Bern, Switzerland [A. McChesney, CD EUDNews]. March 23, 2015.
Hundreds of thousands of Adventist young people shared Jesus’ love in 132 countries for Global Youth Day on Sabbath, March 21, setting a new record that surpassed organizers’ expectations.
Numbers were still coming in late Saturday night, but Gilbert Cangy, youth ministries director for the Seventh-day Adventist world church, declared the third annual event a resounding success.
“I dare say today was a huge moment for the church and a huge moment for youth ministry,” Cangy said by telephone. “It was a pivotal moment. It proved once again that if you create an environment where young people can be involved, they will always surpass your expectations.”
Young people were challenged on Global Youth Day to “become Jesus’ hands and feet” by finding ways to show His love to others. Among other things, young people sang, offered free hugs, visited hospitals, and donated blood. The motto for Global Youth Day is “Be the Sermon.”
Activities were held in 132 of the world’s 192 countries, as recognized by the United Nations, and 73 percent of participants were young people between the ages of 13 and 34, said Cangy, the organizer of the event. He noted that this represents a critical age group that has disengaged from the church in large numbers in recent years.
“Global Youth Day goes against this trend,” he said. “It shows our youth are willing to engage in the mission of the church if we are willing to give them leadership. I am very proud of our young people.”
It may never be known exactly how many people participated in Global Youth Day, but metrics from Google and on social media indicate that the number is up from the previous two years. Egypt, for example, was the only country in the Middle East and North Africa to host activities last year, but this year it was joined by Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, Cangy said.
In another metric, the number of people who connected on Twitter with the event’s hashtag #GYD15 topped 25 million on Sabbath compared to 7.75 million in 2013.
In another first, footage from the event was live-streamed online and on the church’s Hope Channel for 24 hours. Nineteen uplink sites worldwide participated in the video feed.
“Hope Channel is the voice of the church, and it gave young people an unbroken voice for 24 hours,” Cangy said. Young people expressed delight with the opportunity to make a difference in many lives.
Virgil R. Bakulu tweeted from Manado, Indonesia, that his group successfully gave away fruit in exchange for packs of cigarettes.
Youth in India passed out food to homeless children, and a group in Botswana waved at passersby.
"Being the sermon was a beautiful idea," Penny tweeted from Botswana. "I can't begin to explain the smiles on strangers' faces as we waved at them." Busi Khumalo, youth director for the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, snapped a photo of young people being the sermon by offering free smiles and hugs to the homeless in Cape Town. "I feel youthful with the youth around me on GYD2015," he wrote on Facebook.
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, encouraged the youth to go beyond Global Youth Day and be a sermon every day until Jesus' return. Wilson, who has participated in every annual youth day, spoke from a gathering of 5,000 youth in Colombia.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has come a long way from the 60-minute “Let’s Talk” television program in the 2000s, when the Adventist Church president took questions from young people gathered at various locations around the world. The program was recorded once or twice a year, but the cost was prohibitive, requiring satellite time, rented studios, sets, props, and airfare to fly participants in from various parts of each participating church division.
“Now we have a 24-hour program from 19 locations in the world, involving the youth not just in the discussion but in the planning and recording of the event,” said André Brink, associate communication director for the Adventist Church, who videotaped segments for three of the “Let’s Talk” programs and is preparing a video feature on the 2015 event for Adventist News Network.
“This is truly amazing,” Brink said. “The Internet has really changed how we do things as a church.”
Pictures: 1. Sam Gungaloo, Kerhys Sterling Sascha Schuster, Gilbert Cangy, Corrado Cozzi, Daryl Gungadoo at the EUD Media Center 'Stimmer der Hoffnung' (Thomas Radosh) 2. The World Wide Global Youth Day Connection. 3. An Adventist Youth group meeting in Florence (Massimo Bartoli).