Two weeks ago, over 4,500 young people took part in GYC’s 2017 conference in Phoenix, Arizona, focused on the theme: “Arise” from Isaiah 60:1-3. As one of those young people, my experience throughout the conference was one of transformation, inspiration, and empowerment. One might ask, what compels a millennial to spend five days during the holiday season listening to sermons, attending seminars, and reaching out to the community in service? The answer is both simple and profound: a vision and a mission.
I first saw a glimpse of vision when I pushed through the usual morning sleepiness so that I could attend a United Prayer session. As nearly a thousand people pressed into the room and then overflowed into the foyer outside, I couldn’t help but compare the experience to scenes in the book of Acts. Gem Castor, who led out during each session, stated later: “When the Lord is about to pour out His blessings, don’t open your umbrellas!” God’s presence was felt throughout the United Prayer sessions and we were soaking wet.
The United Prayer sessions weren’t the only inspiring aspect of GYC 2017. The president of GYC, Moise Ratsara, opened the conference with a strong call to mission. “Don’t ask what your church can do for you,” he encouraged us, “but what you can do for your church.” In words that would be repeated by other speakers, he asserted: “You are GYC. You are this generation.” The appeal to mission seemed to be an unstated theme for every plenary session, challenging us to evaluate our experience with Christ in relation to the calling he has on each of our lives. This was most clearly expressed during the Thursday noon plenary when GYC Beyond was introduced. Eric Louw and Jonathan Walter revealed plans to encourage year-round participation in evangelism and outreach in our local churches. “Who is GYC?” They asked. “I am!” everyone thundered. At that moment I realized more fully that GYC isn’t just a conference – it’s a movement of individuals united by a common purpose and mission.
The GYC conference did more than promote outreach through sermons, however. GYC also gave attendees the opportunity to arise and be empowered for practical service. For me, this opportunity began with GYC’s pre-conference program, which was offered in partnership with Your Best Pathway to Health. For three days young people like myself volunteered alongside medical professionals, chaplains, and beauticians to make services available to those who are unable to afford even basic care. As I saw thousands of patients receiving everything from dental care to haircuts, I was reminded of Jesus’ ministry of healing and compassion. What a privilege it is to be the hands and feet of the Savior!
Your Best Pathway to Health wasn’t the only chance to get involved in outreach. On the Friday of GYC conference, everyone had the opportunity to serve through a variety of creative outlets. Some groups teamed up to assemble and deliver refugee care kits for the many refugees living in Phoenix, others took part in a canned food drive for the homeless and underserved population of the city, and still others went door to door conducting a short electronic survey offering free Bible studies to those who were interested. The result of the outreach conducted during the conference was powerful! Through the efforts of roughly 2,000 GYC participants, 28,456 doors were knocked on, 1,589 prayers given, and over 31,000 pieces of literature distributed. Not only this, but 3,729 pounds of canned food were given out to the homeless, 255 refugee relief kits were distributed, and 765 people signed up for Bible studies! Even though GYC Conference only lasted five days, its influence has left a permanent impact on the city of Phoenix.
The conference ended on Sunday, December 31, with a final charge and the reminder that 2018 is full of new opportunities to be transformed, inspired, and empowered for mission. The theme for GYC 2018 is: To the End. This year, GYC isn’t just about attending a conference for five short days. GYC is you and I going to the end of the earth to share an end-time message.