[Photo Credit: Josue Perlata]

General Conference

How a Bilingual Gathering Opened Doors for Youth to Connect and Serve

On a cold January evening in Milwaukee, Wisc., a group of youth gathered to have a night of unconventional Sabbath worship.

United States | Josue Peralta, Milwaukee-based freelance writer

They were not at a church or even speaking one language, but rather they were at a screen-printing shop owned by a bilingual church member who generously offered the space. 

This unique gathering began in December 2021, when the screen-printing shop owner, Javier Arce, noticed his teenage children were losing their connection to their close-knit community and realized he had to do something quickly. “ZOOM wasn’t doing anything for them,” says the Lake Region Redemption Church member. 

Before long, Arce began hosting a group, and word spread. Since then, they have had three baptisms. He says they weren’t planning on this happening. “We didn’t even have a pool,” he mused, but he and his team made the baptism work and are happy that decisions for Christ are being made. 

Their worships are filled with singing, a traditional gift giveaway, and dynamic group activities. During the first event of the new year, on January 22, a rather unconventional message was given by one of the leaders, who was dressed like a crazed scientist.

[Photo Credit: Josue Perlata]

[Photo Credit: Josue Perlata]

In his guise, the leader spoke of a few of his creations, a couple that had gone terribly wrong and one that went terribly right. His two failures were a teenage-looking robot that preferred to lounge around and do nothing and a teenage-looking robot that was interested in only herself and showing others how amazing she was. His successful creation was of a well-adjusted, teenage-looking robot ready for liftoff. This robot studied his Bible and shared Christ with others. He was so well adjusted, in fact, that he had a rocket strapped to his back about to literally take off into the new year. The overall message of the illustration was to educate the youth on healthy habits to help them prepare to take off in this coming year, as well as habits to avoid. 

To reach both English and Spanish speakers, the event is bilingual. Whenever a leader speaks in his or her native language, another translates the words, making everyone feel included. This is especially true as there are people who only speak Spanish, English, or both. Those who are bilingual usually chuckle seeing the translator struggle, knowing full-well they probably couldn’t do a better job. The lightheartedness of the situation lightens the mood and creates a friendly atmosphere. 

Our youth can and do notice the effort and intentionality that we, the older generation, put into their lives. The Bible reminds us that if we train up our youth in the way they should go, when they are older, they will not depart from it (see Proverbs 22:6). The event leaders are doing their best to teach their own and other youth in the way of the Lord through leading by example.