, news editor, Adventist Review, with reporting by
Scores of Adventist young people visited tens of thousands of homes across Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday as they accepted a challenge from their leader, GYC president Natasha Nebblett, to “rattle the world.”
The teens and young adults made the annual outing during a five-day conference of GYC, or “Generation. Youth. Christ,” which is themed “At the Cross” and runs through Jan. 4 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Friday’s initiative to share religious literature in more than 30,000 homes followed a first-time effort on the eve of the annual convention that saw a smaller group of about 200 young people visit more than 70,000 homes.
Opening the conference, Nebblett said that living a Christian life encompasses more than merely claiming a Christian identity: it means living “a life that rattles the world.”
She noted that the term “Christian” was first coined in Syria in the first century but there is no known Adventist presence in the country today.
Adventist young people are caught in a spiritual warfare between Jesus and Satan, Nebblett said, adding that GYC members who participated in the home visits before the conference’s opening had encountered Phoenix residents who spoke of seeing demons.
“What will it take for the world to take notice of Jesus?” Nebblett said.
For the world to start taking notice, she said, young Adventists must allow Christ to be fully in charge of their lives.But, she said, this is not something that young people can do through their own power.
“We cannot crucify ourselves,” she said.
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, struck a similar note in a speech on the evening of Jan. 1, urging the young people to remain faithful to Jesus.
“God is looking for faithfulness in us ‘At the Cross’ and in our daily lives for He is faithful to us,” Wilson said. “He is our role model and our Savior. Through Christ’s righteousness and grace we can be faithful because He is faithful.”
“At the Cross” is the 12th annual conference organized by GYC, which was formed in 2002 by a group of college students determined to pray, study the Bible and share Jesus more boldly. Daily attendance is expected to swell to more than 5,000 people by the time of Sabbath worship services on Jan. 3.
Attendees range in age from 14 to the late 80s, but most are teens and college-age Adventists.
A new plank in this year’s conference was the initiative that involved 180 young people gathering in Phoenix a week before the conference started to make house-to-house contacts.
Taylor Hinkle, GYC’s vice president of evangelism and a student at Southwestern Adventist University, said the change was introduced after evangelist Mark Finley made an appeal at last year’s conference in Orlando, Florida, for GYC attendees to be handed the tools they needed to replicate the outreach in their home churches.
Hinkle also said he was personally motivated by a statement from Adventist Church co-founder Ellen White, who said: “House-to-house labor, searching for souls, hunting for the lost sheep, is the most essential work that can be done” (1MR, page 14).
For the pre-conference outreach, attendees who had never before engaged in literature evangelism were trained by experienced peers and then sent out to the streets of Phoenix. Taylor estimated that the young people knocked on 70,000 to 80,000 doors.
Hundreds of attendees hopped on dozens of buses on Friday afternoon to knock on another 30,000 to 40,000 doors, meaning GYC members visited a total of more than 100,000 homes at this year’s conference. Attendees on Friday also visited people in hospitals and nursing homes.
Friday’s program mirrored similar major outreach events organized at previous conferences.
Every GYC conference is packed with speeches and seminars aimed at inspiring the attendees and training them to share Jesus in new ways. New seminars this year include “Creation, Agriculture, and Evangelism,” presented by Paul Dysinger, owner of an organic farm in Tennessee; and Aimee Smith, manager of Good News Farm at Great Lakes Adventist Academy, and “Relentless Prayer” by Paul Ratsara, president of the Southern-Africa Indian Ocean Division. Ratsara has been a frequent participant at GYC conferences for the last five years, and his son and new daughter-in-law serve on GYC’s executive committee.
Wilson, meanwhile, called on GYC attendees to follow the lead of Nehemiah, who rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls in Old Testament times, and leave the conference wholly committed to following God’s Word and His direction.
“In your faithfulness to God in 2015, with one hand do the work of God and in the other hand hold the Word of God, your weapon of heavenly authority,” Wilson said in his speech. “Lean completely on the Lord in your faithful service saying, along with those who worked on the wall of Jerusalem, ‘Our God will fight for us.’”