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Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina challenges Adventist young people to be the agents of change to make a difference in their countries. [photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]
August 06, 2014 | Guatemala City, Guatemala | Libna Stevens/IAD/ANN
Nearly 6,000 Adventist youth delegates listened eagerly to President of Guatemala Otto Perez Molina during Inter-America’s Youth Congress opening program on July 31 at Ciudad San Cristobal Mega Auditorium in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
“I am truly happy that you are here and are embracing Guatemala,” said Otto Perez Molina, president of Guatemala, as he welcomed the delegates. Molina thanked the youth delegation and church leaders for participating in dozens of projects to benefit needy communities throughout the country during the past 10 days.
The president also praised the healthy lifestyle adhered to by church members and shared that he too has made better health choices recently, more so as the government is about to adopt and launch the Adventist Church’s “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative—with its eight natural remedies to help improve the lives of people.
“It is a pleasure and honor to receive this activity that you will take part of living healthy,” Molina said.
The president went on to challenge young people to be of service to those in need.
“You are the agents of change to make a difference in your countries,” he said. “We need your spirit, we need your strength and your commitment.”
Otto Perez Leal, the mayor of Mixco and son of the president, thanked the Church for choosing his municipal district to hold such a historic youth event.
Mayor Perez Leal challenged young people to “keep fighting for your dreams, your ideals, and continue contributing to society, and work together with local governments to help people in need for a positive change in their lives.
“In Mixco you have support and friendship,” the mayor added before granting special recognition to Inter-American Division President Israel Leito as a distinguished guest of the city.
Leito prayed for the government leaders and their spouses as the cultural segment of the evening concluded.
“I want to tell you that we are starting a revolution here,” Leito said as he addressed the delegation. “We want to revolutionize our homes with a powerful generation of children, we want to revolutionize our universities with a powerful generation of students and we want to revolutionize our churches with a super powerful generation of young people serving the Lord in their congregations and communities.”
The energy-packed opening ceremony saw a colorful display of the dozens of cultures, languages and musical performances, which set the tone for the next four days of the congress.
Organizers expect the theme of the congress to have a lasting impact across Inter-America, said Benjamin Carballo, Youth Ministries director for the Church’s Inter-American Division.
“You are a powerful generation and we want you to experience embracing Guatemala, embracing one another and reaching out to embrace Jesus in your daily walk this week,” Carballo said. “Your goal as youth leaders is to lead the youth to a life of service and accept the call of Christ.”
Of the 150 delegates that were supposed to travel from West Venezuela, only six were able to travel due to flight restrictions, said Emilio Perche, Youth Ministries director for West Venezuela, who arrived just in time for the opening of the event.
“This is a huge event young people have been waiting for so we are thankful to finally make it here,” Perche said.
Claudy Retel from the Saint Martin Church in Guadeloupe traveled with 72 young people and said she was overjoyed to be part of the opening. “I am delighted with what I have seen about the event,” he said. “I have understood that young people are a powerful force in the church and Jesus is pleased with this.”
Violeta Dávila from the Central Guatemala Church could sum it up briefly: “This event could not have been better. It’s an explosion of joy and bliss for Guatemala.”
Young people built eight homes in extreme poor communities, repaired five sporting courts, remodeled four classrooms, cleaned up streets and have provided food to poor communities and nursing homes throughout Guatemala.
—Lizbeth Elejalde contributed to this story.