Area 8 consists of 22 churches around the south of England. Its various youth groups are currently led by the area's youth president Steven George, vice president Sané Nhliziyo and secretary Mel Fajardo. They came together to plan the Impact Outreach Day on March 19, 2022, for Global Youth Day. Their aim for this day was to reach out to the residents and minister to them in practical ways such as singing, giving out free hugs, giving out care packages and doing fun creative activities with them. This form of outreach would hopefully allow individuals to feel and receive God's love and kindness, especially in a world where those things are becoming increasingly scarce. Doing this on global youth day seemed fitting as it would allow the youth to fellowship with one another and the community to be blessed after a long and lonely lockdown.
The chosen location was Cambridge, as it was a midpoint for youth groups to reach through travel. On the Sabbath morning, the youths gathered in the soup kitchen of Cambridge SDA church. They received their orange T-shirts and chose which type of outreach activity they wanted to do.
Activities were divided into five groups: 1– art in the community; 2 – visiting the care home, 3-singing in the town centre, 4 – serving in the town centre, 5 – creating mission material. They separated and focused on their various missions after fun icebreakers and a short morning devotional.
Soon, the buzzing town centre was filled with young, bold individuals wearing bright orange t-shirts. Any nerves or hesitation began to give way to confidence as smiles appeared on the faces of onlookers and passers-by. Whilst this was happening, at the park, the youth had set up with painting and other arts and crafts equipment. This attracted young children off the swings and onto the mat to paint, insisting their parents join. As the parents came along, they were relieved to learn that they were not required to pay for the activity but instead enjoy the creative tasks. Over at Brook House Care Home, the elderly were blessed by the voices of the youth who sang songs of praise and worship in their entertainment lounge. Many of them have had a challenging lockdown, unable to see friends and family. But the cheerful faces of the youth and the uplifting songs they sang helped bring back the smiles on their face. They enjoyed it so much that they would have loved for the youth to return.
In the town centre, the public was blessed by the sound of the guitar playing and youth singing joyfully. Perhaps, the best part of the singing was seeing local onlookers dance and sway and mouth along to Christian songs they most likely heard from their childhood. Additionally, a large canvas was erected on an easel with a question: What Makes You Hopeful? Members of the public were encouraged to write and share, filling the canvas with truthful responses, thus engaging in further conversation.
Concurrently, other youths were scattered around the streets of the town holding "free hugs" signs, while others shared water bottles and care packages for rough sleepers. Strangers who seemed unwilling soon warmed up with a smile after a hug, and some tearfully expressed appreciation for the kind gestures.
In the afternoon, the youth groups returned to Cambridge SDA Church feeling accomplished and inspired. They all ate lunch outside the building, enjoying the sun, laughing, and fellowshipping. Following lunch, they entered the church and were able to share testimonies of their experiences in each group. The day was wrapped up by a message from Area 8 Youth Sponsor, Pastor Jerry, entitled "The Peter, James and John Principle". Through this sermon, our young people were reminded that nothing can limit them from being God's disciples today.
After a long and empowering day, the youth said their goodbyes and made their journeys back to their homes. Some have since left feedback on how much they have been impacted throughout the experience.
"My experience at global youth day was amazing! I enjoyed making people smile and hugs; it made me feel happy because I knew it made someone's day. My favourite part was when we played games in the morning because I learnt more about people around me, and it was fun." (Skye, group 4)
"I was part of a very enthusiastic group which was passionate about the welfare of the elderly; it was refreshing to see the residents listening and to hear them share with us how the hymns we sang brought back so many memories for them. I was touched, and I hope that this could be something that can be continued. When we got back to church, the testimonies were so inspiring. I thank God for this opportunity." (Roda, group 2)
"It was a nice experience because we got to see people smile, and there was an older lady who seemed to find meanings behind the songs we were singing; it was nice to see everyone coming together and having everyone bring their friends together." (Lisa, group 3)
"It was uplifting to see how everyone put a smile on the people's faces. Being able to give even the little and simple things have made me appreciate how often we forget the grace God has given in front of us. It was a day of many reminders and encouragements! Praise God!" (Dom, group 4)
Our hope for the youth is that through this experience, they are empowered to reach out to anyone, reflecting God's love wherever they go. May we all continue to plant good seeds and positively impact our local communities.