On Saturday, March 16, Adventist young people around the world mobilized to serve as the hands and feet of Christ in their communities for Global Youth Day 2019 (#GYD19). The theme for the annual service Sabbath was “Adopt.”
Regional reporting stations around the world took turns sharing stories about everything from Adventist youth in northern China adopting a nursing home to youth running anti-gambling drives in Italy. Participants uploaded a torrent of social media updates using hashtag #GYD2019. They shared activities from the special Sabbath as well as other recent efforts to “Be the Sermon” in their communities.
From a studio based at the Seventh-day Adventist’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, young adults Ian Reyes and Kalin Griffin hosted the 24-hour broadcast of #GYD19. The live feed streamed on Facebook, YouTube, the Global Youth Day website and dedicated apps.
Early on in the broadcast, Reyes led the worldwide audience in prayers for those affected by the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, which had claimed the lives of 50 Muslims just a day before #GYD19 began.
“If there was ever a time for Global Youth Day it is now,” said Gary Blanchard, director of Youth Ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church. “God is calling us to shine brighter as this world gets darker.”
This year, Global Youth Day drew attention from high-profile leaders including the president of Colombia who came out to see what Adventist youth were doing for the event in his country. In addition, David Maraga, the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, supported the celebration. An Adventist himself, Maraga wore a Global Youth Day shirt and a Pathfinder scarf as he made remarks supporting #GYD19. In Zambia,
First Lady of Zambia, Esther Lungu, urged all faith-based organizations to play their role uplifting the living standards of Zambians and to emulate the Seventh-day Adventist Church in caring for the community. She officiated at the Global Youth day event in which young people adopted the pediatric ward of the Levy Mwanawasa Teaching Hospital by providing sanitary needs, toys and food.
Both the creativity and the compassion of Adventist youth were on display as young people in Mongolia distributed water and food; volunteers in Turkey adopted orphanages; a church in Johannesburg, South Africa, adopted a river that badly needed cleaning and young adults in Hong Kong gave the cluttered apartment of an elderly man an inviting makeover.
Young people in the Philippines adopted the issue of childhood education, gathering signatures for an advocacy campaign run by the Adventist Development and Relief called Every Child. Everywhere. In School.The campaign is collecting a million signatures to encourage world leaders to commit to ensuring that all children, adolescents and youth have access to free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.
It was clear that the purpose of Global Youth Day was growing as more and more of the service sites around the world reported children and young people supporting the day's activities. From children serving their community in Iceland to an adorable picture of a small child from the East-Central African region of the Church wearing a “Be The Sermon” T-shirt, Adventist children showed that they too could step up and help those in need.
Perhaps most importantly, young Adventists showed by their actions that they were eager to make Global Youth Day more than just a 24-hour period. Many emphasized adoption meant not just serving for a day but committing to a lifestyle of helping others.
Young people also shared visual expressions of an attitude of love that powered the projects in the form of “heart pictures” using the #GYD19 hashtag. In regular segments showcasing social media posts, General Conference Digital Producer Emily Mastrapa highlighted pictures of people arranged in patterns that formed a heart, often using aerial shots from drones.
A talented team at the General Conference Youth Ministries department, with director Gary Blanchard at the helm as well as Pako Edson Mokgwane, Associate Youth Director and Andres Peralta, Associate Youth Director, organized #GYD19 with support from the General Conference Communication Department led by Costa Williams, the director of the department.
In an interview with Mokgwane that aired during the broadcast, Ted Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, encouraged members never to take young people for granted. “I'm hoping that many young people realize that we are counting upon them,” said Wilson, stressing the need to share God's message for the end times.
Global Youth Day (#GYD19) launches the Youth Week of Prayer (#WOP19) and culminates in a Home Coming Sabbath (#HCS19);a day to celebrate youth who have found their way back to the Lord as a result of being intentional in seeking them. This done through recommitment and where necessary rebaptism.