Heavenly agencies worked in a mighty way to keep the 2020 Greater New York Conference (GNYC) Leadership and Evangelism Congress on schedule, after receiving word that the original venue was closing only weeks before the congress was to begin. Ariel Manzueta, GNYC Youth Ministries director and his staff, prayerfully and diligently searched and contacted hotels, resorts, and conference centers with the necessary space and amenities large enough to host the more than 500 youth, young adults, and youth ministries volunteers who had already registered.
Wanting to keep the original dates as planned, Manzueta contacted the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey, and asked the representative to check the availability of January 17-19. She checked the reservation calendar, although she felt certain that the weekend would not be available because the hotel was already booked every weekend through April. To her surprise, she discovered that out of all the dates in the calendar, that weekend was the only weekend open and the congress could go on as scheduled!
Under the theme “Refocus: Reignite the Fire,” attendees were spiritually challenged and “reignited” Friday evening, Sabbath morning, and at the main service by guest presenters Manny Cruz, Arizona Conference Youth Ministries director; Hannah Ko Luttrell, a producer at Hope Channel; and Eric Walsh, a medical director by profession who lectures and preaches around the world.
This year’s theme is “a call to reconsider our priorities in life, assess what really matters, and ultimately recognize that we are here preparing for eternity,” Manzueta said. “As youth refocus, I hope they will help others to get ready for the coming of Jesus.”
This year, Manzueta reported an increased number of 13- and 14-year-old teens attending the event. “Attending at this age is a good way for them to get used to coming, and as they move on to fill bigger responsibilities in their churches, they will already be accustomed to attending,” said Manzueta.
The weekend included several high points, including Washington Adventist University awarding some $400,000 in scholarships to possible future students. Those who could not attend the congress were able to watch the presentations as they streamed live for the first time. Other firsts this year included the addition of a Music Leadership course, as well as the implementation of a fully electronic registration and check-in process.
Attendee Lisa Salvodon, 18, an assistant youth leader at Brooklyn church, said she enjoyed the “ability to meet other like-minded young people . . . and fellowship and encounter God together.” She said Walsh was her favorite speaker that weekend, citing his no-nonsense approach to the topic of drugs and alcohol. “He didn’t beat around the bush and he was well-educated on the topic. I wish that session was longer.” This was Salvodon’s sixth youth congress and “every single one of them has positively impacted my life and the way I view youth ministries,” she said.