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Tampa Convention Recap

Changed for Eternity

Steve Hamstra


inside_asi_fall_08_page_16_image_0001 From around the world they came, leaving friends, family, summer jobs—and money—for long days in stifling heat and humidity. But you won’t find one who regrets it. Because this wasn’t about friends or money, it was about treasures in heaven.

This was a record-breaking year for ASI Youth for Jesus (YFJ). A total of 52 youth participated, along with 19 Bible workers. The young people hailed from 11 different countries and 14 states.

The program began in March when the first Bible workers arrived. Their work in the Tampa community would pave the way for the youthled evangelistic efforts a few months later.

Five local Seventh-day Adventist churches were host sites for YFJ, including a Spanish-speaking church and a Jewish inside_asi_fall_08_page_16_image_0002Adventist congregation. The youth were divided among these sites during the evangelistic campaign.

In July the youth arrived. They spent their days praying together, training for outreach, and going doorto-door offering Bible studies and inviting people to the evangelistic meetings.

And the weather was less than ideal. “We drank a lot of water,” laughed Leasa Hodges, ASI vice president for youth evangelism, at the final YFJ meeting in Tampa. “It’s hot here!”

Evangelistic meetings were conducted in the evenings. And between the five sites more than 400 non-Adventists attended.

God moved in a powerful way during YFJ, and 94 people requested baptism over the course of the program. There were also 103 decisions to keep the Sabbath.

YFJ culminated with the final evening meeting on Tuesday, August 5 at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. That night 22 people were baptized—the remaining 72 will be baptized upon completion of pre-baptismal courses. A large number also received certificates honoring their completion of Bible study programs.

inside_asi_fall_08_page_17_image_0001It was a spirit-filled evening, and Mark Finley, who delivered the message that night, said in amazement as he began his sermon, “The future of God’s work is in good hands.”

But indeed that evening was truly about the wonderful people who publicly took their stand through baptism. Included were individuals young and old, two mothers and daughters, a husband and wife. They smiled, cried, laughed—relishing their new life in Christ. And the youth who had brought them to Jesus gathered around the baptismal pool, witnessing the beautiful scene, the wonderful result of their work.

Among those baptized that evening were some from outside the Tampa vicinity. Because YFJ doesn’t just change the community but the participants as well. Several YFJ youth dedicated their lives to Jesus this summer and were baptized along with those they labored to reach.

Answered prayer

Stories and testimonies abound from YFJ. The theme for this year was prayer, and the youth strove to be in constant communication with Jesus. Hence many of the participants have amazing experiences of answered prayers to share.

“It was Thursday morning. I woke up feeling very bad,” says Michal Sevcik, a YFJ participant from the Czech Republic. “I had a headache but thought that eating breakfast would help. But everything I ate came back up after about 10 minutes. I felt terrible—I had a fever, headache; my body was shaking. So I went to my bed, laid down and prayed, ‘Dear Lord, if you want me to serve you today, then heal me. If you want me to rest today, I will accept it. Your will be done.’”

Then Michal stepped out in faith. “Continuing in prayer, I said, ‘Illness, I command you; leave my body in name of Jesus Christ!’ I laid there a moment longer, and then I just stood up and went to the morning worship. I didn’t even remember how terrible I’d felt just few minutes before.”inside_asi_fall_08_page_17_image_0002

Not only was Michal’s prayer answered, but that day turned out to be the very best he experienced. As his group did door-to-door outreach, Michal took upon himself an extra street. On that street he met a lady who requested Bible studies, he had literature accepted at multiple houses, then went back and conducted the first Bible study with that very same lady. And she agreed to come to that evening’s meeting.

Devin Grady, a 16-year-old from Keene, Texas, was a first-time YFJ participant. “I was hearing testimonies from the other sites,” he says. “People were deciding to get baptized and were choosing the Sabbath, and I just didn’t have a testimony yet. I kept praying, ‘God, give me a sign that I’m supposed to be here. I want a testimony to share.’”

For two weeks nothing happened. “I started to get discouraged and thought that maybe God had a different plan for me,” says Devin. Toward the end of YFJ, he began to feel he would never have a testimony to share.

“One of the things I did was play piano during the calls,” Devin continues. “One night I began the call just playing random chords. After a few minutes I was running out of stuff to play. Then my hands started playing ‘Seek Ye First’. I had never practiced or played it before; it was like angels guided my hands. And the speaker’s final words during the call were ‘Seek Ye First’. Praise God!”

Arielle Pickett, 16, from Chicago, Illinois, also experienced an answer to prayer. “When I gave my first Bible study I wasn’t in a good mood,” she says. “So I prayed the whole time I was in that house. Long story short, I didn’t think it went very well. I barely said anything—my Bible worker did most of the talking. And the two people we were studying with looked confused.”

But as Arielle gave more Bible studies, she felt more comfortable and saw how God could use young people. An elderly woman Arielle and other YFJ youth visited drove that point home, saying over and over again how happy she was that young people had taken an interest in her. As for what Arielle learned: “Don’t worry about being afraid or nervous, because God is there all the way.”

“And,” Arielle adds with a grin, “the two people I gave that first Bible study to—they’re getting baptized.”

God worked in wonderful ways through this year’s YFJ. And He not only touched the people of Tampa, but 52 amazing youth as well. “I have definitely developed a deeper relationship with Jesus through the outreach, helping in the evangelistic meetings, praying, studying and worshiping,” says 17-year-old Lincoln Balfour. “I know God is working on in my heart, and He is changing me for eternity.”