Young people from Adventist churches across Christchurch have rallied to support their community in belated Global Youth Day activities.
The original March 16 date fell a day after the Christchurch mosque shootings, prompting the South New Zealand Conference (SNZC) to postpone their scheduled activities. On March 30, nearly 80 young people met at the Bishopdale Church to divide into teams and offer encouragement to their community. Charged with the task of “being the sermon”, the young people took food parcels, balloons, flowers, cards and 1001 iced cupcakes to hospitals, fire and police stations, ambulance departments, playgrounds, and residents of Pascoe Park. After the deliveries were made, 60 young people met back at the church to share their experiences and testimonies.
“Firefighters couldn’t believe the gesture and ambulance officers were overwhelmed,” said SNZC youth director Sarah-Jane Riley. “Police took flowers home to their wives, the Muslim community took cupcakes for their children, and hospital staff shared how they had never had this happen before in all the time they had worked at the hospital. A young boy in the spinal unit who had been down from Wellington for six months with limited support was sung to and prayed over, and tears of gratefulness were shared.”
The positive impact of the young people made such a difference to the Muslim Family Support Centre at Hagley Park that they invited a group to come back the following day to serve at a children’s fun day.
“We painted faces, gave out bubbles, made balloon animals and shared lollipops,” said Ms Riley. “We were there for four hours but it only felt like five minutes. Some children could barely smile at the beginning but that soon changed as our young people knelt beside them and gently won them over. One two-year-old girl in particular finally gave in and we saw her throw her head back in laughter at one young person trying to pronounce her name. Later, one of our young people heard that she had painted the faces of two sisters who lost their dad in the attack. The lady supporting them said that she had been trying to find ways to make them smile for the last two weeks, but today, they had smiled.”
Although the official Global Youth Day activities lasted only 24 hours, Adventist church members in Christchurch are continuing to find ways to serve their community and truly “be the sermon.”
“[GYD] has been a great way to give back to our community in such a positive way,” said Ms Riley. “I am so humbled and blessed by the leading of the Holy Spirit and Gods call to simply show aroha [love].“