Determined to Go Where Jesus Leads
It is not easy to coordinate activities for youth and young adults 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 (David Steede II, Bermuda; Ariel Manzueta, Greater New York; Dan Whitlow, New York; Gerome Leacock, Northeastern; Trevor Schlisner, Northern New England; and Daniel Velez, Southern New England), and their teams in their work with the youth and young adults.
The ministry to the youth and young adults is one of three strategic imperatives for the Atlantic Union Conference administrators. Here are highlights of just a few things that happened in youth ministries over the past few months.
Pathfinders Encouraged to Know, Love, and Serve Jesus
McKenzie and the AUAYM team rose to the challenge of coordinating an engaging and spiritual union-wide virtual Pathfinder camporee this year. Hundreds registered for the camporee and hundreds more viewed the services online, May 14-16.
Focusing on the story of Ruth, this year’s theme, “DETERMINED to GO,” encouraged Pathfinders to know, love, and serve Jesus. Pathfinders from the six conferences in the Atlantic Union territory and beyond enjoyed guest presenters, workshops, as well as opportunities to earn honors and participate in interactive, fun activities. It was the first time that a camporee in the Atlantic Union was held virtually utilizing a virtual stage and having the Pathfinders set up campsites at their homes.
Guest speakers for the camporee included Damian Chandler, pastor of the Capitol City church in Sacramento, California; Elias Zabala, Sr., Atlantic Union Conference treasurer; Bill Wood, former Atlantic Union Conference Adventist Youth Ministries director, who, in his retirement, coordinates Camp Ministries for the North American Division; Armando Miranda, North American Division associate Youth Ministries director; and Andrés Peralta, former Atlantic Union Conference Youth Ministries director and currently a General Conference associate Youth Ministries director.
In addition to utilizing social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, Pathfinders received the schedule and up-to-date information via the Youth Ministries department’s “AUAYM” Yapp app. The Pathfinders also communicated with each other through a social media feed on the app.
Participant comments during the closing ceremony on May 16 included “An awesome experience,” “Thank you for the fabulous weekend,” and “I’m excited for the next camporee.”
At the culmination of the camporee, McKenzie thanked all those who contributed to the success of the event, from the conference Youth Ministries directors, to those in the studio in Lancaster, Massachusetts, to all those who participated from various locations around the country, and to the many Pathfinders who attended the camporee. McKenzie encouraged the Pathfinders to be like Ruth and to be determined to go where Jesus leads.
I Will Go: Atlantic Union Volunteers Minister in the Dominican Republic
The coronavirus has halted many things, but it has not dampened the missionary spirit of our members. In the United States, we’ve seen the impact COVID-19 has had on communities, schools, and churches. In impoverished countries, that impact is exponentially more significant with limited financial resources. With travel restrictions lifted, 53 individuals from the Atlantic Union territory spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic completing various tasks at the Dominican Adventist University (Universidad Adventista Dominicana) to prepare the campus for students returning to classes in September.
The group chose the theme “I Will Go,” which echoes the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s strategic plan and rallying cry to participate in Total Member Involvement. “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. Whether it is local or overseas, God is in need of people who are willing to go for missions,” says Elias Zabala, Sr., Atlantic Union Conference treasurer, who worked alongside the volunteers during the trip and served as a liaison with the Adventist ministries and institutions in the Dominican Republic.
Volunteers represented five of the six conferences in the Atlantic Union—Greater New York (GNYC), New York (NYC), Northeastern (NEC), Northern New England (NNEC), and Southern New England. The conferences and the Atlantic Union Conference also provided financial support to purchase necessary supplies and materials. Volunteers included pastors, youth leaders, young adults, and several Medical Cadet Corps (MCC) members from the GNYC and NEC. Dionisio Olivo, MCC Major General and operational commander for the Atlantic Union, also traveled to the Dominican Republic to lend his support, along with Atlantic Union Conference administrators G. Earl Knight, president; Pierre Omeler, executive secretary; and Jose Joseph, vice president for Haitian and African ministries. “All of our volunteers worked very hard. I really want to acknowledge the work of the MCC. What a group of men and women!” Zabala exclaimed. “Their dedication, deportment, discipline, and cordiality were appreciated.”
Walter Harris, GNYC Adventist Community Services Disaster Response coordinator, served as project coordinator for the group; and Deanna Lambert, NEC TLT coordinator, served as volunteer coordinator. Under their leadership, the group 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 completing cleaning, carpentry, and landscaping projects around the campus.
“It’s been such a blessing to come to this university to help out,” said Gregory Jamrog, a young adult volunteer from NNEC. “We’re just thrilled that we could be a part of something so special.”
During the trip, Zabala and some of the 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 their care. The business manager informed her that the funds were not available, and 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 personal funds and collected enough money so all the children could have new shoes.
“This was a beautiful and amazing experience that we recommend [others] join,” said Luis Soto, one of five pastors from NYC who volunteered. “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.”
AUAYM Releases Living Through Crisis: Youth/Young Adult Prayer Journal
In an effort to encourage and strengthen many youth and young adults during the current pandemic, AUAYM embarked on a devotional project. The collaborative effort involved more than 50 Atlantic Union authors (youth directors, youth associates, coordinators, youth leaders, elders, pastors, and administrators). Living Through Crisis: A Youth and Young Adult Devotional and Prayer Journal seeks to deepen the readers’ faith as they are positioned to experience God’s abundant favor in 2021 and beyond.
Through personal testimonies, stories, and God’s Word, the devotional entries are written to encourage: joy, hope, peace, strength, thanksgiving, selflessness, trust, faith, and compassion in crisis; and to celebrate by faith: soaring above crisis, defeating crisis, and deliverance from crisis.
Each devotion, with its biblical foundation, gives readers an opportunity to face the day with the assurance that God is still in control of the affairs of the earth, and will never “leave nor forsake” His own.
AUAYM continues to be active as the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing messages of hope to the surrounding communities and beyond. They solicit your prayers for the work being accomplished by the many youth and young adults around the Atlantic Union. If you are interested in volunteering to work with the youth and young adults, get in touch with your church’s youth ministries leader. It promises to be an experience of a lifetime!