retreats or long trips with your youth are always great times to dig deeper. Our small group time was especially meaningful for me last convention. The Spirit was moving and the kids were asking good questions.

“How do we know what is right or true?”

“How can we trust God?”

The first question came from a young girl in our group whose family is Hindu. I was blown away that she was ready to ask that question and brave enough to ask it in front of our group. The second question about trusting God came from a young guy who had been in a bad car accident and experienced a dramatic conversion. He was falling back into old behaviors and was learning trust and what it truly means to follow Jesus.

We are looking forward to this convention because c’mon, it’s Orlando!

But in all seriousness, the theme Love is a Verb is important and comes at the right time in the spiritual journeys of my youth.

We have been emphasizing the importance of following Jesus daily and how to live that out. It starts with God’s love for us and then that love flows out to others. We serve others in our local community, but I think there is something significant for them about seeing hundreds of other youth worshiping and serving together in a different city. Most of our kids live in the city, so city life won’t be so shocking. But I hope to make our youth aware of the similarities and differences between Orlando and Allentown and inspire them to serve in their own city in a new way.

I’m hope to see more youth of color at this convention. And for this next generation to learn what it means to love Jesus and that love is a verb.