On Sabbath (Saturday), June 20, 2020, hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist youth and young adults took to the streets of Minneapolis with “A Cry for Justice and Healing,” an outreach event aimed at rebuilding the city and regaining a sense of peace.
The event, held in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder on May 25, was attended by more than 350 volunteers, members of 16 Adventist churches, and officials from three conferences (Lake Region, Central States, and Minnesota Conference).
The day began with a gathering on the steps of Minneapolis First Seventh-day Adventist Church, located eight minutes’ drive from the spot where Floyd’s life was taken. In lieu of a traditional Sabbath worship service, volunteers (most of whom were under age 35) dispersed to one of seven outreach locations in Minneapolis.
Each station had a unique mission tailored to the needs and demographics of the neighborhood. All offered supplies, lunches, prayers, and a place to submit ideas of ways churches can sustain aid after the media attention subsides and police brutality is no longer a trending topic.
Participants regrouped for a peaceful march to the George Floyd memorial located at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue (renamed George Floyd Avenue). As the crowd marched together, wearing “#I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts, singing “When We All Get to Zion,” a sense of urgency arose.
Speakers including Ezra Kenyanya, youth pastor of Kenyan Community Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Lake Region Conference youth director Abraham Henry, who passionately articulated how seeking justice and defending the oppressed are biblical practices.
Henry, in his address to the crowd, based his exhortation on the Bible verse Micah 6:8.
“Today we walk because we believe we’re walking humbly; today we talk because we are seeking justice, and today we stand because we stand for those who can’t stand. Remember this moment as a day where we stood up, a day where we spoke up and a day where we command that we seek justice.”
After eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence to commemorate the length of time Floyd was pinned to the ground by a police officer, flowers were laid at the site and silent prayers offered for all victims of racism and police brutality.
Kenyanya helped organize the event and credits the young people who pushed adult leaders to do something.
“They kept on asking, ‘What can we do?’ In Zoom townhalls, they would ask: ‘We know what the world does, but what does the Adventist Church do?’” Kenyanya explained. He said that during the unrest, many young people were already on the frontlines protesting.
Kenyanya and his young members began thinking of what they could do to speak to the world in a different way. “One thing was that they didn’t want to be silent,” he said.
George Obwogi, a young adult from the Kenyan Community church, said that he was one of those young people who couldn’t remain silent. He had watched the Floyd video and had to call out sick from work the next day. “It had me down. I had to make sense of what was happening.”
As he mingled with the other young protesters on Sabbath (Saturday) afternoon, George said it felt good to see what his church was doing.
“This is exactly what Jesus wants us to do. Show love. People see it from your action that you care. It’s beautiful to see that we can come together to not only preach the word but also show it in action.”
Lake Union Conference youth director Ron Whitehead was in attendance helping the organizers. He said, “As Adventist Christians, we need to be salt and light in our community. I’m so proud of my Adventist brothers and sisters and how they’re representing Jesus.”
Henry remarked that he was gratified to witness the diverse crowd taking a stand against hate, racism, injustice, and authority abuse.
“Our church is not silent; our actions were loud!” he said. “I am proud to be a part of a church that runs to the fire instead of away from it.”
Kenyanya said, “My heart is filled with joy to see how God is working through us. In moments like this our Christianity shines the most. It’s times like this that we have a chance for people to know who the Adventists are and what we stand for.
“I hope this [brutality] doesn’t happen anywhere, but if it happens, may our church be out there, rebuilding the bridges, speaking against the injustices in a Christian way.”
Janel Davis is a young adult from the Minneapolis Glendale Church who participated in the protest march and rally.