On Saturday, March 16, 2019, Adventist young people around the world mobilized to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in their communities for Global Youth Day 2019 (#GYD19). The theme for the annual service Sabbath was “Adopt.”
Regional reporting stations around the world took turns sharing stories about everything from Adventist youth in northern China adopting a nursing home to youth running anti-gambling drives in Italy. Participants uploaded a torrent of social media updates using the hashtag #GYD2019. They shared activities from the special Saturday (Sabbath) as well as other recent efforts to “Be the Sermon” in their communities.
From a studio based at the Seventh-day Adventist’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, young adults Ian Reyes and Kalin Griffin hosted a 24-hour broadcast of #GYD19. The live feed was streamed on Facebook, YouTube, the Global Youth Day website, and dedicated apps.
Early in the broadcast, Reyes led the worldwide audience in prayers for those affected by the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshipers just a day before #GYD19 began.
“If there was ever a time for Global Youth Day, it is now,” said Gary Blanchard, director of youth ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist world church. “God is calling us to shine brighter as this world gets darker.”
This year, Global Youth Day drew attention from high-profile leaders, including the president of Colombia, who came out to see what Adventist youth were doing for the event in his country. In addition, David Maraga, the Chief Justice and president of the Supreme Court of Kenya, supported the celebration. An Adventist himself, Maraga wore a Global Youth Day shirt and a Pathfinder scarf as he made remarks supporting #GYD19. In Zambia, the first lady of Zambia, Esther Lungu, urged all faith-based organizations to play their role in uplifting the living standards of Zambians and to emulate the Seventh-day Adventist Church in caring for the community. She officiated at the Global Youth Day event in which young people adopted the pediatric ward of the Levy Mwanawasa Teaching Hospital by providing sanitary needs, toys, and food.
Both the creativity and the compassion of Adventist youth were on display as young people in Mongolia distributed water and food; volunteers in Turkey adopted orphanages; a church in Johannesburg, South Africa, adopted a river that needed cleaning; and young adults in Hong Kong gave the cluttered apartment of an elderly man an inviting makeover.
Young people in the Philippines adopted the issue of childhood education, gathering signatures for an advocacy campaign run by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) called “Every Child. Everywhere. In School.” The campaign is collecting a million signatures to encourage world leaders to commit to ensuring that all children, adolescents, and youth have access to free, equitable, and high-quality primary and secondary education.
It was clear that the purpose of Global Youth Day was growing as more and more of the service sites around the world reported children and young people supporting the day’s activities, leaders said. From children serving their community in Iceland to a picture of a small child from the East-Central African (ECD) region of the church wearing a “Be The Sermon” T-shirt, Adventist children showed that they too could step up and help those in need.
Perhaps most important, young Adventists showed by their actions that they were eager to make Global Youth Day more than just a 24-hour period, organizers commented. Many emphasized adoption meant not just serving for a day but committing to a lifestyle of helping others.
Young people also shared visual expressions of an attitude of love that powered the projects in the form of “heart pictures” using the #GYD19 hashtag. In regular segments on the GYD live broadcast showcasing social media posts, General Conference digital producer Emily Mastrapa highlighted pictures of people arranged in patterns that formed a heart, often using aerial shots from drones.
The worldwide youth day known as #GYD19 was created and organized by a team at the General Conference Youth Ministries department, with director Gary Blanchard at the helm, as well as associate directors Pako Mokgwane and Andres Peralta, with support from Adventist Church Communication Department director Williams Costa.
In an interview with Mokgwane that aired during the broadcast, Adventist Church president Ted Wilson encouraged members to not take young people for granted. “I’m hoping that many young people realize that we are counting upon them,” Wilson said, stressing the need to share God’s message for the end times.
Global Youth Day (#GYD19) launched the Youth Week of Prayer (#WOP19) that culminated on March 23 in a Homecoming Sabbath (#HCS19), a day to celebrate youth who have found their way back to the Lord as a result of others being intentional in seeking them. This was done through recommitment and, where necessary, rebaptism, leaders said.