he story of Christ’s redemption of humanity has been spoken by the lips and lives of youth ever since the first century. The youthful John Mark wrote what is considered the first Gospel account of our Lord’s ministry; and across the centuries an unbroken succession of youthful apostles, reformers, evangelists, and martyrs have continued to recount that wonderful story by their examples. Today our young people, under the theme “It’s Time,” continue to participate in the mission of the church. During this quinquennium the Youth Ministries Department placed great emphasis on reaching, connecting, reclaiming, training, retaining, involving, and serving.
About 10 million Seventh-day Adventist youth under the age of 30 fill the pews in our churches every Sabbath. Many of these young people are involved in different evangelistic projects worldwide. The Elijah Project* had more than 42,400 evangelistic projects and 186,054 baptisms. In just the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division alone, 20,000 evangelistic projects were conducted in 2008, with all the local churches getting involved. Matthew 28:19, 20 is still being embraced by Seventh-day Adventist youth.
During the week of May 12, 2009, one of the most exciting developments in regard to the church in Cuba happened when, for five days, more than 400 delegates attended the “Youth Leaders of Faith” convention in the capital city of Havana. This ushered in a new day for youth ministry in Cuba. The attendees were able to eat and fellowship together. For some, this may not be exciting, but for a country where, in the past, groups were not allowed to buy food in large quantities, it was very exciting to be able to eat and fellowship together.
In Cuba, community service projects are not allowed, but evangelistic meetings are. In 2008 more than 200 people were baptized in Havana as a result of Elijah Project efforts. The delegates were challenged to continue in their evangelistic endeavors. Youth are now determined to do more evangelism than ever before, as they accept the challenge to live like Daniel and Joseph.
Just a few years ago, youth congresses were held in small halls. Today, we see many divisions holding huge youth meetings, such as the one in Southern Asia in 2008—where more than 80,000 attended the Sabbath meeting. More than 37,000 Pathfinders attended the North American Division Pathfinder Camporee held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 2009. Six hundred Pathfinders were baptized. In 2009 the Euro-Africa and Trans-European divisions held their second Pan-European Youth Congress in Munich, Germany; 18 young people were baptized. From this assembly the Munich Statement was formulated. It was presented to the two divisions with a recommendation for consideration and implementation.
Two young adults of 18 are baptized during the Pan-European Youth Congress in 2009.
This statement read:
- “We have appreciated the conversation that has begun here in Munich with our leaders and we are grateful for your genuine concern.
- We, the youth, are committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and are willing to contribute and get actively involved.
- We therefore urge the church leaders of Europe to move towards a new paradigm of leadership based on open dialogue, mutual understanding and a common goal.
- We believe this new paradigm will motivate the youth to a greater sense of worship and accountability, for the extension of God’s kingdom in Europe.”
The main purpose of these events is to nurture, equip, and motivate young people to live for Jesus Christ and become the best citizens they can be.
In 2008 more than 2,000 delegates attended the second World Conference on Youth and Community Service held in Taiwan. During the first week young people participated in service proj-ects—painting buildings, cleaning streets, teaching English, tutoring, etc. All the supplies were provided by the young people. In the second week participants attended seminars and celebrated God’s love in the lives of youth.
After learning that the young people provided all the materials, as well as their airfares, the governor of Taipei County told the organizers of the event that they would not have to pay the monies they were already charged for the venue. The venue was given to us as a gift. He also asked the Seventh-day Adventist Church to organize and operate international English language schools in their country. We currently have three of these schools operating under Seventh-day Adventist leadership.
The community service projects are the main attraction for many young people. Young people today do not want to be only receivers, but instead, they want to be transmitters of the love of God to humanity.
Several participants at the 2009 "Youth Leaders of Faith" convention in Cuba pose for a picture
Youth as Witnesses
Carlos Benjamin Quiroz Baca and his family live in Chinandega, Nicaragua. When he was 4 his grandmother encouraged his mother to send him to a local Seventh-day Adventist school. Carlos loved the school and wanted to go to the church, too. His parents hesitated at first but after much begging, his mother, who was once a Seventh-day Adventist, allowed him to go. Carlos joined the Adventurer Club, and months later he got baptized. After being encouraged by her son, Carlos’s mother got baptized and joined the church. His father, who never knew anything about the Adventist message, was so encouraged by his son’s witness that 18 months later he too gave his heart to Jesus.
Carlos, now 10 years old, is a Pathfinder who just got invested as a Friend. His sister is 6 and joined the Adventurer Club, and his mother is a Master Guide. They are all involved in the Pathfinder Club.
The Word “Commitment”
We recently got a glimpse of what the word “commitment” means to some youth. With tears of joy in her eyes, a young woman, who traveled by train for seven days with a group of other young Siberians, told me that the trip to the 2009 congress in Munich was worth it! The meetings began at 8:00 in the morning and continued through to almost midnight every evening. Did they complain? No! They were alert and on fire for God. They said, “When you consider that we spent seven days to come and join the rest of the youth from this great division and to listen to the Word of God, what is a long meeting?”
In the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January, international media reported seeing Seventh-day Adventist youth in Pathfinder uniforms, very organized, as they served those who were injured, and distributed food to thousands of people. There will be literally hundreds of opportunities opening in Haiti to show the love of God and win young people to Jesus Christ.
Ellen White was right when she penned these words many years ago: “We have an army of youth today who can do much if they are properly directed and encouraged. We want our children to believe the truth. We want them to be blessed of God. We want them to act a part in well-organized plans for helping other youth” (General Conference Daily Bulletin, Jan. 29, 1893).
The goal of the General Conference Youth Ministries Department is to nurture every young person, and to involve them in the mission of the church. “Salvation” and “service” will continue to be our watchwords.
*A collaborative effort sponsored by the General Conference and Adventist-Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI), and coordinated by the Youth Ministries Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
This article was published June 24, 2010.