More than 1,200 youth and young adults in the United States’ fourth-largest city rallied together to give testimonies of how their Pathfinder clubs and youth groups spread the love of Christ on Global Youth Day (GYD). The annual GYD initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Youth Ministries encourages youth and young adults around the world to “Be the Sermon” in their communities by being the hands and feet of Jesus.
The youth rally took place on the afternoon of March 16, 2019, at the World Harvest Outreach Seventh-day Adventist Church in Houston, Texas. Youth from congregations belonging to the Texas Conference and Southwest Regional Conference shared stories from their service outings earlier that the day.
“It was great to bring together youth from Spanish-speaking churches and English-speaking churches for this effort. It captured the whole essence of the Church,” said Tyrone Douglas, youth director for the Southwest Regional Conference, who was a co-organizer of the event. “Sometimes we operate as silos with our different conferences, but our unity that day allowed us to be focused on mission in a special way.”
The youth shared their reports from visiting fire stations, police stations, and hospitals to pray for the first responders, police officers, nurses, and doctors.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to visit patients in hospitals, so we told them to focus on praying for the nurses and doctors. The goal was to let them know that we appreciate their work,” said Miguel Ramos, coordinator for Houston Adventist Youth for the Texas Conference, who was another co-organizer of the youth rally. “Other groups did the same at fire and police stations. The groups also sang to spread happiness. Some firefighters said it’s not every day that people come to say, ‘Thank you.’ “
Other groups visited nursing homes, cleaned up public parks, fed the homeless, distributed free water, and volunteered at the Houston Food Bank.
“It inspired them to become more involved on a more consistent basis. Young people were moved by the impact they were able to make and were surprised by how much people were appreciative,” Douglas said.
Daniel R. Jackson, president of the North American Division, was the featured speaker for the rally.
“I want to congratulate you and praise God for what you’ve done today,” Jackson said. “Praise God for Houston youth.”
Jackson’s message centered on the story of Debra, which is found in Judges 4 and 5 in the Bible. Debra was one of Israel’s judges, and under her leadership, Israelites were liberated from a 20-year oppression.
“What did Debra do that made her place in history so wonderful?” Jackson asked. “She took the oppression of her people personally; she prayed about it; and then she did something about it. You can make a difference in your world. All you have to do is be willing.”
Jackson added, “The Bible does not include these stories just so we can read them. What God says to you and me in these stories is, ‘I can do the same for you.’ “
Beyond Global Youth Day
World Harvest Outreach pastor Keith Goodman said while he was not able to witness the youth in action before the rally, he was impressed by the energy that was sustained after the projects were complete.
“People often use the term ‘disinterested benevolence’ to describe the actions of youth, but we saw the opposite on that day. It was wonderful to see young people who were thinking about others,” Goodman said. “It was a great event that highlighted them extending themselves to other people without looking for something in return.”
The theme for the 2019 Global Youth Day was “Adopt.” The message behind the theme was that since God has adopted us, we should extend His love to others. Members worldwide used the hashtag #GYD19 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to share their outreach projects in real time. In addition, a broadcast was streamed for more than 24 hours from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s headquarters that delivered GYD reports from the Church’s divisions around the world.
The director and associate director of NAD Youth Ministries, Tracy Wood and Vandeon Griffin, hosted an hour of the live broadcast that focused on the projects that were ongoing in the division’s territory. They were joined by youth groups within the Columbia Union that had just completed ministering in nursing homes and to the homeless.
“What makes this so special is the potential to do this on a regular basis,” Wood said. ”We now have the potential to reach our friends who might not come with us to church on Sabbath morning, but they might join us in a park on a Sabbath afternoon as we [serve] together. We have a lot of friends who would rather ‘Be the Sermon’ than hear a sermon any day.”
Griffin echoed the sentiment by challenging the viewers to continue the spirit of service every month and beyond.
“We have committed that this is not just an event; this is a lifestyle,” Griffin said. “ ‘Be the Sermon’ is a reminder that we are the church. The church is not just brick and mortar; it’s us. Christ has called us to be in a blessing to those who stand in need.”