More than 300 Hispanic young people from around the Union gathered on the campus of Andrews University for fellowship and Christian growth, performing practical acts of service at the Conéctate (to come together) bilingual youth congress. Sponsored by the Lake Union’s Multicultural Ministries, the event was held the weekend of June 1–3 and focused on the theme, “Strength in Numbers.”
In discussing the significance of the youth congress, Ron Whitehead, Lake Union Youth director, said, “Our Hispanic senior youth and young adults are important to the mission of the Adventist church. They have the energy, creativity and commitment that our church needs to tell the world about Jesus. The Lake Union has one of the strongest Hispanic young adult leadership groups in North America, and this Congress proves the importance of their leadership.”
Armando Miranda Jr., associate Youth director for the North American Division and guest speaker for the event, reminded participants of the influence they have on their friends, especially when they’re on social media. Bidding them to follow Christ alone, he expounded on the Holy Spirit’s ability to use them powerfully to advance the Kingdom of God.
On Sabbath, the attendees, aged 13–30, divided into various groups for seminars held throughout the day. Presenters included Andrews University professor, David Sedlacek, and Andrews University vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, Michael Nixon.
The youth had an opportunity to serve nearby communities in various ways, including visiting residents at a local nursing home, helping at the Salvation Army, sharing water bottles on the beach and praying with residents who requested prayer. Other participants sorted donations at the Goodwill store in Benton Harbor, spray-painted inspiring wall art, and packed backpacks for refugees. As a result of the outreach efforts, 100 refugee families received bags with necessities.
Elizabeth Carreno, a participant from Wisconsin, said she most enjoyed participating in the outreach: “Being in places like this where you connect with God and people who love God is amazing. God is our Creator and Father and having a relationship with Him is most important.”
Sunday’s activities began with the Berrien 5K Color Run, sponsored by ASAP Ministries (Advocates for Southeast Asians and the Persecuted) of Berrien Springs. The event was organized to raise funds toward Christian education for refugee children in Myanmar.
Devin Vides, a first-time attendee, travelled to the congress with a group of friends and said that events like the youth congress are faith-builders. Vides also said he was happy to participate in the 5K because, “Health affects your mind, and your relationship with God helps determine how you treat yourself.”
The congress ended with a consecration service at the Pioneer Memorial Church where participants dedicated their lives to Christ. President of the Lake Region Conference, Clifford Jones, said that youth events like Conéctate were vital: “Across this division, youth are vanishing from our churches. We need congresses like this one that bring young people together to equip, train, and connect them to Christ and His Word, and to each other.”
This was the fifth Conéctate youth congress and it has grown tremendously since its inception in 2010. The next Conéctate will be held in June 2020.