A recent youth congress in the southern Philippines attracted more than 16,000 young people. With a theme of Pass It On: Equip, Engage, and Empower, the April 9-14 bi-union event challenged young people to step away from gadgets and other distractions. Instead, they had five days of opportunities to make new friends and learn new skills while deepening their relationships with God.
Hosted by the Central Philippines Union Conference (CPUC) and the Southern Philippines Union Conference (SPUC), the congress featured 5:00 am early-morning worships, 7:30 am devotionals, three morning plenary seminars on youth issues, and four hours of physical activity in the afternoon.
Youth also participated in team-building activities, donated blood, and learned practical skills such as how to make laundry detergent. While these activities, along with the talent night and evening cultural programs were popular, many attendees seemed to focus on their need for prayer based on activity at the prayer room.
The prayer room offered a new feature: hourly prayer for each day of the congress. During that time, more than 800 youth volunteers prayed for the event and attendees in addition to the 4,000 prayer requests received. Some requests came from a hotline specially set up for the event. Every day starting at 5:00 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m., youth came for prayer. Afterward, they were encouraged to go out and invite others to pray with them and thus pass along the experience.
Some youth stayed at the prayer room for up to three hours. Outside of the daily hours, security guards, volunteer rescue groups, and advocacy groups prayed hourly to maintain the round-the-clock prayer schedule. Its value was summarized by one youth who stated, “Prayer molds us to become the best version of ourselves and to connect with God.”
Speakers such as Dan Smith from California, Washington Adventist University Vice President Baraka Muganda, and Southern Asia-Pacific Division(SSD) Youth Director Jobbie Yabut highlighted the great value God places on youth. They, and other speakers, reinforced the need for a greater connection with God. This connection, they emphasized, helps youth make positive choices that better themselves, their churches and their communities.
For many attendees, connecting with other Adventist youth gave them a reminder that they are part of something larger than themselves and added to their growing faith. “Knowing that you have a loving community around you makes the Christian-life journey a lot easier,” said Anthony Stanyer, SSD youth coordinator.
Working with youth from the two unions brought a valuable exchange of new ideas and methods of youth ministry for organizers. Yet, it was the reality of seeing youth connect with God and others that was most inspirational. “The fellowship of a huge crowd of friends and colleagues and the joy of witnessing our young people taking up leadership responsibilities and stepping up for a closer walk with Jesus Christ is definitely invaluable!” shared SPUC Youth Director Jemsly Lantaya. For CPUC Youth Director Von John Sanchez , it gave him a glimpse of what is to come. “With …[all these] youth in attendance, I imagine it like in the time of biblical holy festivals when Israelites gathered from different regions. Each [here] has a common purpose - to showcase Christian fellowship and foreshadow a future gathering one day in heaven,” he said.
The packed schedule concluded with nightly meetings encouraging youth to share or pass on what they gained at the event. “The church was filled to the brim and you could really feel the sincerity of those in attendance,” noted Stanyer.