March 6, 2024

At Evangelism Congress, Young People Encouraged to Serve Their Communities

Lake Union Conference supports gospel outreach initiatives from the region’s youth.

Cassidy Miranda-Chavez, for Lake Union Herald, and Adventist Review
Delegates to the Lake Union Youth Evangelism Congress in Northbrook, Illinois, February 17. [Photo: Katie Fellows]

Through what some described as a God-ordained encounter, a group of Andrews University students registered just days before the Lake Union Youth Evangelism Congress held in Northbrook, Illinois, United States, February 16-18. One family from Indiana traveling to the event was in a crash that totaled their vehicle, but they still pressed on. A high school senior wondered if it was too late to give her life to Christ and realized it was now time to be baptized.

These were some of the stories from more than 300 delegates attending the “Now Is the Time” biannual event in a suburb of Chicago. The weekend was a culmination of years of planning for an event geared toward equipping a generation of youth in their evangelistic endeavors within their respective churches and communities.

Damian Chandler, pastor of Sacramento’s Capitol City Seventh-day Adventist Church, was the featured speaker for the event. He captivated the audience with his powerful speeches, creating unforgettable moments throughout the weekend.

Dollar-for-Dollar Match

Through the years, the Lake Union Conference has witnessed remarkable evangelistic outcomes, with young adult leaders using a total of US$515,872 from a collaborative evangelism fund established by the union, local conferences, and local churches to initiate various evangelism projects. The aim of these initiatives has consistently been to spread the message of the gospel throughout their local communities. Notably, this year’s evangelism fund reached an all-time high, with a generous contribution of $85,000 from the Lake Union.

For every dollar from a local church for a project, the union will match one dollar (up to $85,000). For example, leaders said, if an evangelism project’s total budget is $1,000, and the local church decides to support with $500, the Lake Union will match it with $500 to make up the $1,000 the project needs. This method provides young adults across the union with $170,000 for evangelism, leaders said.

Testimonies from Participants

Since 2013, the gathering has occurred every other year and has brought together senior youth and young adults aged 16 to 35 from across the Lake Union Conference, along with pastors, youth directors, ministerial directors, conference presidents, and union administrators.

Back in 2016, KhaiKhai Cin, the organizer of this year’s congress, saw his own evangelism initiative take flight thanks to the Lake Union Youth Evangelism Congress, and he was determined to extend the same opportunity to others. KhaiKhai and his sister, Cady, along with youth members of the Grand Rapids Myanmar Company and Battle Creek Zomi Group, launched Myanmar Community Services (MCS), a ministry designed to assist their fellow refugee communities in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I’ve seen the impact this event had on myself and many young people, and I wanted to make sure others could experience that as well,” KhaiKhai explained.

Just a few days before the 2024 congress was set to kick off, KhaiKhai, a seminary student at Andrews University, bumped into a friend, Ethan Drew, and encouraged him to attend. Ethan happened to run into his friend Eliana Fisher. Ethan told Eliana about the upcoming event, and she grew very excited — so much so that she immediately reached out to her pastor at the St. Joseph Adventist church, Roy Castelbuono, and told him she wanted to go. At that church’s board meeting a few days later, members approved eight young people — most of them with no ties to the congregation — to attend the congress. “It was so easy,” an elated Eliana said.

She considers attending the congress a “God encounter.” Last summer, she and five other friends began a Bible study. They wanted to incorporate an outreach activity and soon began handing out water bottles inscribed with inspiring verses to beach-goers at the nearby Silver Beach. They saw their group grow to some 30 to 40 young people during the summer. “Isn’t that just crazy?” Eliana said. “Friends told friends, who told others.” A mixture of Andrews students and community young adults were drawn to a space where they feel valued. This past Valentine’s Day, the group distributed cards to nursing home residents. The St. Joseph church has entrusted them with the responsibility of leading worship service once a month.

Eliana said they’re now busy readying their application for Lake Union funds to take their initiatives even further. “We heard practical ways to get new ministries started,” she said. They’re thinking about doing a triathlon, which they hope leads to a Vacation Bible School that may eventually grow into a Pathfinder club. They’re also hoping to get a church van to provide transportation to a health clinic for those in need. They’re also looking at starting a community garden. “The list is endless,” said Eliana, a second-year master’s student in Andrews University’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

This weekend, she noted, was a reminder of how much God cares for us. “God worked out a miracle for us to be a part of it, where our ministry can now reach even more people.”

Another testimony came from Lily, a young woman from Indiana, who told the audience how the weekend gave her an opportunity to bond with her youth group and sealed her decision for baptism coming up in a few weeks.

KhaiKhai explained that several people have already submitted their ideas for outreach, but there are a lot of funds left. “Keep praying,” KhaiKhai said. “If you do not have the perfect project idea yet, God will open your mind to meet the needs of your community. You may not know the impact of your project, at least on this side of heaven, but what you do with God’s calling will have an eternal impact on others.”

The original version of this story was posted on Lake Union Herald.