The Power of One
One God. One Spark. One Fire.
By Kimberly Luste Maran
FOLLOW THEIR LEAD
ilbert Cangy, with a gleam in his eye and a smile lighting his face, exudes energy. Beckoning me to sit in a chair in his office, he seems eager to share.
There’s no doubt that Cangy is excited about youth. The journey he embarked upon in his teens led him to the General Conference Youth Ministries Department office, where “we sit, talk, and dream together. We look for ways to connect the young person to their church, to find ways of creating meaningful intergenerational connections between the youth and their local congregation.” So with a leadership style that is more about consulting than directing, Cangy and his colleagues (associate directors Jonathán Tejel and Hiskia Missah, and assistants Silvia Sicalo, Maria Dunchie, and Erica Richards) at the church’s headquarters, his colleagues in the 13 world divisions of the church, and young adults as part of the various large youth movements in the church, are dreaming big. They’re looking for ways to share God with young people, to get them ignited—and united—so they burn brightly with salvation’s message.
PRAYER POWER: Youth ministry leaders from around the globe pray with the GC Youth Ministries team during a 2011 advisory meeting.“We have determined that our theme for the next five years will be ‘The Power of One.’ We have one purpose, we have one goal, we have one mission. [Youth Ministries] needs to have a concerted approach that’s more than a Pathfinder camporee or a young adult convention. Our purpose needs to be part of all our efforts.”
Working together in a collaborative manner is key. “This isn’t just the desire of the youth department, as we see in the prayer of Jesus in John 17. What was the purpose? So ‘that the world may believe that You have sent me’ [verse 21]. A sense of unity—that doesn’t mean uniformity—is probably the most important evidence of the power of the gospel. If we cannot work together, we’re saying that the cross of Jesus isn’t powerful enough for us to work on any challenges we face.”
A SPIRITUAL MOMENT: Youth and young adults in South America attend a candlelit evening Communion service.The hope is to change perceptions on youth ministry, and the approach—from the headquarters to the local church. First is a refocusing on the spiritual life. “Once we have that relationship with Jesus, the next step is discipleship. We want to move our young people to become fully devoted to Jesus.” Discipleship, development of community, and mission are the three components of the “re-visioned” ministry. A trifold brochure produced by the department (in keeping with the “Tell the World” initiative) reads this way: “Reach Up (Discipleship), Reach Across (Church Community), Reach Out (Mission/Service).”
“We need to develop lifestyle rather than an event once or twice a year,” emphasizes Cangy. “We need to give as many expressions of mission as possible and engage the young people—and more than engage, we need to give them ownership of the church. We can provide some models, but we also just need to listen. Ask, ‘So, what would you do?’ They are the best evangelists for our world today.”
Adrift, but Not Lost
The seeds for these ideas, and the approach Cangy and his team are using today were planted years ago. In his teens Cangy drifted away from the church. He found a job as a sailor—and what he thought was the perfect escape.
“I was free! But it didn’t take too long for me to realize that I really wasn’t.” Cangy, becoming disillusioned with life, with what he was doing, cried out to God, saying, “‘If You really exist, what can You do for me?’ God put it in my heart to come back home and start fresh with Him.” Cangy soon became youth leader in his local church.
GENERAL CONFERENCE Youth Ministries Department associate youth director/Pathfinder director Jonatán Tejel Subirada grew up a PK (pastor’s kid), frequently moving until his family settled in Madrid, Spain, where he spent his adolescent years. He was baptized by his father on December 26, 1981. In 1990 he began studies in theology at Sagunto Adventist College. He attended there for three years, and then moved to Collonges (France), where he completed his theology degree in 1995. Tejel has more than 12 years of experience as a youth ministries director, speaks four languages (Spanish, Italian, English, and French), and was the creator/editor of Conexión, a youth ministries magazine for the Adventist Church in Spain.“The Lord led me to read the book of Acts,” Cangy says, “and I was just amazed by the power of the Holy Spirit that was the gift of God. [The other young people and I] started to claim that. We talked about revival and reformation. We weren’t satisfied with what we saw around us and refused to settle with mediocrity. God blessed us in a very powerful way with an experience with the Spirit while we were on a church camp [out]. . . . My best days in ministry go back to the time I was a local church youth leader. Already at that time God had planted the seed of ministry in my heart.”
Saying Yes to God
Australia, college, marriage, and children were next for Cangy. After ministerial training, he pastored a church in Victoria. Five years later, in 1993, he was called to youth ministry in Sydney. “I remember the first week I arrived in Sydney,” Cangy relates. “I told the administrators, ‘This is far enough from the local church.’ But in 1999 I got called to the division office and even though I protested they voted me as youth ministries leader for the [South Pacific] Division. I could not say no. God was doing something in my heart.”
Cangy credits a meeting with two young adults in helping create a willingness in him to follow God’s call—no matter what. He was still reeling from the executive committee meeting that morning when he kept an appointment to let the young adults pray for him. A young woman said: “God has shown us that you have an important decision to make, and we’ve been sent to pray for you.”
Says Cangy, “I was stunned. These guys are not into church politics; they had no idea what was going on in those meetings. The young woman opened the Bible to Jeremiah 29:11 and, after reading the verse, they laid hands on me, praying for all the fears that I had, one by one. By the time they finished their prayers, it was like I was released into that ministry. . . . By God’s grace my family and I did 11 years as youth director at the division, and it was a tremendous blessing for us.”
While sitting as a delegate in a business meeting on the floor of the 2010 General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, someone tapped Cangy on the shoulder, asking him to meet with the chair of the nominating committee. “At that moment,” he recollects, “I knew what it was. My life was about to change. I got up and walked to my destiny.”
General Conference Youth Ministries Department associate director for
senior youth/young adults Hiskia Israil Missah (above), is a native of Indonesia. He served from 1995 to 2005 as youth director for the Southern Asia-
Pacific Division (SSD), in addition to public affairs and religious liberty director. Known as a youth speaker/evangelist, he has a strong passion for young people and has developed Voice of Youth materials, mobilized youth to do community services, and prepared and developed materials for youth
leadership. Prior to joining SSD, Missah served as president of the East Java Conference, and as youth director in the West Indonesia Union Mission.Putting It All Together
Cangy has been in his current position, director of the General Conference Youth Ministry Department, since he was elected at the session—and has quickly moved to unite youth leaders around the globe. “Together, in consultation, we started to formulate a direction for the youth of the world. . . . When we came together on March 28 to April 2, 2011, all 13 [division leaders] recognized what [our team was] talking about. The most gratifying thing was to hear them say, at the end of our advisory, ‘Gil, this is not your plan; this is our plan.’”
The framework is in place. It’s based on what leaders perceived to be the global needs of young people, and it charts a direction. But this is just the beginning. “We have created a new model for youth ministry, a model that we see as being biblical, very Christ-centered. We are also in the process of rewriting the manual for youth ministry for the world church. It’s a time of change, a fresh start—and it comes at a time the church is very concerned about young people.”
Cangy continues: “The whole world has changed dramatically—technologically, culturally, sociologically, generationally. We alone cannot keep up with the pace of change. We’ve got to do some listening—we need to listen to what our young people are saying to us. Our young people are trying to articulate their faith in this kind of changing world. They are using a different language, they’re using a different method, to express the same gospel message. . . . We also have to consider that young adults today are leading corporations. They juggle millions of dollars in the marketplace. Then when they come to church, their giftedness is not always valued, and they don’t feel that they own the mission of the church.”
Hope for Samuels
Cangy—and his team—are filled with hope. “I love the model of Samuel. It gives me hope,” Cangy says. “Samuel went to sleep near the ark of God. This little kid did not settle for what he was seeing around him. He didn’t settle for mediocrity. His mother had taught him that God speaks. . . . [Samuel] refused what he saw around him; and he went to sleep thinking, If God is going to speak, He’s going to speak here, so when He speaks, I want to be here to listen. And it’s as if that was all that God was waiting for. God broke the silence, and this little kid became the agent of change for his nation. There is hope, because God is still willing to speak. And out of nothing, out of mediocrity, out of the worst of circumstances, God can raise up Samuels.”
Gilbert Cangy, director of the General Conference Youth Ministry Department, speaks to large crowds during his global travels, but also takes time to talk to the younger set.As we wrap up our time together, I can still feel Cangy’s energy, passion, and love for whom God has tasked him with working: the youth and young adults of the Adventist Church. “While we are focusing on our overall approach to the ministry, we cannot neglect events, which do serve a purpose. We want to reshape the world youth congress, which will be in Africa in July 2013. We want this to be the model of youth gatherings, so we’re dreaming and putting it together. We’re excited!”
Cangy adds: “We believe in our young people. We just need to, by the grace of God, ignite their interest and imagination. Not necessarily tell them what they need to do, because God can do that better than any of us. All we need to do is create the spark and let them know that we believe in them, that we’re ready to trust them. And then the choice is theirs.”
Read about the strategic planning and more at:http://gcyouthministries.org/Ministries/GlobalYouth/tabid/79/Default.aspx.
Kimberly Luste Maran is an assistant editor for Adventist World.