How a Bilingual Gathering Helped Youth to Connect and Serve

Initiative in U.S. city results in young people’s engagement and baptisms.

Josue Peralta, for Lake Union Herald
How a Bilingual Gathering Helped Youth to Connect and Serve
A bilingual gathering of young people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States, is helping teens to reconnect and engage in worship and praise. [Photo: Josue Peralta]

On a cold January evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States, a group of youth gathered to have a night of unconventional Sabbath worship.

They were not at a church or even speaking one language, but rather they were at a screen-printing shop owned by a bilingual church member, who generously offered the space. 

During the first youth group event for the new year, one of the leaders gave a rather unconventional message, dressed as a crazed scientist. [Photo: Josue Peralta]

This unique gathering began in December 2021 when the screen-printing shop owner, Javier Arce, noticed his teenage children were losing their connection to their close-knit community and realized he had to do something quickly. “Zoom wasn’t doing anything for them,” the Redemption Seventh-day Adventist church member says. 

Before long, Javier began hosting a group, and word spread. Since then, three baptisms have come from the group’s ministry. Javier admits they weren’t planning on this happening. “We didn’t even have a pool,” he says. But he and his team made the baptism work and are happy that decisions for Christ are being made. 

The youth gathering’s worship services are filled with singing, a traditional gift giveaway, and dynamic group activities. [Photo: Josue Peralta]

Their worships are filled with singing, a traditional gift giveaway, and dynamic group activities. During the first event for the new year, on January 22, a rather unconventional message was given by one of the leaders, who was dressed as a crazed scientist. 

In his guise, the leader spoke of three of his creations, a couple that had gone terribly wrong and one that went right. His two failures were a teenage-look-alike robot that preferred to lounge around and do nothing, and the other, a teenage-look-alike robot that was interested only in itself and showing others how amazing it was. His successful creation was of a well-adjusted teenage-look-alike robot ready for liftoff. This robot studied the Bible and shared Christ with others. It was so well adjusted, in fact, that it had a rocket strapped to its back, ready to literally take off in the new year. The overall message of the illustration was to educate the youth on healthy habits to help them prepare to take off in this coming year, as well as habits to avoid.

The English-Spanish bilingual event is helping young people find ways to fellowship and witness, organizers said. [Photo: Josue Peralta]

To reach both English and Spanish speakers, the event is bilingual. Whenever a leader speaks in their native language, another translates their words, making everyone feel included. Some members of the group only speak Spanish, some only English, and some both languages. Those who are bilingual often chuckle as they hear the translator struggle, knowing full well they probably couldn’t do a better job. The lightheartedness of the situation lightens the mood and creates a friendly atmosphere. 

Adventist youth notice the effort and intentionality that the older generation put into their lives. The Bible reminds us in Proverbs that if we train up our youth in the way they should go, when they are older, they will not depart from it (see Proverbs 22:6). The event leaders are doing their best to teach their own and other youth in the way of the Lord through leading by example.

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

Josue Peralta, for Lake Union Herald