Nearly 3,000 Adventist young people gathered in Phoenix, Arizona, United States, for the 20th annual Generation. Youth. Christ. (GYC) convention.
The convention seeks to revive a movement that GYC describes as “young people who yearn to demonstrate Nehemiah’s leadership, Daniel’s integrity, Mary’s humility, Paul’s passion for evangelism, and Christ’s love for God and humanity.” Running from December 28 through January 1, the convention entered the first full day of programs, seminars, and outreach on December 29, 2022.
Throughout each day of the convention, participants attended meetings that uplift Christ and encourage a mission-driven life. A sprawling exhibit hall served as an opportunity to meet new friends and learn more about supporting ministries. Seminars on hot-button and practical issues that are relevant to youth were available — and often well-attended.
But it’s the spirit of GYC — a yearning to live life biblically, encouraging others to do the same, and pursuing a life of divine purpose — that energizes and unites the participants.
“I’m excited about the speakers, but definitely the fellowship,” 16-year-old Rylan said. Rachel, another 16-year-old, agreed. “Being around like-minded peers — there’s nothing like it. It’s exciting,” she said.
This year’s theme, “Break Forth,” provided an assortment of speakers and perspectives. Morning speaker Douglas Na’a, director of the S.A.L.T. program in Collegedale, Tennessee, spoke on the conflict that is seen between God and the nation of Israel in Isaiah 58.
“The sin of Israel that they were called to recognize so they could repent was that their religious experience did not equal with how they treated people,” he said. “You cannot worship God and treat people like trash at the same time. You cannot keep the Sabbath and oppress your neighbor.”
Na’a explained that you cannot “break forth” without a revival. “Repentance comes before breaking forth. Revival comes before breaking forth.” In addition, he emphasized that revival is never painless. “Revival and reformation will cost you something. I wish I could stand here and tell you that it’s comfortable, but it’s not.”
During the day’s seminars, each presenter gave practical information on issues affecting youth today. Tamara Conway, a grief recovery specialist from Michigan, presented on coping with grief and abuse. “We walk around today with gaping holes. These untreated wounds are dangerous. You can bleed all over other people,” she said. “It sabotages our relationships and our ability to connect with people. It even sabotages our ability to connect with God.”
Conway explained that some view God through abuse. “That’s why you think that God is ready to punish you at every turn. That’s why we put so much stock into what we eat. I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter. The health message doesn’t save you. I don’t care what you put into your mouth, that’s not going to solve the fact that you’ve been abused, or that you have abused someone.” She continued, saying that while the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, you cannot use it to abuse others. “When people don’t do what you want them to do, you get mad. That’s not present truth. Present truth is to heal.”
At the evening service, Steven Conway, the evening speaker, and pastor of the Troy Seventh-day Adventist Church in Michigan, urged participants to understand that division within the church is not conducive to an evangelistic mission. “When God’s people are divided, only the devil wins,” he said. “There is no division of the gospel and prophecy. They must go together. We have not fully embraced the message as God intended it.”