In celebration of Global Youth Day last March themed “Be the Sermon,” Minnesota Conference youth director José Torres and his team planned an event that drew young people from throughout the conference and provided an opportunity for them to learn how community ministry should start.

Over 300 youth attended the event headquartered at the Minnetonka Church that included multiple community outreach activities, beginning with a pancake breakfast to honor police officers who serve the Minnetonka community. Approximately 20 officers attended, many of them on-duty and in uniform. They were very appreciative of the breakfast and offered help with future community service events because they were happy to see so many youth involved.

Additionally, groups of young people created fleece tie-blankets by cutting short strips around the edges of a piece of fleece, laying two pieces on top of each other and tying the strips together. These warm, colorful blankets were given to women and children at a local shelter for homeless individuals. Participant Randy Solorzano, age 17, said his favorite memory of the shelter was “when one of the moms saw a Ninja Turtles blanket and quickly asked for it, because her son was very fond of the well-known turtles. We even crafted some blankets of our own at the shelter and some of the ladies joined us to knot them.”

Another memorable activity for Solorzano was visiting a nursing home with members of his church (Minneapolis Hispanic). “I was nervous about the experience because I had never worked with the elderly,” he said. “We arrived and all the ladies were sitting around the tables. We met the facility coordinator and she told us we were going to make pipe cleaner flowers with the residents.

Most of the women were thrilled to help make them and add them to the plant pots they had recently painted. I sat down next to a lady who had glitter on her eyes and a wacky hairdo. After we made the flowers, Pastor Jim Cook joined us and we all sang from the hymnal.”

The Red Cross conducted a blood drive as well. They told Torres they’d like to come and do more blood drives for the group because the percentage of people able to give was much higher than average. This presented an opportunity to explain the Adventist health message.

Gilead Tarus, age 13, attended Global Youth Day with fellow Pathfinders from the Andover Church. Coincidentally, he received a T-shirt with the words “Be The Sermon” when he had just preached his first sermon at Andover that morning. Tarus spent time volunteering at Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit organization that provides balanced, nutritious meals to children throughout the world. Volunteers pack the food that is purchased through sponsorships and donations. When volunteers arrive, they are taught about global hunger and invited to offer a helping hand, knowing they are making a difference in a child’s life.

Meeting needs, finding joy

“I am glad to have participated in the Global Youth Day event,” said Tarus, who also helped in the kitchen preparing food for homeless people. “I was happy to help make tortillas. I am not an expert in making them, but I helped by flipping them. I think we were supposed to make about 200.”

The food Tarus helped prepare was given out both on the street and in a shelter. One attendee said it amazed her how quickly the food disappeared. Others shared how surprising it was to see so many people without homes. Another told a story about how his son was upset when the group ran out of food, because there were so many people left hungry.

Later Tarus and his friends washed dishes. “I enjoyed the spirit of teamwork that we had,” he commented. “I saw God moving in this work, and people had joy in service. I find joy in serving God and in helping the needy, and I want to Be The Sermon for those I come in contact with every day.”

What this group experienced shows how important it is to serve others in the community. They recognized both the physical and emotional needs of those around them. Many of the youth wanted to do more, to help more.

For one day, the young people were able to make an impact on the lives of those in the community. For one day, they made the elderly smile. For one moment, the people who received food felt full. And for that moment, those people felt peace.