Is There Room for the Young People at the Table?

by Marilyn Ongkili


One of my highlights at the Chinese Homecoming in Hong Kong (July 13-16, 2016) was the night when the young people were released to share their hearts. Their transparency, boldness and passion for the Lord moved me deeply and excited me for what lies ahead!

The night the Homecoming Gathering ended, 14 of us decided to venture out into Hong Kong for a special authentic dinner together. We had some local friends who graciously made the arrangements, calling ahead to make reservations at the restaurant and helping us divide up into several taxis for the journey there. When we arrived, the waiting room overflowed out of the restaurant onto the sidewalk, where about 25 other hungry people eagerly waited for an available table. This was obviously a good sign that we were about to enjoy some popular, delicious food!

A half an hour after our reservation time, we were finally ushered into the restaurant to our table. In spite of the fact that our table was only the right size for 12 people, we managed to get all 14 of us seated around it.

To our surprise and joy, just as our first dish arrived, up walked five young people that we knew who had also been at the gathering.

A natural response from us older ones who were already seated at the table could have been to tell them how great it is to see them and how special it is that we ended up at the same restaurant, but then apologize that there are already two more people at our table than its normal capacity and tell them that we hope another table opens up for them soon.

That was not at all our response this time though! Without even thinking about it for a second, we all excitedly said, “Come and join us!” Although it was obvious that they wanted to, they hesitated as they said, “But there’s not enough room for us, is there?” All 14 of us, without exception, and without a moment of hesitation said, “Yes, for sure there’s room for you!” We immediately began to shift our chairs even tighter together. In fact, each chair was now tight up against the ones on either side of it. With that level of squeezing we could fit in a couple more chairs, but still not quite enough. Since every square inch counted and we were determined to fit these five young people in, we even traded in a couple of chairs for some less bulky stools. One of the fathers even positioned his chair slightly back from the table and tilted it at an angle just to make a couple more inches of space.

After much wiggling around and shifting things into a snug, tight position, we were thrilled to now have nineteen people squeezed around a 12-seater table! We now had two generations and seven nations represented around our table! The fact that we were so tight that we could barely use our chopsticks without poking our neighbour in the eye was completely irrelevant, as the laughter and joy of all being together thrilled each one of us – young and old alike!

This experience reminded me of Lynn Green’s article titled, “Is it too Late for Hagar and Ishmael to Return to the Table?” But in this case, I felt the Lord is asking us, “Is there room for the young people at the table?” That night in a literal sense, our answer in a heart beat was, “YES, for sure!” So now the question is – Spiritually speaking, is there room for the young people at the table?

In the past we could have taken one glance at the table and concluded that it’s obviously way too full already. Also in the past, the young people would have likely preferred to be on their own, at a separate table where they could have their own topics, own jokes and own time of connecting. But in this season young people across the globe are expressing a deep longing in their hearts to be with the older generations – to journey together, worship together, grow together, lead together, dream together…and fulfil each others dreams together.

What a beautiful picture of how the Lord is drawing the generations to walk together in a new, deeper level. We are seeing the reality of Malachi 4:6 – “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers”.

Unknowingly that night, us older ones had gone ahead and prepared the way for the younger ones, so when they arrived they did not have to wait in line. The younger ones were able to skip all the waiting and walk right in and start enjoying the great meal with us, and at the end of the meal their bill was fully covered. If our hearts are willing, it can be the same spiritually speaking. If we as the older generations are willing to welcome the younger generation, then they need not struggle through some of the things we’ve had to, but rather can jump in and join us right where we’re at.

Similarly to the way that the younger generation is clearly longing to walk closer with the older generation, in this season the longing of the older generation is to welcome and embrace them. But, to see this happen, it will take more than just willing hearts. This will require some wiggling around, squeezing together and readjusting our positioning, even changing our comfortable chairs to less comfortable ones, in order to make room for them. We cannot sit like we have in the past or there will not be room for them at our “table” – in our programs, in our ministries, in places of leadership…

My heart’s cry, along with many others is, “YES, Lord, there IS room for the young people at our table!” And along with that cry is the practical cry – “Lord, show us how to practically and spiritually do the shifting, squeezing, wiggling around, adjusting our positions and even chairs in order to see this happen!”