Francesco and Rosaria Di Pasquale, a married couple with three daughters, grew convinced that God had set aside the seventh-day Sabbath for worship as they studied the Bible in their home in Mannheim, Germany.
Puzzled over where to worship, they prayed that God would lead them to a church where they could keep all His commandments.
Then as the couple went for a walk on a Sabbath, they encountered a group of young people who introduced themselves as Seventh-day Adventists. The Di Pasquales wondered whether this could be God´s answer to their prayers.
Some time later, the Di Pasquales decided to go to the movies on a Saturday night and discovered that the local Adventist church had rented the movie theater for a showing of “The Creation: The Earth Is a Witness” by director Henry Stober. They watched the movie and met the local pastor.
Soon after that, they decided to visit the local church for Sabbath worship services. A year later, in 2011, the couple got baptized.
The Di Pasquales, now active church members, say the key moment in their search came when they first met Seventh-day Adventists — the group of young people on the street.
Those young people have led many people to Jesus over the past decade as they hit the streets as part of their Youth in Mission Congress, an annual event that gathers hundreds of young Adventists from across Germany and other countries for five days of worship, workshops, and community outreach.
Last week, 2,000 young people attended the largest-ever Youth in Mission Congress on the exhibition grounds of the city of Offenburg. Guest speakers David Asscherick and Ty Gibson addressed the 10th annual congress, which met from March 24 to 28. Another 2,000 local church members joined the young people for the Sabbath worship services.
Marc Engelmann, a pastor and co-leader of the congress, expressed amazement at the creativity of the youth leaders and the 500 volunteers who helped organize and manage the event, which is known by its acronym, YiMC.
“What impresses me most since the first congress in 2007 is not only the creativity of our young people to continually develop new ideas, but also their willingness to manage this event day and night,” Engelmann said.
“We're all the more grateful that we could constantly feel the helping hand of God,” he added.
Among other things, the young volunteers participated in security, meal distribution, and keeping the premises clean. Their average age was 24.
The Youth in Mission Congress began in 2007 when a group of German young people decided that the country needed an annual congress that would inspire and motivate young people to preach the Advent message in this generation. With the support of the Adventist Church’s Baden-Württemberg Conference, the congress has become a mission-driven youth movement credited with sparking a revival in Adventist churches and especially among Adventist youth.
A special feature at this year´s congress was a charity race called “Run the Good Race” that took place on the exhibition grounds on Easter Sunday. Eighty-two runners collected 7,250 euros ($8,215) from previously signed sponsors. One participant alone raised 1,642 euros ($1,860) through 25 sponsors. Proceeds went to a local organization, Flüchtlingshilfe Rebland, that assists refugees.
The main aim of the congress is to encourage young people to live their faith daily and at the same time have a positive influence on society, organizers said. To that end, this year’s event featured 40 workshops on topics such as “Evolution vs. Creation,” “The Question of War in the Old Testament,” and “The Beauty and Danger of Human Sexuality.”
And as when the Di Pasquales met Adventists for the first time, young people engaged in community outreach activities. In one activity, young people asked passersby who were smoking to exchange their lit cigarettes for apples.
In addition to making a difference on German communities, the congress has changed the lives of its young participants. After the event, some decide to get baptized, to dedicate a year of mission service for Jesus, or to become pastors.
At the 2014 congress, one young attendee, Stefanie Horst, took to heart an appeal to lead people to Jesus by simply becoming friends with them. At school, she got to know Olga Welsch, and the two became good friends. Welsch showed considerable interest during conversations about Horst´s Adventist faith — about what she did and what she didn´t do — and asked many questions. Last year, Welsch visited the Youth in Mission Congress. When the speaker made an appeal for attendees to give their lives to Jesus, she asked to be baptized.
The baptism touched Horst´s heart.
“I see that God’s hand has been leading both my life and Olga´s life,” she said. “God used me although I wasn’t even aware of it.”