Global Youth Day (GYD) began in 2013 as an initiative of the Youth Ministries Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. During that inaugural event, only 12 service projects were organized world-wide. Over the past eight years, GYD has grown exponentially, touching thousands of young people and producing hundreds of creative service projects in local communities. “It’s an opportunity for Seventh-day Adventist young people around the world to collaborate together…and be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus, “ says Gary Blanchard, Youth Ministries Department director for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church.
Each year, GYD features a specific theme. “Reaching Out: Colors, Cultures and Communities,” the theme for 2021, stems from the story of the woman at the well and Jesus’ intentional interaction with her. He went out of His way to engage a person who was of a different gender, religion, and race than Himself. He talked with her about real issues that mattered to her, but didn’t argue. And, through the course of their conversation, her opinion of Him changed. No longer was He a judgmental rabbi, now He was her best Friend; she wanted to tell everyone she met about Him!
Referring to John, chapter 4, Blanchard states, “The Bible says He had to go through Samaria. He made it a priority. He is our example; we follow Him as His disciples. It’s important for the Church not to wait for people to come to us. We must go to them. It’s also important to not stay within our own little groups, although it’s natural to do that. If we do, we never be able to reach the harvest. We need to reach out to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. We must go to different colors, cultures and communities.”
How will Adventist youth accomplish this in 2021? By creating intentional opportunities for conversation. Youth leaders in every region of the World Church will cater outreach specific to their local communities on GYD. The Youth Department provides helpful suggestions for things to do, such as: visiting people who have just moved into the area, offering them food, prayer, or other necessities; finding out if neighbors need medical assistance and working with local health professionals to provide care; seeing if newcomers need legal assistance and connecting them with lawyers who can help; setting up language workshops to provide classes for those who need to learn a local dialect; finding out if people need childcare and starting a children’s ministry for the neighborhood; and providing community education on understanding other cultures and treating all people with compassion and care. It takes a bit of planning, but each youth group will look for ways to “be the sermon” in a tangible, intentional way.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions in many areas of the world, this year’s event will be a combination of virtual and live activities. Those who go out “will be following safety protocols,” Blanchard says. “They’ll be wearing masks, washing their hands, and keeping their distance…some are participating online.” Youth can give Bible studies virtually, create inspirational TikToks or Instagram posts, and participate with Adventist World Radio’s cell phone evangelism program.
“The whole purpose of GYD is not just to have another program or event,” Blanchard says, “but to get young people excited about making service a lifestyle. We hope that reaching out to different colors, cultures and communities doesn’t just happen one day a week or one day a year. If young people could just get a taste for mission service, many of them would take it over and want to get involved in One Year in Mission, Mission Caleb or the 100K Project. These are all opportunities for young people to go further who are feeling called to missionary service.”
To kick off GYD this year, there will be three one-hour programs hosted on the Youth Department’s Facebook page (@GCYouthMinistries)—each designed for different time zones to participate. The first show will be Friday, March 19 at 5 PM EST, followed by programs on Sabbath, March 20 at 5 AM and 11 AM EST.
At the end of each hour program, the various regions of the World Church will have the opportunity to share what youth groups are doing in their areas. At the end of the day, all participants are invited to join a 30 minute wrap-up show on Sabbath at 5:30PM EST to share testimonies and encourage one another.
GYD is a perfect lead in to the global Youth Week of Prayer that starts Sabbath evening and ends with Homecoming Sabbath on March 27. The theme for Week of Prayer, echoing Isaiah’s answer when called by God, is “I Will Go.” Dr. Yeury Ferreira, director of Spanish Ministries for the Greater New York Conference (USA), authored the devotional materials which are available for download at youth.adventist.org. Ferreira’s messages focus on spiritual renewal, personal healing and forgiveness, guidance and empowerment for service.
For more information and to view GYD festivities, you may visit the following links:
You can also follow the General Conference Youth Ministries Instagram page (@gcyouth) for updates.