South Pacific Adventist Youth Congress
Challenges World Changers
More than 1,100 commissioned to share faith, change world
By: Nathan Brown, reporting from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Young people from across the South Pacific were commissioned to share their faith and change their world on the final night of a six-day youth congress sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s South Pacific Division (SPD). More than 1,100 young people responded to an appeal to commit, recommit, and refocus their lives to Jesus and His mission on the Friday evening, January 5, 2013, followed by a day of worship, commissioning, and celebration.
“The commissioning was a highlight, engaging all our leaders and young people in the world-changing mission of the church,” says Nick Kross, SPD director of youth ministry. “So many young people have expressed their gratitude and delight with what they have experienced and connected with here. And that has been gratifying for us as leaders.”
WORLD CHANGERS: Sign at 2013 South Pacific Division Youth Congress encourages Seventh-day Adventist young adults to work for good in the world around them.The octennial youth congress attracted young people and leaders from 14 nations to Watson Park Convention Centre from January 1 to 6, 2013. The congress saw delegates spend time in worship programs, workshops, service activities, and social outings.
Sam Leonor, chaplain of La Sierra University, California, was the main conference speaker. He challenged congress participants to be not only disciples of Jesus, but also apostles. “I hope these young people will see their local context as a place God has put them to do something big,” he said. “I also hope they will see that when we worship together and act together, we can change the world.
“This event has been a great ‘slice’ of the church,” he added. “We’ve had so many different kinds of people and cultures represented, and I think there’s something holy about that. It is good for these young people to look around and see what the church really is. Living together for a week as the church has to be empowering.”
The 1,500 congress participants worked together again on the last afternoon of the congress—writing out the entire Bible by hand in about two hours, with the pages to be bound as a memorial to the congress. “People really got into it, and it was a great achievement of this congress,” Kross said. “We have had a focus on the Word of God, and this was a way to highlight this and get our people engaged.”
Together with the commissioning, the march against hunger was another of the congress highlights. Following a sermon based on Amos 5:24 from Joanna Darby, this event saw a flood of blue-shirted congress participants in Brisbane’s inner city, marching from King George Square to the City Botanic Gardens on January 3 to call for more action to combat world hunger.
“It’s significant that we can get this number of young people to speak up on something more than themselves,” Kross said. “This is about thinking like a contributor and a servant of others, rather than a mere consumer.”
Delegates also had a “poverty lunch” to identify with the hungry, and raised $10,000 for the work of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to fight hunger by forgoing their usual meal. They presented this check to Jonathan Duffy, president of ADRA International, together with a photo petition affirming the work of ADRA.
WORD PERFECT: Congress delegates demonstrated their commitment to God’s Word by hand-writing the entire Bible the last afternoon of the congress.A statement issued by congress participants recognized the reality of hunger in our world—even in a city such as Brisbane. They thanked agencies that work to care for those in need, and called for others to join in the continuing and urgent work to end world hunger.
“Adventism has lost its voice publicly, and we need to be prepared to reenter the public arena to speak up about things we believe in,” Kross said. “Micah 6:8 sums up what God wants us to do, and this was one way to put this verse into action.”
“It’s exciting to see young people really want to make a difference in the world, and I was encouraged by the genuineness of their desire,” ADRA’s Duffy added. “We have not understood the power of the voice we can have in the world. Actually advocating for change is a powerful thing. But this was also a significant demonstration of what can be done. By making a small change such as sacrificing one meal, a significant difference is made when we work together.”
Groups of young people from the congress also worked in the northern suburbs of Brisbane to collect more than 3,500 cans of food for use in ADRA services across the city. “This is a critical time of year for these agencies that are working to help individuals and families make it through tough times,” said Matthew Siliga, coordinator of this community outreach for the congress. “So as visitors to this city, we hope to help feed thousands of Brisbane residents by collecting generous donations from the local community and delivering to these local agencies.”
With a police escort, the march by congress participants stopped city traffic and sparked many conversations with passersby about who this group was and what they were doing. “At one stage I stopped and looked back at our marchers, and seeing the line that stretched almost a kilometer back with banners and all those young people, I felt a sense of pride in our young people and what they were doing,” Kross said.
Despite a successful event and much positive response, he said that many of the important achievements of the congress are yet to be seen. “It is hard to measure or explain inspiration, so the real outcome of this congress is not necessarily what we see here but will be seen in the small and great things that will happen in places across the South Pacific,” he said. “We have empowered these young people, and we will continue to support them in their involvement in the mission of the church in our world.”