Young Adults, Young Leaders

June 11, 2018 | Growing Young | John Freedman

I’m writing some thoughts here from the South Guatemala Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By the time you read this, more than a month will have passed, but now, during the final few days of March, it’s hot and humid here. Amidst the humidity, though, the songs and colors of a myriad species of birds are enchanting, and the local church members are amazing — kind and gracious to our group of Northwest pastors and students. We have joined with them to bring hope and wholeness to a community of several towns and villages in a largely Roman Catholic area of southern Guatemala.

The mission of the North Pacific Union is to REACH the Pacific Northwest and the world with the distinctive, Christ-centered, Seventh-day Adventist message of hope and wholeness. We recently established four strategic priorities to effectively accomplish this mission: young adult engagement, unity in Christ, total member involvement and leadership development.

In planning this mission trip, we intentionally focused on two of those priorities: young adult engagement and leadership development. We strategically chose a group of Walla Walla University theology students and several local conference pastors from the Idaho and Washington conferences who are young adults and relatively new to pastoral ministry. The presidents from both conferences, David Prest and Doug Bing, graciously assisted these efforts. Our team of 21 is composed of 75 percent young adults.

These young adults are inspiring to be around, filled with what seems like an unlimited amount of enthusiasm, energy and resiliency. They are even witnessing to people in the hotel, some even getting up early to play football with some of the guests. I’m especially impressed with the deep desire they possess to share Jesus Christ authentically in the churches they are assigned to preach in. They really love the people they are ministering to, and people are responding.

This mission outreach is not only engaging young adults in ministry but also providing an opportunity to strategically develop their leadership skills. Our newest priority, leadership development, encompasses three strategies: 1) identifying potential new leaders, 2) coordinating leadership resources and 3) providing leadership opportunities. 

Like any mission adventure, we’ve encountered several challenges that provide real-time leadership lessons. Many of our young adults have been on mission trips where they built churches and schools as well as conducted Vacation Bible School. This is the first time many have been given the responsibility to present the gospel to large groups of people and to offer a nightly invitation to follow Jesus. All are wrestling with how to give effective evangelistic calls in this culture. They are learning to ask the local church leadership what works best.

Still, doing something for the first time is always awkward. Daily, we are sharing what things are going right, but also the things that did not work. The evil one has tried to disrupt several meetings with inebriated visitors. Several of our students are making house to house visits with those who have already been given Bible studies by local members. All are praying fervently for a baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I am watching a new fire being lit in the hearts of these young adults. I invite you to pray with me that it will never go out. Soul-winning is contagious, and I’m sure these young adult leaders — men and women, children and grandchildren of our faithful Northwest members — will never be the same.

Having the opportunity to share life with and coach these amazing young adults in a different setting is very encouraging. I am thankful the Lord is raising up a new generation of committed Seventh-day Adventist young people to lead our church forward until the soon coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.