Baraka G. Muganda

The Youth Department has been in the ministry of saving and challenging youth to participate in the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the past 125 years. This quinquennium has proved to be one of the most exciting times to be involved in youth ministry.

More than 75 percent of the membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is under 30 years old. We are a young church, full of energy and zeal. On every continent you can find faithful and dedicated Adventurers, Pathfinders, and young adults serving their church as volunteers, student missionaries, builders, evangelists, service project workers, Global Mission pioneers, or helping with ADRA programs/projects. These young people keep the wheel of the gospel rolling.

Large congresses and Pathfinder camporees were held in all divisions worldwide. At all these events young people were baptized and many recommitted their hearts and lives to Jesus. The main focus of all these gatherings was salvation and service. History was made in Poland when, for the first time in recent memory, an all-european youth congress was held. More than 2,000 youth attended. I could share with you details about these meetings, but time and space would not allow it. In Gospel Workers, Ellen G. White writes, "They [youth] must be taught how to labor for the Master. They must be trained, disciplined, drilled, in the best methods of winning souls to Christ" (p. 210). Let's look at a few of the characteristics revealed by our young people.

The Committed Youth
Diego and Adriana, from Brazil, are two widely known outstanding youth evangelists, fully committed to God and to His cause. As a result of their ministry Diego has baptized more than 1,200 people and Adriana more than 2,000. These youth represent thousands of other youth around the world emerging as modern heroes of our faith.

Our youth are committed and involved in the mission and leadership of the church. In some parts of the world these youth are waiting to be challenged, organized, and trained.

Just think of the great 1000 Missionary Movement, a group highly committed to God and His cause. These are young people who participate as volunteers, giving a year of their lives to God. This movement, with headquarters in the Philippines, has sent more than 2,000 young volunteers around the world, planted more than 250 new churches, and baptized more than 20,000 people since its inception.

The Creative Youth
All good Christians know that bars are not the places to try and give Bible studies! OK, all except the 10-year-old boys and girls in Tanzania who were challenged by their Pathfinder director to share their faith with non-Adventists. On their way home that day they began to talk about what they could do. Passing a bar, they immediately recognized that there must be someone in there who needed Jesus.

They walked in and found a woman alone at a table. They sat down beside her and told her they wanted to share Jesus' love with her. She rolled her eyes and ordered one last drink. Then she listened! Three months later at her baptism she gave her testimony that she was being baptized because no one before had told her they loved her. But there in a bar, two young people told her about the One who really loves her. That's the mission. Be creative. Share the love of Jesus with others. Think outside the box!

In Bangladesh during a Pathfinder camporee, Pathfinders came up with a creative way of witnessing where traditional approaches do not work. They launched Good News in the Air--2,000 colorful balloons, one balloon for each delegate. On each balloon they pasted Scripture verses and some key elements of the Adventist health message. The balloons fell where villagers could find them and read them, and an "interest follow-up" group was put in place.

You cannot stop the youth. We were created to be creative! Think about it: A God as big and great as ours did not create us in His image just to sit and do the "same old, same old." No, He created us to be like Him--creative. We challenge you: What will your "balloon evangelism" be?

The Visionary Youth
In 2004, 1,500 young people and their leaders from all over the world invaded Thailand for its first-ever world conference on youth and community service (dubbed IMPACT 10/40). These young people participated in youth evangelism in the 10/40 window through various initiatives. "They patrolled the streets and villages with the message of God's love, mingled with people, and were not afraid to step into new areas," says Alfredo Garcia-Marenko, General Conference associate youth director. At the end of this historic meeting, the governor was so impressed with what the young people had done that a banquet was given to say thank you to the Adventist youth of the world.

After the conference, these young people declared that they'd go back to their divisions and impact the areas in which they live with the new approaches learned from IMPACT 10/40. At this event, one young woman who was not an Adventist Christian gave her heart to the Lord, and on her return home introduced her mother and sister to the Lord. Both were baptized. Others were so touched that they decided they wanted to be trained to serve the Lord in the mission field.

Dedicated Adventist youth are ready to participate in the mission of the church if only they can be involved. They want to be part of the work of God. Mrs. White wrote, "Let them [youth] feel that they have a part to act in helping and blessing others. Even the children should be taught to do little errands of love and mercy for those less fortunate than themselves" (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 435).

In 2005 youth all over the world are participating in the Elijah Project. This ambitious and visionary project is sponsored by the General Conference and the Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries (ASI), and coordinated by the GC Youth Department. More than 18,000 Voice of Youth campaigns are taking place in every world division.

Youth want to be involved in God's work, not tomorrow, but today!

The Best Youth
Our young people are the majority, not only numerically, but in terms of energy, education, life expectancy, quality of life, and church growth. They are, simply, the best.

"So many have chosen to be led by God into lives they never would have dreamed of--modern-day Daniels, Josephs, Marys, and so many other similar counterparts to biblical greats--it is hard to select just one or two examples," says Robert Holbrook, world Pathfinder director for the General Conference.

Dana's story is hard to believe. Because of her extremely shy personality, shaped by her dysfunctional family background, Dana, from Romania, preferred spending her days alone in the forest where people wouldn't tease her or whisper about her poor hand-me-down dress. But as He did with Moses in the wilderness, God was using these times in the forested mountains of her country to prepare her for something else. One day her pastor asked her to start a Pathfinder club--the first in her country. It changed her as well as her country.

Today she is a leading ornithologist. She also organizes Pathfinder and Master Guide camps; she travels with her trusty little backpack all over the country, giving seminars and organizing Pathfinder clubs.

And in the circles of the ornithological society, through organizing youth camps for schools and communities focused on birding and environmental conservation--the only such camps in the country--Dana is also spreading a love for God's world far and wide. Oh, and that Pathfinder club she began? She has kept track of every one of those kids during the past 12 years. Out of nearly 150 kids, only two have left the church; more than 40 who were not members joined the church along the way because of her influence.

This story confirms that "there is no other class that can do as much good as young men and young women who are consecrated to God. The youth, if right, could sway a mighty influence" (Messages to Young People, p. 204).

We have seen the great things God is doing through our youth. But at the same time, while we are celebrating God's working through the youth, we are also losing many to the world. A study done by Roger Dudley, of Andrews University, shows that in this division (North America) the church is losing about 40 percent of its young people yearly. We need to find ways to stop this painful exodus. Let's get serious with approaches and initiatives that will make them know that they are loved and needed in the church. This is a challenge to all of us. They don't need to be entertained. Young people need to be challenged to love God and participate in the mission of the church--salvation and service--through commitment, creativity, visionary awareness, and being the best!

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