Friday, December 29, began like all days at GYC do. United Prayer first, then breakfast, and then the morning devotional. There was even a seminar thrown in after the morning devotional. But the highlight of the day—outreach—began at 11:15 a.m. In a departure from longstanding tradition, five separate groups with varying mandates gathered to tackle daunting evangelism tasks.
GYC Vice President for Evangelism Junior Vertus told The GYC Record in an interview that during the organizational process for this year’s conference, the evangelism team began to pray about what they should do to reach Portland—one of the most secular cities in the United States. “People just don’t want to hear the name of Jesus here. It’s always encouraged that the approach taken here should be different,” he said. Pointing to a quote from the book “Ministry of Healing” by Ellen White, Vertus said the goal with each project was to embody “Christ’s method of evangelism.”
Within hours, most goals were surpassed. The day was a resounding success.
Volunteers Build 107 Beds for Children
One notable initiative came through a partnership between GYC and the local chapter of the nationwide non-profit Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
Combining the community-focused ethos of this year’s evangelism plans and the humanitarian prowess of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, 107 beds were built entirely by GYC attendees in a tedious and methodical yet fun process.
It’s like a giant assembly line. The reason behind it? According to Sleep in Heavenly Peace leaders, as many community members as possible should touch the bed before it’s complete because the beds are joint community projects. Some attendees cut and sanded lumber. Others applied stains. Some branded the beds using an iron-cast “SHP” sign.
The handmade beds, complete with mattresses and blankets, will be delivered by Sleep in Heavenly Peace to families whose children are sleeping on the floor—a critical need within Portland and many other communities throughout the United States.
“It seemed like a great opportunity to do something that would make an impact,” said Zachary Ramont, a GYC attendee who participated in the bed-building project. “It is a very unique opportunity.” Grace Garcia, another attendee who built beds, agreed. “It’s very hands-on, and it’s actually going to impact someone’s life.” She pointed out that it’s not every day that one has the opportunity to build beds.
“It was really organized, and everyone worked really well,” Garcia added. Ramont concurred, saying that throughout the hours-long ordeal, “it never really got boring.”
The original goal was to build 100 beds. This goal was surpassed, with a total of 107 beds being built.
Unhoused Population’s Vital Needs Fulfilled in a Bag
Over 2,000 individual bags of blankets, hygiene products, and snacks were packed and distributed by GYC attendees.
The bags, which often included GLOW tracts and handwritten care messages, were prepared in partnership with CityTeam Portland, a local non-profit dedicated to “providing immediate help and support to men and women struggling with food insecurity, homelessness, and other life-disabling circumstances.”
“Most were very receptive to getting a care package,” said Olivia Slabbert, an attendee who helped pack and distribute the bags. “The bags had a lot of supplies that they really needed.” Jared Chung also helped and said that when someone opened the bag they received, “you could see their eyes light up.”
Collin Ntwali, another GYC attendee who helped with this outreach opportunity, said he chose this because “there are a lot of people out there who have nobody.” At the end of the year, he said, everyone else is celebrating and spending money. These people, though, are on the streets and cold. “It’s an opportunity for us to reach them, share the gospel with them, and hopefully give them some more strength to keep going.”
Literature Evangelism, Singing, and Prayer
In something much more in line with past GYC evangelism experiences, busloads of people also left the Oregon Convention Center. They distributed GLOW Tracts by going door-to-door in the Portland community. Another group went and sang in various venues, including a correctional facility. At the end of the day, perhaps one of the most important forms of “outreach” was the hours-long prayer session held in the Oregon Ballroom. According to Gem Castor, GYC prayer coordinator, over 400 people showed up to lift the community and the work being done in prayer.