It is not easy to coordinate youth and young adults' activities in person, much less in a virtual environment. However, this is what the Atlantic Union Adventist Youth Ministries (AUAYM) team has been doing since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
AUAYM director David McKenzie leads the youth ministries directors from the six conferences in his region and their teams as they work with youth and young adults. It is one of three strategic imperatives for the Atlantic Union Conference (AUC) administrators.
COVID-19 halted many things, but it has not dampened the missionary spirit of our members. With travel restrictions lifted, 53 individuals from the Atlantic Union territory recently spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic completing various tasks at the Dominican Adventist University to prepare the campus for students returning to classes.
“If there is a gift we can give to our young people and to the generation to come, it is to help them develop a missionary spirit,” AUC treasurer Elias Zabala Sr. said. “Whether it is local or overseas, God needs people who are willing to go for missions.” Zabala worked alongside the volunteers during the trip and served as a liaison with the Adventist ministries and institutions in the Dominican Republic.
Volunteers came from five of the six AUC conferences. Those church regions provided financial support to purchase supplies and materials. Volunteers included pastors, youth leaders, young adults, and several Medical Cadet Corps (MCC) members.
Dionisio Olivo, AUC MCC major general and operational commander, traveled to the Dominican Republic to lend his support, along with other administrators. Zabala said, “All of our volunteers worked very hard. I really want to acknowledge the work of the MCC. What a group of men and women! Their dedication, deportment, discipline, and cordiality were appreciated.”
Volunteers tackled numerous painting projects on the university campus and at the local Adventist elementary school. They also purchased materials and fixed streetlights around the campus perimeter, power-washed campus sidewalks, outdoor courts, and buildings before repainting, and completed cleaning, carpentry, and landscaping projects around the campus.
“It’s been such a blessing to come to this university to help out,” Gregory Jamrog, a young adult volunteer, said. “We’re just thrilled that we could be a part of something so special.”
During the trip, Zabala and some volunteers visited a local orphanage operated by the Adventist Church to see if they needed any assistance. Unknown to them, the day before their visit, the orphanage director had requested money to purchase sneakers for the more than 50 children in its care. The business manager had informed her that the funds were not available and that she would have to wait for a donation. They prayed and asked God to provide money for the shoes.
Zabala explained, “When we got there the next day and asked if they needed help, the woman said to me, ‘You guys are an answer to our prayer!’ ” The volunteers from the Atlantic Union donated from their funds and put together enough money so all the children could have new shoes.
“This was a beautiful and amazing experience that we recommend [others] join,” Luis Soto, one of five pastors from New York City who volunteered, said. “It could be this year or next year, here or in another country, but join a mission trip and do something for others. It will be valuable for them and transform [your] life.”