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ASI Members in Action

With Such an Army…

Shirley Burton

03/26/2008

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They were enrolled at some of the nation’s most well known schools: Harvard, Brandeis, Wellesley, Brown, Princeton, Rutgers, Boston University, Eastern Michigan University, and the University of Michigan. All were Seventh-day Adventist youth trying to maintain their religious roots on secular campuses.
There was another common characteristic. All wanted something more from their religion than “anecdotes and entertainment.” And then they heard about CAMPUS at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
A ministry supported by the Michigan Conference, CAMPUS was established as the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students. The message of CAMPUS and its mentor Samuel Pipim reached these students.
Dr. Pipim’s challenge for spiritual and academic excellence fell on willing ears and hearts. Students liked his can-do, tell-it-like-it-is, traditional Adventism. Committed to Dr. Pipim’s “higher than the highest” philosophy of excellence, these scattered students began dreaming what they called the great experiment in 1999.
“The idea of this experiment was the result of a growing desire among students on North American university and college campuses—both secular and Adventist—for a different kind of Adventist youth movement,” explains Israel Ramos, now a pastor in the Michigan Conference. “We wanted to see if we could mobilize existing youth and young adult ministries that are fully committed to the distinctive message and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church towards the proclamation of the three angels’ messages,” he says.
They networked among themselves, seeking “serious Bible study, intense prayer, an uncompromising lifestyle, and boldness in sharing Christ with others,” Israel points out.
Naming their great experiment General Youth Conference (the name has since been changed to Generation of Youth for Christ), the core CAMPUS group planned an annual five-day meeting for third week in December, vacation time on most campuses. GYC launched in 2002.
“We hoped for 200,” Ramos says. But when 400 preregistered, organizers were forced to close registration. Another 100 came anyway, packing into Pine Springs Ranch in the Southeastern California Conference.
Meetings began at 6 a.m. and ended at 9 pm. There were eight hours of workshops on Thursday and Friday as well as six hours of plenary sessions. Sabbath and Sunday were packed with inspirational messages, deep Bible study, and singing from the Adventist Hymnal. “Intense as it was, the young people loved it,” Ramos reports.
Response was so overwhelming, the Michigan “missionaries” under the direction of their first president, Andrea Oliver, quickly planned another conference for 2003. 700 were expected at Ann Arbor, Michigan, but more than 1,000 showed up. Nearly 1,600 converged on Sacramento, California in 2004. Outreach Day was also inaugurated in 2004, with GYC participants knocking on 5,000 doors in the California capital.
Such phenomenal growth in GYC attendance meant campsites were no longer suitable venues. GYC has now moved to hotels and convention centers.inside_asi_spring_2008_page_15_image_0001
Once 3ABN began live coverage of GYC in 2004, the organization began to attract youth around the world. In fact, young people from 15 countries have signed on to GYC’s end-time witnessing philosophy. GYC was no longer an experiment; it became a global movement.
With Such an Army. More than 2,500 registered for GYC 2005 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with Sabbath attendance nearly double that. GYC 2006 in Baltimore, Maryland, attracted 2600 registrants, and an estimated 4,000 attended on Sabbath.

Long-term evangelism was introduced in 2006, as four GYC Bible workers stayed for seven weeks after the convention, studying with contacts made on Outreach Day. They also trained 200 lay Bible workers for the GYC evangelistic series which followed in the spring and resulted 40 baptisms.
In 2007 GYC convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota—during one of the coldest Decembers on record!
Newly-elected president Justin McNeilus wondered if anyone would even show up for Outreach Day—especially those from Florida and California who weren’t really dressed for the weather. But show up they did. “They were so pumped up by the end of the week,” Justin explains, “that 1,148 youth filled 25 school buses to be taken to their parts of the city—and 180 were denied seats.” Another 230 engaged in street ministry on that sub-zero, snowy day.
On Outreach Day over the past two years, GYC attendees have prayed with more than 1,000 people, distributed 10,000 pieces of literature, and left 20,000 invitations to Bible study – of which more than 2,000 have been accepted. Nearly 500 accepted invitations to Bible study have arrived by mail since the Minneapolis GYC this past December, and more are added weekly.
What makes GYC so attractive to young people, you may ask? Israel Ramos, a former president of GYC, has an answer. “It’s not entertainment, downgrading of the Church’s distinctive doctrines and practices, the adoption of contemporary worship styles, nor an outlook of ease and fun,” he asserts. “Young people are attracted to GYC because it seeks to offer them what they really want, yet never knew existed; a Bible based revival, demonstrated by true Adventist teaching, godly living, missionary commitment, and excellence in all aspects of life.”
Testimonies enhance that philosophy. Justin Kim says, “I graduated from Brandeis with a double major in Biology and Sociology – even spent a year at Harvard on stem cell research. But it just didn’t appeal to me anymore. I didn’t want to wait until I’m old and dissatisfied with my life to realize it’s too late.” He now finds being a youth pastor in Battle Creek, Michigan, much more fulfilling.
inside_asi_spring_2008_page_15_image_0002Amy, a law student, realized, “I did not have to leave evangelism to my church pastor or my Bible teacher. I’m pleased that GYC is producing a generation of young people who are daring to influence rather than be influenced.”
Stephanie and 30 others committed or re-committed their lives to God through baptism in a hotel swimming pool.
Enthusiastic GYC attendees put their weekend of inspiration into practice during Outreach Day, with the faith that God will do something great. In Baltimore, youth were an answer to prayer. Answering the door was a teary-eyed woman who had just had a miscarriage. “I was just crying out to God that if you’re real, send somebody to me to let me know you are there,” she explained. Eagerly requesting Bible studies, she asked the youth at her door, “Please come in and start right now.”
In Minneapolis, a GYC outreach team met one lady who had begun trying to keep the Sabbath after watching 3ABN. Learning of the convention, she attended GYC on Sabbath—“just to see what you all are about.” She is now taking Bible studies.
Describing this army of youth, a visitor observed, “None of them tries to bring attention to themselves—in dress, hairstyle, or in any other way. Their happy, bright countenances and their ready smiles tell of the love for Jesus that shines forth from their hearts.”
Perhaps Ellen White sums up GYC best with these words: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world!” (Ed 271)