Around 10,000 young people across the East Venezuela Union Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church participated in the “Everlasting Friendships” tour, which sought to connect them and move them to be witnesses sharing Jesus across the region, from February 21 to 26, 2023.
The young Adventist members and their leaders walked across several cities, distributing Christian literature and reaching out to local businesses and pedestrians.
Andres Peralta, youth ministries associate director of the General Conference of the Adventist Church and world leader of the Pathfinders youth program, visited the country and took part in the six-day initiative. Despite a shoulder surgery that he had endured a few days before, Peralta said he was happy to be part of the tour across several cities in eastern Venezuela. “I love this country and these youth,” he said, noting that it’s the third time he is visiting, more than any other region.
Peralta commended Adventist youth in Venezuela, noting their high level of resilience. “Despite the difficulties they must grapple with, they always get up. I am thankful for the strength of these young people, who, no matter the setbacks they face, keep stepping forward.”
Jesús David Chacón, youth ministries director of the East Venezuela Union Mission, emphasized that the tour “was not born in a human heart but in the mind of God.” He added, “It is known that the best way of keeping our young people in the church is through friendships, and it the intention of this initiative to foster everlasting friendships.”
Encouraging Discouraged Youth
Chacón also pleaded with youth leaders across the region to make a special effort to include discouraged young people in various areas of youth ministry such as Pathfinders and Adventurers clubs, marching bands, and sports and recreation activities, among others.
The six-day journey, which welcomed more than 300 new church members by the close, started in the Chuspita Camp near Caracas and continued in Araguita, in Anzoategui State.
“It was an initiative that allowed us to share, to unite among ourselves, and keep moving forward,” Lizeth Cáceres, one of the participants, said.
Rosayni Murguey, another of the participants, concurred. “It was wonderful to meet the world director of Pathfinders and spend time with so many friends,” she said.
In the city of Maturín in Monagas, young people shared literature, including books and magazines, with a message of hope. They also advertised the local Adventist radio station. The activity ended in a club where they organized a Bible exhibition.
Aldemaro Malavé, a local church member who participated in the initiative, said that their walk showed a united but multi-faceted church.
Getting Members Involved
Misael Hernández from the Patria Adventist church district said, “This event has gotten every member involved. It is something that has united us in our faith and filled us with the joy of preaching God’s Word, and we feel His presence in our lives.”
The event in Maturín was attended by Francis Contreras, a representative of the Legislative Council and president of the Religion and Worship Committee, and Iraida Arismendi, representing the governor of Monagas and the mayor of Maturín.
Peralta prayed for the two government officials and their families, asking God to guide them and protect them, and to give them wisdom as they serve for the good of every citizen.
“I congratulate the Seventh-day Adventist Church for this wonderful event,” Contreras said. “It is refreshing to see young people devoted to God’s work. I encourage you to keep up with this great service, even more now, that the coming of the Lord is near.”
Arismendi agreed. “Adventists provide a magnificent service through the local school, which is the benchmark in our state due to the high quality of the education it offers. Also, through the local clinic, which is affordable for every member in our community. We admire the wonderful work you do,” Arismendi said.
In Bolívar State, the Everlasting Friendships tour drew more than 4,000 people. The culminating ceremony on (Saturday) Sabbath, February 25, included 1,176 Pathfinders and Adventurers investitures and 102 baptisms. During the special service, a mass choir of students from the local Maranatha Adventist School sang praises to God. The tour ended in the El Paraíso Seventh-day Adventist Church in the capital city of Caracas. Peralta attended both events.
“Pastor Peralta is a servant of God who loves young people,” Jorge Atalido, president of the East Venezuela Union Mission, said during the closing ceremony. “We feel happy to have him in our midst.”
A Rewarding Experience
Peralta, who said he felt loved during the days he spent in Venezuela, thanked church members and leaders for the experience. “The fellowship of young people has been very rewarding for me,” he said. “I can tell they are passionate about ministry.” He closed by sharing his personal experience. “When the Adventist Church got in touch with my family, I would try to avoid it,” Peralta said. “But after a lot of struggles, I gave my heart to Jesus, and I don’t regret it.”
He said that his experience can also be a contemporary reality for many young people. “Jesus fought for my family and me,” Peralta told them. “This same Jesus wants to fight for you and defend you.”
The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.