If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. —2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV
The novel coronavirus greatly impacted the Atlantic Union Conference territory at the onset of its spread across the United States. Early on in the pandemic, as churches and schools shifted to online platforms, the Atlantic Union Conference Adventist Youth Ministries Department (AYM) maintained its focus of supporting the six conferences in the Atlantic Union through ongoing training of youth ministries leaders, as well as facilitating opportunities to provide encouragement to youth and young adults.
In March 2020, AYM began Operation “PUSH” (Pray Until Something Happens) to pray for those affected by COVID-19 and for issues faced by Youth Ministries leaders as they seek to minister during the pandemic. Youth, young adults, church leaders, and the “young at heart” join in the early-morning prayer sessions that take place seven days a week. Some 200 people—representing the Atlantic Union territory, various U.S. states, and other countries—participate on the intercessory prayer conference line on a regular basis.
These faithful prayer warriors stand in the gap for the frontline workers, as well as people who have lost loved ones during this time. They also pray for various ministries, Adventist entities—such as schools and hospitals—and those who work in them. People from other countries, many with family and friends still residing there, also submit prayer requests on behalf of their country of origin and the various situations affecting their loved ones.
Lisa Quailey, a youth ministries leader in the Northeastern Conference who also serves on the AYM Compassion Advisory, often co-hosts the morning prayer session. Since March, Quailey has maintained the growing list of prayer requests. To date, the numerous prayer requests have filled two journals, and Quailey is partially through the third one.
During the state-mandated stay-at-home orders, Quailey noticed many youth and young adults, who were working on the frontlines of the pandemic, logging onto the prayer line requesting prayer. “They were out there [working] day after day and kept going to work,” said Quailey. “That means something [when] you can be the hands and feet of Jesus, not just in the context of your worship experience, but in the way you live day by day.”
The prayer line co-hosts also take time to hear testimonies of answered prayers, including many from youth leaders who testify of God’s provision, guidance, and inspiration for continued ministry during the pandemic. “Some of our youth leaders joined us in prayer online while in their hospital beds,” said David McKenzie, Atlantic Union AYM director. “Many of them have been healed and have come back online with testimonies of answered prayer.”
In addition to the morning prayer sessions, Operation “PUSH” holds an all-night prayer vigil every Tuesday evening. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., volunteers sign up for an hour slot and pray offline for the next 12 hours about the pandemic, those affected by it, and youth ministries and youth ministry leaders. “We’ve had youth who have lost their parents during this time, or were sick, not just as a result of COVID-19,” Quailey said. “We targeted prayers to lift up Adventurer- and Pathfinder-aged children for God to comfort them in this time of pain. Children and youth were often discouraged just like the adults were and they needed encouragement.”
The AYM Compassion Advisory coordinates outreach ministries to engage youth and young adults to serve their communities in tangible ways. The compassion ministry provides opportunities for youth leaders, as well as church members and children, to collectively impact their community—not preaching a sermon but being the sermon.
The team continued to meet and plan (over the phone and online), even as the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing. During one of the compassion advisory meetings, they discussed reports from many youth and young adults who were discouraged about being at home with nothing to do, while following physical distancing regulations in their areas.
The Compassion Advisory created the “Compassion Challenge,” a localized, weekly compassion project that a person could do on their own, with the support of their youth ministries leadership, while still maintaining physical distancing. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. Youth and young adults now feel relevant in their community during a time when so many people need hope.
The annual Compassion Rally hosted by AYM is October 9 and 10. A virtual event, more than 30 projects are available for people to sign up and complete in their local area. Projects include creating “blessing bags” (e.g. sealable bags for the homeless with socks, hand sanitizer, wipes, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a granola bar); virtual reading (reading to children who are hospitalized); volunteering at a soup kitchen or food pantry; and distributing masks and bandannas with back-to-school backpacks.
Quailey observes with pride that “youth and young adults around the Atlantic Union are resilient and are willing to participate and engage in serving the Lord and take care of one another.”