Thousands of Seventh-day Adventist young people around the world are learning to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to “Be the Sermon,” as the Global Youth Day (GYD) theme states. Through coordinated efforts in each of the 13 World Church regions, youth are recapturing a vision for service and learning there is more to faith than simply going to church.
This initiative began in 2013 under former Seventh-day Adventist Youth Director Gilbert Cangy’s leadership. It is one day set aside for youth (primarily ages 15-25) to specifically focus on doing acts of kindness in their communities. As the Youth Department website states: “The true practice of religion involves the revelation of God’s love in living out Jesus’s gospel commission as He bade us to before He ascended to heaven: through all manners of selfless acts that point a desperately needy world to the ultimate hope of the better world He has made possible for us” (youth.adventist.org/GYD).
Gary Blanchard, youth director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is excited to see groups of young people around the world, secure in their Adventist identity and who they are in Christ, passionate about service and mission opportunities. “As I travel here and there, I see pockets of some of the most exciting things that you can imagine, with young people, thousands of young people, vibrant and excited about being part of ministries,” says Blanchard.
Sophia Boswell, senior editorial assistant for the Youth Ministries department and a key organizer for GYD echoes his sentiment. “I think today’s generation really wants to take the Church to the streets,” explains Boswell, “and this initiative gives them an opportunity to do that. It’s a ministry that can be continued throughout the year and it’s a good opportunity for youth to get involved and bring people to the church. I think it’s really important for us as Christians to first meet the needs of the community before we start preaching to them.”
How are young people meeting community needs? Last year they participated in a blood drive, hoping to break a record for the most blood donations. They also partnered with Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to provide food to victims of the 2017 mudslide in Peru.
This year on March 17, 2018, they’ll be conducting a food and water drive for those in need. It’s up to the participants to choose a worthy cause to support with donations. The global Youth Week of Prayer is scheduled to begin that evening, following the day’s activities. It’s a perfect venue to invite neighbors who have inquired about the Seventh-day Adventist faith, or to encourage youth who have left the church to return for a Homecoming evening.
How can churches get involved in this program? “Check out the website,” Boswell advises. “Read the history. A lot of people may be aware of the program, but not know about it completely. Get involved! Tell a friend. This is a good opportunity to meet a need.” Check with your local conference or union to see if other churches are participating and collaborate efforts together.
Although this is a youth-oriented event, people of all ages can be involved, from praying for the young people to providing group transportation and supervision. In fact, a group in South America rented a sports stadium last year to accommodate all the church members who gathered to pray for the youth working in the community. This initiative transcends barriers of age, gender, and ethnicity.
Youth leaders are thrilled to see that this effort is changing lives. “After seeing all the news reports, testimony videos, and worldwide activity from more than 150 million digital social media impressions on GYD 2017, we know God has been ministering to those in need through our tireless young people committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus,” reports the GYD website.
You may find out more about GYD by visiting youth.adventist.org/GYD, or following the Youth Department on social media: Facebook (@GCYouthMinistries), Twitter (@GCYthMin), Instagram (@gcythmin) or YouTube.
*The General Conference Youth Ministries Department would like to note any hard labor type activities, i.e. painting, etc. should be planned for a day other than Sabbath.
This article first appeared on the Adventist News Network site.