North New Zealand Conference new youth leader Pastor William Iererua gathered youth leaders from the larger Auckland area for a first visioning evening.  The youth café that was well advertised on social media drew 150 young people together at the Otahuhu SDA Church on Friday 31st of January 2020.

The purpose of this gathering was twofold. It provided a follow-up for those who made a commitment to Jesus at Big Camp 2020 and created a space for youth leaders to share the focus that God has put on their hearts for 2020.

Pr William Iererua shared a message about the “Speak Life” vision of our youth this year.  “The 2020 Vision of ‘Speak Life’ has two parts,” explains Pr Iererua. “Firstly, it’s a practical response to lifestyle depression for our young people or friends they know who might be in a dark place. Secondly, it is about creating more spaces and opportunities for young people to be vocally unashamed about Jesus.”

“Recognising that mental health awareness resources share the importance of actively encouraging people to talk to someone” continues Pr. Iererua, “Speak Life’ is, therefore, a call to have real and open conversations as a community of faith.”

Following on is the plan to create more spaces for youth to be vocal about Jesus.  Pr Iererua aims to have a practical element of encouraging young preachers and more witnessing training, as well as supporting new initiatives that will enable young adults to speak up about what they believe in. “What can we do in moments of darkness or silence? We SPEAK LIFE!” said an enthusiastic Pr Iererua.

The 20 youth groups that were represented connected in Praise and Worship and a variety of activities that enabled the youth to facilitate vulnerable and prayerful truths and connections.  One of the local organisers, Hola Samani Hau, expressed her gratitude for the entire team effort in making the evening a success. “The evening created relational safe spaces for youth and young adults to be real in having crucial conversations for the Glory of the Kingdom,” shared Ms Hau. These sentiments were echoed by youth leader Renee Simanu who was visiting from Wellington. “It was a perfect way for youth to come together to share and connect,” Ms Simanu shared. “It also proved to be a great event for youth who had been out of church, to come back and reconnect in a safe and inviting environment.” Recognising that the café was not only beneficial for the young attendees, Ms Simanu continued; “it allowed the pastors to see where the youth are at today and the areas where they are struggling, be it physically, mentally or spiritually.”

A profound activity that summarized the evening was called “get up and move.” This was a platform for youth to get out of their circle of chairs and move to another group if they answered a question correctly.  These were deep questions reflecting on what youth are grappling with. Once in groups, youth and leaders discussed what victory with Jesus looks like. Popsicle sticks with words written on, that Jesus wants to heal us, were broken, symbolizing barriers that are stopping us from speaking life today.

The challenge was given for more youth cafes and/or small groups to be continued in local churches, and this initiative promises Pr Iererua, is planned to be rolled out across the regions throughout this year.

For updates on youth activities throughout the conference, check @AdventistYouthNNZ Facebook Page and subscribe to Pulse newsletter.

Pr.Kirsten Øster Lundqvist, NNZC communications and Media Officer with Pr. William Iererua NNZC youth leader.