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7 Considerations Before You Vote

It seems like everyone and their grandma is talking politics and who they’re going to vote for, or not.

You have church leaders, pastors, Xers, and millennials feverish about the presidential candidates. Everyday you see people you know on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms spewing demeaning chatter from both sides of the aisle. And it’s ugly.

This is concerning because historically, and for good reason, Adventists have maintained a firm stance on the separation of church and politics (in its partisan sense). Failure in this regard has diminished, to some extent, our personal and corporate influence for spiritual good.

I’ll be honest. It hasn’t been easy staying quiet. Everyone has opinions, and I do believe being informed about our society is important. We shouldn’t live in a bubble, isolated from the concerns of thoughtful Americans.

I believe being informed about the world around us is the left arm of the gospel, the other “entering wedge” that initiates discussion on seemingly secular matters, which can transition to conversations about our biblical worldview.

But, back to the election. It’s imperative for us to examine a variety of factors when deciding who to vote for.

Consider this:

  1. Voting for a candidate on the basis of one moral issue gets tricky. Both presidential candidates stand for measures that are both pro and anti Scripture. Narrowing your decision down to one issue, say—gun or gay rights—to the neglect of other moral perspectives on war, freedom of conscience, xenophobia, nationalism, and the environment, to name a few, is downright arbitrary. This should lead one to conclude that others may see things differently than you do. That doesn’t mean they’re socialists or religious bigots. Also, bear in mind—and this is a critical point—who you vote for shouldn’t be determined by what will make America great, which takes me to my next point.
  2. Pro-American slogans aren’t necessarily biblical. Look, the notion of “Make America Great Again,” isn’t found in the Bible. Not even in the KJV. Neither is Hillary’s “Stronger Together.” It may sound closer to biblical lingo, but it shouldn’t be confused for the notion of Christian unity found in the New Testament. The American Dream or making America powerful in world affairs isn’t an endorsement we find in Scripture. Also, leave it to politicians to debate what it means to be truly American. Christians should be concerned with what’s really Christian (& being Christians).
  3. Make sure your news sources are credible. There’s a lot of negative discussion regarding the mainstream media, and I get why. But the alternative isn’t reading some blogger dude working out of a basement with a stash of guns and ammo, or the tree-hugger at Starbucks sipping his latte. There are many respected editorialists and news outlets that lean in both directions. I would suggest spending some time researching who they are, their broad reputation, and be intentional in reading material from individuals and entities who are informed, thoughtful, and reasonable. I personally avoid listening to people who aren’t professional and kind when they deal with others who have differing opinions. Finally, read broadly and widely. Don’t get your news solely from any one news source, whether that’s Fox News or MSNBC, and certainly not from Stephen Colbert or Rush Limbaugh.
  4. Don’t vote for a candidate because you’ll benefit. A candidate may enact policies that benefit you financially, or otherwise. But, that shouldn’t be the basis of your vote. When voting, leave self-interest and party lines out of the equation. Politics—defined by the notable political theorist, Harold Lasswell—concerns “who gets what, when, how.” But that isn’t what Christians should be about. It’s not about winning for yourself, or even God. I can assure you, He doesn’t need my help or yours. If we want to make America Christian “again,” it’s not going to be the result of the state’s right arm.
  5. Understand that politicians may have ulterior motives—that very rich companies, banks, and companies donate to politicians and expect something in return. Know that the financial benefits of various entities are affected by government policies. So, it makes sense that companies would donate to candidates that reflect their interests. Also, recognize that many wealthy entities in the aggregate invest billions of dollars to shape perceptions on guns, global warming, and other hot-button issues. So. . .
  6. Understand from the get-go you may be getting played. Politicians live in the matrix of spin. They understand that their success is contingent on shaping perceptions. So, it’s no wonder many politicians suddenly alter or emphasize their stances on same-sex marriage or abortion when it’s voting time. It’s important to be aware of this.
  7. Finally, as Seventh-day Adventists, let’s stay on point. We have the message of the three angels to proclaim. Our mission is to proclaim the everlasting gospel. Individually, we may be pro-gun, pro-Wall Street, pro-equality, pro-military, pro-Black Lives Matter, or pro-All Lives Matter. But social activism and increased legislation aren’t going to fix society’s problems. Furthermore, we need to avoid partisan politics like we would Ebola. Mudslinging is just not what Christians should do. Ever. That doesn’t mean we stand idly by. We may indeed be called to serve as public servants like Daniel. As Christians, it’s our duty to help the poor, the neglected, and the marginalized. That’s why the church exists. That’s why WE exist—to meet the needs of humanity, and then to point them to the ultimate remedy, found in the person of Jesus. Remember, in our passionate endeavors to win the nation for Christ we are also called to personify the methods and virtues of Jesus.

You know, the irony is I just said all that, and I’m not even voting. I’m not implying it’s wrong for you to vote, or that you shouldn’t. It’s not contrary to Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy to cast your ballot, and it’s a personal matter.

I just can’t, for now.

I’ll leave you with this to chew on from The Desire of Ages, p. 509:

“Today in the religious world there are multitudes who. . . are working for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ as an earthly and temporal dominion. They desire to make our Lord the ruler of the kingdoms of this world, the ruler in its courts and camps, its legislative halls, its palaces and market places. They expect Him to rule through legal enactments, enforced by human authority. . . . The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,–extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. . . . Not by the decisions of courts or councils or legislative assemblies, not by the patronage of worldly great men, is the kingdom of Christ established, but by the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit.” (Desire of Ages, p. 509)

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Andy Im is a pickleball enthusiast and cook who loves to travel. He’s a political science graduate from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and also has a master’s degree in religion from Southern Adventist University. Currently he works for the Michigan Conference as Communications Director where he writes, edits, attends lots of meetings, and take pictures. He’s passionate about ministry to secular university campuses, teaching apologetics, and sharing the distinctive, Adventist message.

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Ambassadors – GYC 365 Days a Year

Fourteen years ago, a group of young college students came together and began praying for God’s guidance as they planned the first GYC conference. Today it has become one of the largest youth movements in Adventism, and has inspired thousands to reclaim their Adventist identity and become involved in ministry and mission around the world.

For the current GYC executive committee, the questions that weigh heavily on us are: How can we share our burning passion to see the gospel encircle the globe? How do we connect the annual conference experience with everyday living? How do we empower young people to work with and become active in their local churches, schools, and mission fields? We don’t have all the answers, but we want to give it our best effort!

One such effort is a new pilot program we announced this year called GYC Ambassador. Through partnerships with other mission-minded organizations, including It Is Written, Amazing Facts, GLOW, Disciples, ASI, and others, we are able to provide resources that offer information and tools to enable them to become successful in reaching others for Christ. Seventy-five GYC Ambassadors, who now serve in nine different countries, signed up at GYC Louisville to commit to doing ministry in their local area this year. Through monthly training webinars, mentoring calls, and peer-based support, we are already seeing God work in powerful ways!

Kamali, who is participating from Georgia, shares her experience:
I became an Ambassador with the intention of sharing the wonderful experience I had and the wisdom I gained from GYC, with the youth of my church. Before beginning my mission as an Ambassador, there were a few things I was apprehensive about. I wondered how I would be able to start a successful Bible study small group. Would anyone even be interested in attending? How would I be able to keep the momentum of the group going?

The first step I took was prayer, as I knew God had led me to take this opportunity to further His work and win souls for Him. I didn’t feel experienced or “good enough” to take on such a feat, but I have allowed God to show His strength through my weaknesses and lack of experience. For the first week of hosting my small group, I didn’t expect more than one or two people to come, if any, but seven people showed up! I even heard later that they really enjoyed it! When the second week of the small group came, I had allowed some fear to creep back in again and didn’t expect anyone to return. I thought they probably had better things to do. However, the same seven people showed up again and they brought four more friends! Some of their friends were not even affiliated with a Christian church!

It’s been nearly three months since the first meeting and there is a consistent group of 7-12 who look forward to participating in Bible studies each week. Each week, the attendance, participation, enjoyment, and satisfaction of the group surpass my expectations. Outside observers, along with the pastors, elders, parents, and members of my church, have taken notice of how the group is growing and how the youth of the church are consistently going out of their way to participate. We will even need to move to a bigger room soon! Many people want to give me credit for what I am doing with the youth of my church, but I give all the praise to my Lord who has equipped me and granted me favor to do His good work. Praise God!

Rianna and Auner are participating in the Philippines. Rianna recently shared how God is already working:
In 2015, we felt God was calling us to serve His people in the Philippines. When we reached my homeland, the life of ministry I envisioned didn’t really turn out to be the way I expected it would be. The first few months were rough. Doubts started creeping in. We wondered if God had really called us. But we decided to live by faith and not by sight. Just as He paved the way through the Jordan River after a step of faith, I was certain He would do the same as we took a step of faith on this island.

It has now been six months since we took that step. In this time, God has opened doors for us to do Vacation Bible School programs in three different areas, youth development sessions in two locations, soccer clinics, feeding programs in an orphanage and an elderly home, AFCOE evangelism training workshops in local churches, and an evangelistic meeting. For the months of April and May, the Lord led us to run three more VBS programs and another evangelistic meeting. Oh, what a joy it is to serve the Lord!

The GYC Ambassador program has been God’s instrument in guiding our ministry. God calls all of us to finish the work with Him. We don’t need to be worried of the uncertainties because He leads those whom He calls. He has also given us the faith of Jesus to take that big step. We just need to hear the call, follow His leading, and serve wholeheartedly.

Please pray for this year’s GYC Ambassadors as they seek to reach their communities for Christ through prayer, small groups, various outreach efforts, and Bible study. Please also pray for wisdom and vision as we seek to refine this pilot program into something that can make the greatest impact possible to enable young people to get involved in year-round ministry.

Eric Louw
serves as the Vice President of Communications for GYC. A graduate of theology from Southern Adventist University, He serves as Associate Pastor at the Richardson SDA church near Dallas, Texas. He has a passion for seeing young people mobilized for service and mission to reach the world for Christ in this generation. He also enjoys nature and the outdoors, as well as reading, technology and graphic design.

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Be of Good Courage, GYC!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid or dismayed. For the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Today, Christians are in the midst of a fierce battle, the battle between good and evil — and this battle is for a heavenly kingdom and eternal glory. God has a message for those who have made the decision to stay at their post of duty in these last days even to those who feel the battle is too fierce and are on the verge of giving up, God has a message for you too!

In looking at the context of Joshua 1:9, we realize that this is not the first time, nor the last, that God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. In fact, He gives him this message 7 times–4 times in the first chapter alone! Why do you suppose God had to repeatedly tell Joshua to be strong and courageous? Maybe Joshua is afraid; maybe, after all, his humanity his getting the best of him. Moses, their great leader and military genius, is no longer with them.

In “Patriarchs & Prophets,” Mrs. White recounts that Moses was such a good military commander that he was the commander of choice for the army of Egypt. The soldiers would rejoice when they learned that Moses was in charge. Additionally, Moses was a great statesman; he appeared to be fearless. Exodus 20:20-21 relates that Moses drew near when everyone else drew away because of his or her fear. With such a high precedent set, perhaps Joshua’s fear could be justified. Before him lay the task of guiding approximately 2 million people–the newly formed, oppressed, and confused nation of Israel who had been wandering in the desert for more than 40 years because of their discontentment with being God’s people–across the Jordan river into the promised land.

To make matters worse, inhabitants of this promised land were wicked nations who not only despised the Hebrews and their God but were also highly skilled in warfare. With all of these circumstances under consideration, we could easily sympathize with Joshua’s fear and see his God-given charge as an impossible task. But, when we look at Joshua’s character more closely, we see that he was no coward. Remember, he had been one of the men sent to spy out the promised land, and he had first-hand knowledge of it. He and his friend Caleb were ready to conquer the promised land 40 years before, so Joshua was no stranger to this challenge; however, Jesus still tells him 7 times to be strong and of good courage. It is perhaps true that Joshua had been somewhat afraid, but God wanted him to understand something much deeper: He wanted him to understand Who the true source of courage and strength is.

An example of this important lesson of true courage can be found during Jesus’ time. Picture the apostles hanging out with Jesus, and we could, at first glance, pick the most courageous of all of them to be . . . Peter. Peter exuded the most courage and was typically the first one to speak–the first one to command everyone. He seemed, on the surface, to be the brave one; however, when the true test of courage came and guards and religious leaders were coming for his Master, Peter failed. He showed outward strength by cutting off the servant’s ear but was filled with fear in reality. This was also evident when he was pressed three times to reveal his identity and association with Jesus and denied any contact with Him. Mrs. White writes regarding Peter, “If he had been called to fight for his Master, he would have been a courageous soldier but when the finger of scorn was pointed at him, he proved himself a coward” (Desire of Ages 712).

True courage is not really displayed when everyone is watching; true courage is seen when no one is watching you. In the times when you are alone and have to make a decision for right or wrong, which will you choose? True courage is saying “no” when all others are bending and saying “yes” to things they should not do. True courage is seen in submission to Christ. The type of courage God is looking for is the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the cost may be.

This type of courage made the difference between a standing wall of Jericho and a crumbling wall of Jericho in Joshua 6, a flowing river of Jordan and a parted river of Jordan. Militarily, it would look absurd to walk around a city with music as your primary offensive. Realistically, it would appear nonsensical to walk through a major body of water. But, God said it! So, Joshua did it. He did not argue with God; he obeyed. As a result, the walls came tumbling down and the waters parted. Imagine if Joshua had persisted and argued with God. Imagine the calamities that would have happened to the Israelites if Joshua had not submitted to Christ and obeyed. Submission to Christ, Israel’s Supreme Savior, was Joshua’s true test of courage.

How can we attain this type of godly courage and strength today? It does not come from forcing oneself to be brave or courageous. Rather, it comes through an awareness of your true condition as a sinner and an awareness of who God is and what He did, is doing, and will do for you. This awareness comes only when we submit our will to Christ and decide to engage in a daily communion with Him ourselves through faith. This type of awareness from personal experience will cause you to trust and love God wholeheartedly. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

That is why the second part of Joshua 1:9 states, “Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Total trust in God and His sure word is what God demanded from Joshua and what he demands from us in these last days. Trust in God and His word reveals to us the heart of God and gives us access to its ever-sustaining presence and peace to face anything:he loss of yesterday, the aches and pains of today, the uncertainty of tomorrow. Most importantly, it helps you to be in the center of God’s will – a sweet place to always be!

The following excerpt from “Selected Messages” tells us, “I seem to see Jesus saying to you, ‘Lean on Me, lean hard. I will bear you up. My arm shall never fail you. It shall be strong to support you over all the rough and difficult places. Only make Me your trust and you shall be guided safely and upheld firmly” (260).

It is important for each of us to listen to God today because He wants to use you for His glory, GYC. There are many people in our community today who have a desire to worship the true God; they are tired of their lifestyle or are living without hope. God is calling each one of us to work with Him. He wants to use you to bring them home, to teach them how to have a saving relationship with Christ. Maybe your Wall of Jericho is time, or maybe it is that you are afraid of people. Maybe your Jordan River is a struggle with unbelief, or perhaps it is your health. Whatever your Jordan River is today, God is calling you to be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed for He has promised that He will be with you wherever you go. Will you trust Him today to help you be bold for Him? GYC, now is your time.

Moise Ratsara

GYC President

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The Art of Listening

It’s often been said that you can’t learn from speaking– only by listening. Listening is a valuable skill to have whether you’re talking with a friend, sitting in a classroom, or interacting with people at work. For me, it’s an essential part of my nursing career.

A couple days ago I got to work late after snoozing my alarm one too many times and then hitting traffic on my way to the hospital. At first I was tempted to rush through my patient care to be sure and get everything done in a timely manner. After getting reports on my patients, I walked into the first room.

“Good evening, my name’s Seth and I’m going to be your nurse tonight! How ya doing?” I grinned good-naturedly as I walked over to the patient’s bedside.

“I’m good! Did you know everything you learned in school is a lie?”

Everything? Well now. I’m still paying off student loans so that bit of news was definitely not what I wanted to hear right now! “I was not aware of that but I sure am appreciative of you pointing it out to me.” Sometimes I become sarcastic no matter how hard I try not to be. Especially today; I was in a hurry.

“It’s true. What was the first thing you saw when you started Kindergarten?”

“Well let me think for a minute. The couch. … My pajamas! … My mom?”

“Oh you were homeschooled.”

“Yep, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave the house,” I laughed as I pulled out my stethoscope.

“But you still had a globe,” she continued, “Did you know Satan invented that? The earth is flat.” I stopped right where I was. I’d heard these people existed, but I never thought I’d get to meet one in person. In my hospital even! Under my care no less!

“No way, is it really?” I gasped. “How do we keep from falling off?”

“There’s an ice wall around the entire planet,” she seemed so confident I had to admire her spirit.

“And what about the planes that have flown around the world?”

“They were flying in a big circle.”

“And Antarctica?” I questioned.

“It’s just the part of the ice wall the Masons want to tell us about.”

“Hold on, the Masons are keeping this secret from us? That’s infuriating!”

“Yep, they’re in cahoots with the devil. They’re the ones that funded NASA.”

“Right, because we never went to the moon.”

“Exactly! It was all a film production. You can even see a Coke bottle sitting on the moon in the unedited video clip of Neil Armstrong.”

“And Gus Grissom?”

“He and the others were about to expose the whole program so NASA eliminated them. Every single astronaut that died did so because they were going to expose the lie.” I was getting really excited. Sometimes I have dull patients who talk about nothing more than Pokemon Go, other times I have combative patients, or angry patients, or sad patients, but never before in my life did I have a patient who had so much life-changing information to share! I was riveted.

“Do you believe in God?” she continued.

“Yes ma’am I do!”

“Well in the Bible, it says He uses the earth as His footstool. Can you imagine God standing on a beach ball?” We both laughed heartily; for different reasons I’m guessing.

“And remember where God says the angels are holding back strife from the four corners of the earth? Where do you find corners on a globe?”

There are times when I enter into a lively conversation and like to throw a different perspective into the train of thought, but clearly today was not one of those days. Today was a listening only day. One assessment and 67 undiscovered truths later, I was ready to leave the room.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to you, young man!” she stated emphatically as I walked out the door.

“I’ve enjoyed it too!” I wasn’t lying.

“Can you help me with one of my patients?” One of the other nurses met me in the hall. “Apparently she likes guys and she won’t do anything for me. I can’t get her to answer questions or take meds.” I walked in to the room. Immediately the elderly patient perked up.

“Well hello there young man! You look good tonight.”

“Mmmmm, yes ma’am, thanks for noticing! But tonight’s not about me, it’s about you. Let’s get you some meds here.”

“Oh of course,” she smiled. I sighed. Tonight was not going as planned. I didn’t have time for this! The nurse out in the hall caught my eye and mouthed a “thank you” mixed with “wow she listened to you” and “I’m so sorry you have to do this” before laughing at the awkwardly odd situation we were in. I laughed too.

I walked into my next patient’s room to continue my rounds. A relative was sitting on the seat next to the bed. “Good evening!” I said.

“Well you look chipper tonight,” she said, not taking her eyes off the cellphone in her hands. I told her all the reasons why I was “chipper” and was excited to be caring for them that evening. I was being completely honest.

“You a believer?” Same tone. Same nonchalance.

“Yes ma’am, I’m a Seventh-day Adventist.”

“No way!” Her face immediately lit up and she looked up from her phone. “Have you heard of David Asscherick?” And so began a long story of how her and her husband had been invited to an Adventist church in their hometown during an evangelistic series. When their family went through an extremely painful experience shortly after, the church rallied to support her with welcoming arms. “I’m not Adventist yet, but I go to the church and believe everything they teach so far,” she finished. “I figured you were an Adventist. I could tell when you walked in the door; I’m sure a lot of people tell you how vibrant you are.”

Throughout the night as I went into the room and cared for them, we talked about our faith and I shared my personal testimony with them.

Every night is different. I’m always meeting new people. Some make a huge impact on me while others I forget about a few weeks after they leave the floor. I’ve gotten to pray with patients, talk with patients, laugh with them and cry with them. Yes there are the bedpans I’ve got to empty, the blood I must clean up, the vomit, the sickness, the drudgery of meds and diets and lab sticks.

But at the end of the day, I realize once again why God called me to nursing. I schedule 5 minutes during my first rounds – stethoscope down, computer off, my full attention on the patient – to have a heart-to-heart with them. Personally, I think it’s even more important than the meds I’m administering because everyone needs to be heard, understood, and cared for.

James encourages us along these lines,”Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…” (James 1:19) Once we truly learn to listen to God’s voice, He will teach us how to listen to those who need us most. Because it really doesn’t matter what you do, where you work, or how many people you talk with each day. If you truly listen to those around you, show them you care by being intentional with your time, and seek to make every interaction a positive witnessing experience, God can use you.

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Seth Sutherland

–GYC attendee–

 

© 2014 Sven Zellner / Agentur Focus

Snapshots of the World

“I think someone famous might be in town,” conjectured my friend Ryan as we pulled to the side of the road and watched a fleet of police vehicles race past our car. Further up the street, a cluster of people began to form and trickle into a blocked off intersection.

“Maybe it’s the president . . . or Trump. That’d draw a crowd for sure,” he joked. Could it be? But why would either be in downtown Seattle in the middle of July? Wasn’t the Republican National Convention in Cleveland currently stealing the political spotlight? I thought to myself. I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the crowd in greater detail as we zipped onto a one-way side street.

Ryan’s phone started ringing.

“Hey, did you guys find parking?” asked Stella on the other line. We planned to meet her and another friend for dinner.

“No, we’re still trying to get to the place. We got delayed and rerouted by that police entourage. Did you see it?” I asked on speaker phone.

“I didn’t! What’s going on?” interjected Keri, the other friend.

“Not sure, but I think it might be some type of protest. I’m pretty sure I saw a few people holding signs just now.”

“Oh man. Wonder what’s happening. Call us when you find parking! We just found a spot,” Stella explained. I agreed, hanging up and scouring the congested streets for empty sidewalk space.

With no parking in sight, my eyes wandered beyond the streets and began taking mental snapshots of the city: an old man in a faded white T-shirt mowing his tiny lawn; a 20-something punk rocker covered in tattoos, taking his two, well-groomed collies on a walk; a group of ladies in sundresses, sipping their Starbucks; people playing Pokémon Go in the park, their phones tilted and fingers swiping; a busker with dreadlocks serenading the public, his guitar case peppered with one dollar bills and coins.

“Found one!” exclaimed Ryan as he pulled into a spot four blocks from the meeting place. We hurried to find the others, promptly forgetting the police barricade and protesters.

On the walk back to our cars after dinner, the four of us thought up touristy plans for the rest of our evening in Seattle. We rounded a corner and, to our utter surprise, ran straight into the crowd of protesters. They’d grown in size and had formed a huge circle in the middle of a main road. A man armed with a megaphone stood in the center with people of all ethnicities and genders surrounding him. Some held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” and others raised images of the Black Power fist. Uniformed police on bicycles dotted the perimeter, supervising the event at a distance. “We need to end this senseless, racist violence! The police cannot keep shooting us. Share your voice!” the man in center urged.

He put the megaphone on the ground and gestured with his arms for people to step forward and speak. I stood frozen at the scene, watching as a tall, shirtless Caucasian man walked into the center and took up the device.

“I am a supporter of the—“ Squeeeak! “Of the Black Lives Matter—“ Squeeeeeak! The megaphone cut in and out, splicing his words and making it impossible for anyone to hear him. He fumbled unsuccessfully with the buttons.

“Mic check!” yelled someone off to the side. The multicultural crowd shifted to a more alert stance and lasered in on the man. He put the megaphone down and started speaking clipped sentences at his normal volume. Those in range of his voice repeated him word for word at a shout, essentially becoming ahuman megaphone. Collectively, they spoke a message of pain but of encouragement, imploring listeners to come together and support their fellow humans, regardless of ethnicity—to acknowledge the race and gender discrimination rampant in society and to counteract it. His segment ended in applause as the next person walked up to take his place.

The subsequent speaker, another Caucasian man, managed to operate the megaphone and also began his speech on a note of solidarity and support. Gradually, however, his speech devolved into a tirade of vitriol targeted at the police, specifically those stationed at the perimeter of the crowd.

“People like them want to keep us from having these marches!” he yelled, pointing a finger at the police on bikes. “They’re blocking our voices from being heard! We don’t need that!” he screamed, concluding with a stream of vulgarities. The crowd cheered and repeated his sentiments, just as they had with the previous speaker.

Standing at the perimeter of the circle, I shot glances at the stoic police officers sitting on bicycles a few feet away from me. Were they really there to block or to protect?

A young, charismatic African American woman walked into the center next, taking the megaphone and validating the previous speaker’s anger; however, she was quick to add, “Let’s not forget: we cannot hate everyone. Otherwise, we’ll be just as bad as the people we’re protesting.” She went on to explain that not all police are “bad”—that some are, in fact, there to protect and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Nods of agreement and cheers followed her as she found her place back in the circle.

Moments later, a final speaker—a lanky, light skinned African American man with a brunette afro—inched his way to the middle, carrying his young son on his shoulders. His two little daughters stood by his side, hands linked. Into the megaphone, he solemnly stated, “I don’t know how to explain all of this to my kids.” He waved his arms around him, taking in the whole crowd. “The simple fact is that I shouldn’t have to. Black lives matter.”

The original man in the middle joined this family at the center and took up the megaphone again, calling the group to march onward. “Whose lives matter?” he asked.

“BLACK LIVES MATTER!” shouted the crowd.

“No justice?” said the man.

“NO PEACE!” answered the crowd.

This call and response continued as the procession marched down the street. From the group’s first step forward, the police on the periphery immediately snapped into action, ensconcing the marchers into a protective bubble with their bikes. Police on motorcycles cleared the streets ahead, and larger police vehicles brought up the rear. My friends and I turned in the opposite direction, once again finding an alternate route to our parking spots.

After witnessing the powerful scene both within and without the circle, I found it ironic that just blocks away, someone was mowing his lawn, walking his dog, sipping her Starbucks, catching their Pokémon, singing for spare change, finding a parking spot—all completely oblivious or deliberately blind to the sobering events happening in their neighborhood. I also found it quite ironic that some in the circle, while bursting with support for the oppressed, demonized the very forces that enabled the streets to be clear, the protest to remain peaceful, the individuals—even the ones spewing hate—to maintain their personal safety. On the other hand, however, it was equally ironic that the same protective forces could so easily and preemptively take the life of a man named Mike Brown, a man named Alton Sterling.

I reflected on these tensions as my friends and I gazed at the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park later that evening. Captured in this last mental snapshot of the city were all of these groups: my party of four, the Seattle neighborhoods, the protestors, the police, the movements and ideologies that superseded us all. Each group had a blind spot and a means for filling that void with something else: blissful ignorance, seething anger, palpable discrimination, a political agenda. While seemingly innocuous or “noble,” the justification for each void suddenly seemed like a mere anesthetic—a temporary fix for an endless cycle of misery. Even the glimpses of hope—the human megaphone and the African American woman’s added explanation, for example—became overshadowed by the overwhelming hopelessness in the world, the “all of this” that the father found so impossible to explain to his kids. Through my human eyes, I looked at the glittering city lights with sadness.

Bible-believing people, however, see with an alternate perspective. While they also recognize the extreme brokenness of the world and should take action to repair it to the best of their abilities, followers of Christ ultimately recognize that no human-made tool or method of (counter) defense will definitively fix the world’s dysfunction. They acknowledge that their human expectation for change will always meet disappointment. Thus, they live seeking not a mere anesthetic or a stance rooted in anger. Neither do they sit idly by in blissful ignorance as the world around them suffers. Instead, they march forward saying, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people” (Psalms 62:5-8). With such assurance, they replace their human manufactured hope with one reinforced in divine power. They believe that “power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; for You render to each one according to his work” (vs. 11-12). Knowing all of this, their daily lives, their activism, their ideologies fall in step with God-given expectation and become empowered by an unchanging source of divine strength; their actions, regardless of the outcome, find triumph in His glory—not their human efforts alone. Through this lens, they can view their mental snapshots of the world with an everlasting hope.

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Shauna Chung

–Executive Secretary–

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Identity

 

In today’s world, identity is everything. Who you are and what you stand for determines the way you are perceived and often can decide the trajectory of your life—unless something steps in to change that. In different circles and to different people, we all have different identities. To our bosses we are employees; to our friends we are a friend; to our families we are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. To the world, we are strangers. But what kind of strangers are we? Are we truly strange-ers? To the world what is our identity? What do you and I look like to the world and those around us?

Our identity should not be “those people who are health-conscious.” Our identity should not be “those people who are always socially active.” Our identity should not be “those people who go to church on Saturday.” Our identity should not be “those people” at all.

Instead, when they look at us, they should see Jesus. People should be able to say of us… “Mary, Casey, Joe, John, or whoever— if Jesus is like him/her, I might give Him a chance.”

While people may still look at us as “those people,” that is not our identity. Our identity is in Jesus—wholly and completely.

That sounds nice, but what does that mean? To have an identity in Jesus means we live like Jesus. We are associated with Jesus. We are Christians. We literally take on the name of Christ, just like one does in a marriage; and we keep the covenant of that Name. Our identity is not wrapped up in our job, schoolwork, grades, family, or friend group. Our identity is found in Jesus and rooted in His Word.

What does it mean to be SDA? It means that you find your identity, you and I shape our lives, in and around Jesus and His Word.

It sounds easy and hard at the same time. But praise the Lord, we are not alone. Jesus has promised to be with us to the end of the age. Forever.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

— Casey Vaughn —

General Vice President of Internal Affairs

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His Love as Seen in Rwanda

Fifteen days, seventeen sermons, two thousand sites, and thousands of dedicated, ordinary people inspired by their love for God and passion for His people. That is how the Gospel transformed every corner of Rwanda and the Holy spirit was poured out in abundance. During the month of May, the General Conference led a very unique mission in the small country of Rwanda. The goal was to reach the people with the gospel through total membership involvement. The results were astonishing, and through the combined efforts of the local churches, laymen, pastors and missionaries from abroad we were able to see more than 95,000 souls come to Christ.

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I had the privilege of witnessing some of the work God was doing through the site where I was preaching. Arriving at my site the first evening, I was nervous and very dependent on my PowerPoint slides for the message. As I began to preach, however, the electricity went out and my perfectly operating laptop refused to turn on. Panicking, I flipped through my Bible hoping a verse would pop out at me, at the moment the one light bulb at the site burnt out. It was then that I realized I would have to speak from my heart. I prayed asking God to completely take over, and He did just that. I preached a thought I had studied in my devotional that morning from John 9 where Jesus stops for the man born blind and heals him. In that moment, I realized that Jesus had once again stopped at our hill and desired to heal each and everyone of us throughout the next 2 weeks. Little did I know just how much healing would take place at that site.

IMG_0674Throughout the first weekend, my heart began to soften and fill with love for those attending every night. The faces became familiar and the shy smiles were soon replaced by warm hugs. Night after night after the meetings, those with special requests or burdens would line up for prayers, and as I held them and prayed for them I was amazed by their faith. They believed that God would hear and answer their prayers and so they prayed the impossible and they prayed with earnestness and transparency. In their prayers my faith was strengthened. Yet God had more in store. As we began the second week, they began to share how God had already begun to answer their prayers. Broken families were somehow being mended, and the Great Physician had visited the sick and given children to the barren. But the ones that truly touched me were those who received hope for the first time—those that realized that heaven was a reality and that sin did not have to overcome them forever.

There was a bar nearby that played a lot of throwback music. Their music was so loud at times that when I paused for emphasis in my sermons, the music would overpower. Unfortunately, in my “Before Christ” days, one of my greatest struggles was music, so I not only recognized the music but also knew the lyrics. I cannot describe the feeling – it was one of joy as I realized that God had not only saved me from my past but had also given me something better. But yet in the midst of the joy there was a vivid reminder of the reason why I could not continue to entertain that music and serve Christ, because in that moment I realized that they served two opposing forces.

Rwanda is an experience that I cannot even begin to describe, the miracles were many and God truly revealed Himself more clearly to me. As I watched many walk away from all they had as they stood for Jesus in baptism, I recommitted myself to Christ.

Despite the painful history that I often connect with Rwanda, God rewrote the story. It was in Rwanda that I saw ordinary church members give all they had to the gospel and it is here that I saw the extraordinary, transformative power of the plain word of God. It was in Rwanda that Christ revealed His love not only for me, but also for humanity, and leaving Rwanda I am inspired.

Lastly, the Total Membership Involvement model really left an impact on me. It was amazing to see how God works through the dedicated and combined forces of church members. Every effort is noted in the books of heaven, and coming home I am inspired to make sure that the miracles don’t end in Rwanda. The gospel is not an African remedy – it has the power to transform lives in my local church, my campus, my home, and everywhere else I go. God took me to Rwanda to teach me His unconditional love and impress upon my heart the urgency of His soon return.

IMG_0208Coming home I am inspired. I see the importance of my local church and the role each member has to play in the commission of spreading the gospel. Many times I was tempted to wonder, where are the miracles nowadays? Where are the great manifestations the Bible describes? I realized that I was not seeing miracles because I was not actively engaging in God’s work; I had not taken a risk big enough to necessitate a divine intervention. I appeal to everyone to take part in the exciting work of winning souls for Christ, take an active role in your local church, and make goals that require divine aid and you will see God’s mighty power daily and experience His amazing love.

—Chantal Kayumba

 

 

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Focus in Europe

 

GYC is more than just a conference: It is a global movement. The Holy Spirit is moving upon the hearts and lives of young people around the world, mobilizing them for ministry. One of the parts of the world where young people are at work for God is Europe. GYC Europe recently held a powerful rally in Romania, and what follows is a report of that rally and GYC Europe’s plans to continue reaching out in Europe:

 

GYC Europe is focusing on three main areas of ministry: Local rallies, Active missions and the Europe-wide conference. In February of this year we held our first local rally in Stupini, Romania, with the theme “Coming to Christ.” The name we have chosen to give to our local rallies is “Focus.” That name was birthed from the aim of the local rally, which is to focus on the local community where we have been invited. Focus rallies aim to call the local youth to an event where they will be encouraged, inspired and revived. The vision of Focus is for young people to reclaim their Adventist identity and have a missionary mindset to reach out to all in their sphere of influence. The small size of these events also allows the GYC Europe team to connect with the local young people so that rather than merely putting on a program, we are growing and learning together. This allows us to encourage them in their walk not merely from the podium, but in our interaction with them as well.

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In Stupini we saw over 300 young people come together to study, pray and fellowship. The program was arranged to provide these opportunities by allowing time for group prayer, workshops, sermons and testimonies. Every evening attendees were seen rushing to their small groups where they discussed specific questions and signed up to implement an evangelism spiral. The evangelistic spiral encourages individuals to follow a commission of evangelism throughout the year, which falls under the ‘Active Missions’ segment of GYC Europe.

During the Sabbath we saw many young people going out on buses to reach out to the local community. Many people in the community responded by requesting personal Bible studies. The following quote comes to mind when thinking of this experience:

“All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in.” Acts of the Apostles, p.109

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As Focus came to an end, hundreds of young people made their way home. Some traveled by train, some by car, and some by plane; but all left with a deeper relationship with Christ.

At every Focus event GYC Europe works with a local team of volunteers who help in the planning and organization of the weekend. This allows us the opportunity to grow our network across Europe while at the same time working effectively in any given culture.

The themes of Focus for the first three years in Europe are: (1) Coming to Christ, (2) Searching the Scriptures, and (3) Moving into Mission. At each event we are emphasizing the importance of being a helping hand to church leadership in the local conference and union.

Our next Focus rally will be taking place in the UK in a town called Leicester. We are looking forward to this and many other opportunities. The work must go on.

Keep up to date with us on our website www.gyceurope.org and our facebook page ‘GYC Europe.’

God bless,

Craig Gooden

President, GYC Europe.

Amen! The  need in Europe is very great, and the work there is challenging. But Mrs White wrote, “I saw that many souls might be saved if the young were were they ought to be, devoted to God and to the truth….” Messages to Young People, p. 206. Praise God for the work that is happening in Europe, and for the young people who are sacrificing their time and effort in order to strengthen the church and save souls for God’s kingdom. Let us keep our brothers and sisters in Europe in our prayers, that God will greatly bless their ministry and work through them to spread the light of the Gospel.

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San Francisco GLOW Outreach Testimonies

One Week. One Goal. One Million.

It is amazing to see what God can do through a generation of young people who are willing to take time off work and school to be involved in reaching out to others.

In preparation and response to the major sports event happening in San Francisco, GLOW (Giving Light To Our World) planned to distribute one million GLOW tracts before and during the Super Bowl. A special tract about the Sabbath was created just for this event and with much prayer and the dedication of 30+ GLOW missionaries this goal was accomplished.

Here are two testimonies about what God has done in San Francisco just a few weeks ago.

Cheyna’s Testimony:

After entering a fast food restaurant, I asked the one of the waitresses, “Do you know what Southern Hospitality is? Well in honor of your southern hospitality, I’d like to present you this honorary gift!” It was a packet of GLOW tracts I had on me, and the tract entitled “Where is God when I’m hurting?” was on top.

The waitress replied under her breath “I need this!” She started mentioning to us about her son being suspended from school that day.

I responded by telling her that as Christians we believe in something called the “Great Controversy,” and that Satan is trying to attack us simply because we were created by the One he despises most. She nodded in agreement and said she was also Christian and agreed wholeheartedly that we are in a war.

We then asked her what church she went to and she started explaining how she isn’t really going to any church now because she just can’t seem to get Sunday’s off. My friend Nidia asked her which day she did have off, and she replied that the only day she could seem to get off was Saturday. When she said that everyone on our GLOW team started hooting and hollering; she was overwhelmed and started asking, “What happened? Did I say something?” So right then and there we gave her a little Bible study on which day was the Sabbath. While quoting the fourth commandment, I held up my fingers and started going through the days of the week and their order. When we got to seven and Saturday, she stopped and said, “Wait, so Saturday is the sabbath?”

In the end we invited her to come to church with us. She was very excited to do so, and was also very excited for the Bible studies. We took a picture with her and she started to get teary eyed. She said “How does this happen? How do people meet like this?” We know the answer! God’s providence is always on time and he sends the right people to meet the right people at the right time! We exchanged contact information and are keeping in touch with her.”
— Cheyna Ashe

Vonée’s Testimony:

One day when I was GLOWing a tall, muscular, tough-looking man named Micah came out to his driveway. With an intimidating, stern face he said to me, “I really wish you wouldn’t do that.” He took the GLOW tracts away from where I had placed them and attempted to hand them back to me!

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I am a petite and timid girl, and here was a scary big man. I was scared at first, to say the least! But God had been teaching me to not fear man and to be bold for the cause of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit came over me, and I started to push the GLOW tracts right back toward Micah. I was shocked at myself as I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry sir, but you see, we are just sharing helpful information for the community! This tract here is about heart health! And this one is about where God is when we are hurting. And this one is interesting; it asks the question, “Can the dead speak?”

To my surprise Micah replied firmly, “No they can’t!”

“Exactly! You’re so right!” I said.

“What church are you from?” he asked.

“I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, have you heard of us?” I said, with some confidence from the Lord.

“Oh yeah, I have. You all…you’re alright, you’re alright,” he said in a slightly playful way as he started to warm up and let his guard down. I laughed, and to make a long story short we quickly became good friends!

We had a lot in common to talk about. It turns out Micah was on his way to church with his wife. He was a Christian, and He also shared that he was a former marine and just was a bit defensive about people being near his property. He mentioned that he was a “recovering Catholic,” and shared how he was against the teachings of purgatory and indulgences because they were unbiblical. He also said that he was going to be preaching on the streets around the location of pre-superbowl game activities on one upcoming night. He even started to share tips with me on evangelism and reaching souls for Christ. And on top of it all, it even turns out that his brother’s girlfriend is Seventh-day Adventist!

This same man who scared me at first and tried to give me back the GLOW tracts, was now my friend, taking pictures with me and taking those same tracts back home with Him. Had I given into fear and taken back those tracts and timidly walked away, Micah—who God had already exposed to our church and convicted about the precious truth of the state of the dead and much more, and who also loves to share the gospel with others—would not have gotten those tracts which can help to lead him into greater light as he prepares himself and others for the soon coming of Jesus!” — Vonée Hemans

Just like Cheyna and Vonée, you too can be a missionary right where you are. Pick up a few tracts and let Jesus GLOW through you!

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Blessed By Sharing: A GYC Pre-Conference Report

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What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “canvassing”? Knocking on doors? Talking to hundreds of upset strangers? Perhaps even terrifying dogs and angry, armed citizens? To hundreds of young people, “canvassing” stirs in the memory dozens of divine appointments, hungry souls, and overall amazing experiences.

Just one week prior to GYC Conference 2015 in Louisville, KY, over one hundred young people gathered in Pewee Valley, KY to participate in GYC Pre-Conference. Here are three testimonies from this outreach, featuring an amazing prayer-answering God and His willing servants!

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“It was the end of an exhausting day. I had knocked on door after door only to discover that either people weren’t home or wouldn’t listen. It had come down to the last fifteen minutes and I had just 16 more doors to knock on. As I came up to the last door, I heard people inside and prayed that they would answer. A man opened the door and quickly referred me to his wife. She was so excited about the cookbook, but said that they didn’t have the money. I decided to show her Peace Above the Storm (Steps to Christ), and she was thrilled! Flipping through the book, she began reading the chapter titles: “How to Have a Clear Conscience” “Freedom from guilt.” “Oh,” she exclaimed “I really need this book!” I shared with her the donation range and she reiterated that she had no money. Sad that I couldn’t help, I left her with a free Happiness For Life (also Steps to Christ).

As soon as I left the house, I met up with another canvasser who had gotten donations from people who didn’t want books and was only too happy to let me give a few to this precious lady. We went back and knocked on the door. Long story short, she was so excited! She shared that she had just converted to Christianity three weeks ago. “When you left this other book,” she said, “I knew it was Jesus. Because I’ve been praying to Him every day and I know He answers prayer.” She became even more thrilled about the prospect of someone coming and studying the Bible with her. What an amazing last-door experience! I came back that night praising our Almighty God for His awe-inspiring goodness.”

—Samantha

 

“Apartments. The word sent chills down my spine. I was so scared. “We have to go inside too” I thought. First few doors, nothing. Then finally at the third door a lady answered and I saw her little son, so I handed her a Storytime and canvassed her on Storytime. She seemed really interested and asked what religion I was. That was the first time that I was able to explain what I believe without stumbling over my words. She said she only had a twenty, so I said, “Oh, here’s the second book in that set.” And handed her Prince of Peace and canvassed her on that. She said that she really would enjoy reading this to her children because she was “sort of Christian.” They didn’t go to church or anything, but she wanted to know more about God and she wanted her kids to grow up knowing about God. So I prayed with her and sold her both books.

I was really thankful that God put into my mind the words to say, because normally I’m not able to say what I believe without stuttering. But while I was at Pre-Conference I wanted to be able to give an answer, so I studied passages that prepared me to be able to do that. I was thoroughly blessed by the experience!”

—Zion

 

“Follow your curb, comb to your T, cross over and work back until you meet somebody.” These were the instructions that were given to me as I jumped out of the van. “Okay! Sounds great,” I harped as ran to my first house praying for a divine appointment. Little did I know exactly how quickly this prayer would be answered. First house, no answer. Second house, quick rejection. “Okay Lord,” I prayed, “I know your promise is sure, I know that you will answer my prayer in your way, and in your time.” The third house that I went to was answered by a gentleman maybe in his 60’s. “Good afternoon, my name is Jerico….” as I went into my canvas. “I am not interested,” was his reply, and then he lowered his voice to a mere whisper as he began to explain his situation. His mother was dying of cancer, and and with six weeks left to live, she had just spent her last Christmas with her family. Tears began to flow as he related his story, and my heart went out to this gentleman. I asked if I could pray with him, and he agreed. After the prayer, I gave him a free Happiness for Life, and bade him farewell. As I headed for the next door, I was praising God for the wonderful divine appointment and answer to prayer.

However, there was another surprise in store as I knocked on the next door. The lady that answered the door was quite friendly, and after graciously listening to my canvass, she remarked, “I am not interested in these books, but do you mind me asking what religion you are?”

“No problem,” I replied, “I am a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian. Have you heard of us?”

“Actually not,” she exclaimed, “Can you explain to me what you believe?”

“Sure!” I answered. “We believe in…..” As I explained to her the gist of our beliefs as SDA’s she ask me to explain the Sabbath to her in a little bit more depth. After about a 10 minute bible study on the Sabbath, I came to a close and challenged her to further inquire about bible questions with the local SDA pastor, reassuring her that she would not be disappointed. I closed with prayer, and handed her an invitation to a prophecy seminar that would be happening in the area pretty soon. I left with my heart rejoicing because of God’s goodness and mercy that he had shown me.

However, who said that I was done, because at the very next house, the young man that I canvassed, was quite uninterested and reluctant. That is, until I canvassed him on the Great Controversy. His eyes widened, as he exclaimed, “I have that book, I bought a Great Controversy back in 1998! He even proceeded to describe the book to me as being the one that had a picture of the globe on it with all of the nations flags encircling it. “I have been praying for these missionaries that have been selling these books ever since I purchased mine 17 years ago. I have read the Great Controversy myself and loved it, and I want everyone to get this book too”
—Jerico

As you have read this article I pray that your heart is stirred, and that you too have a desire to join in the Lord’s work of taking the 3 Angels message to the entire world in this generation.

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