FAMILY AND YOUTH CONFERENCES, CEDARTOWN, GA USA
In the month of July (17–23), the General Conference headquarters in Cedartown, Georgia hosted two conferences simultaneously. At the headquarters, a family conference was conducted with approximately 80 participants; 20 minutes away, at Hightower Falls Camp site, approximately 60 young people attended the youth conference.
On the evening of July 17, 2016 Brother Joel Barnedo, the General Conference youth leader, gave the opening address to both the family and youth conferences at the headquarters building.
What is the mission of the youth? All those in attendance were told they had been blessed from the day they were born. God knows each person individually and the direction you are taking in your life. He knows where you live, but He will never force you to follow Him. He knocks and waits for you to open. The Lord needs the youth. The purpose of the conferences were not to preach at the attendees, but to motivate and inspire them to become helpers for the Lord. All have talents that the Lord can use, and all should be constantly seeking to improve themselves. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My spirit.” Joel 2:28–29
Sister Raquel Orce, the General Conference Family Department leader, then gave her opening address also to both the families and the youth. The theme of the family conference was, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15. “Day by day God labors for man’s sanctification, and man is to co-operate with Him, putting forth persevering efforts in the cultivation of right habits. He is to add grace to grace; and as he thus works on the plan of addition, God works for him on the plan of multiplication.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 532. The family is linear (addition), man+woman+children = family. But God is circular (multiplication), with God in the center, and with all our social groups on the outside, facing in, from our families, to our relatives, and all other social groups.
The family is the basic building block of society and it is under attack today. It is our responsibility to take up our individual work within our families and to do our duty to keep it intact, according to God’s will.
Following the opening address, Brother Idel Suarez gave a talk on “Creation Proofs” to both groups. In the USA 80% of the people state that they believe in God
and less than 50% believe in evolution. Many teachers are now in support of creation being taught in schools. Brother Suarez quoted some prominent scientists in history who gave strong evidence for the fact that Creation is more scientific than is evolution.
In the evening the two groups separated with the youth going to the camp ground to have their conference and workshops, which were geared for the youth and the challenges they face in society. The theme of the youth conference was, “ Moving Forward—Beyond this Moment.”
As I was not in attendance at the youth conference, I cannot give you a detailed summary of the content of the workshops. I can only state that the youth appeared very encouraged and enthusiastic. Some of the subjects that they studied were: “Overcoming Temptations,” “University Challenges,” “Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking,” “Living Committed,” “The First Commandment with Promise,” “How to be a Successful Leader,” “Spiritualism in the World,” “ Sex and Human Anatomy,” “Yoga and Hinduism,” “Fashion and Modesty,” “A Surrendered Heart,” “Study Techniques,” and more. The theme of the youth conference was, “Moving Forward, Beyond this Moment,” based on the Bible verse, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12
The family conference began with discussing the Family Circle and its Identity. Home is an institution made by God. It is the centre of society—the heart of the society and nation. God created the family in Eden and Satan has been attacking it very strongly; the true family is losing its original identity. In the end we are told that every divine institution is to be restored, and we are to do our part in this restoration process.
The atmosphere in the family is the key to keeping the family together. The father and mother are the ones who create the atmosphere. Our feelings and moods can impact every family member. If we display anger our children will imitate us. Like an air freshener, we are to be a spiritual fragrance in our homes. To keep this atmosphere pure, prayer is of vital importance, both private and public. Not every member of the family is strong, and as parents it is important to identify the strengths and weaknesses in our childrens’ characters and pray for ways we can help them achieve maximum results.
A successful family is also well ordered. Administration is a priority. Planning and preparation are of utmost importance. It is not correct to have a large family if you cannot afford to support your family. Discipline is also very necessary to guide the children in the right pathway. The most precious work that parents can do is to prepare their children for heaven, and this means taking time to spend with them as much as possible. While finances are important, they are not to be made the first priority. Being careful with finances, exercising thrift, and being faithful with tithes and offerings, will bring financial security. A well ordered family will bring happiness and satisfaction to all that dwell in the house. “And all this people shall also go to their place in peace.” Exodus 18:23
When the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to Philemon, he also greeted, “our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house.” Verse 2. And to the believers in Colosse, “Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” Colossians 4:15. Every home should be a holy place that has open doors to invite others in. It is important to make plans as a family how you can share your faith; doing missionary work together.
In order to keep the family unit together, each member needs to be converted. Morning and evening worship is essential as a family unit. The dress of each one is also important as we would want to look well for those we love. Affections must also be continued. “behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.” Genesis 26:8. Children learn love from their father; how their father treats his wife is how they learn love. They learn obedience and respect from their mother. Unfortunately, there are a lot of single parent homes in society today where one parent has to play the role of two. But with the help of the Lord, these homes may be a place of glory and honour for the Lord.
When the wife of Manoah was told she would be having a child (Samson), she was given instructions on how she should order the child, both in diet and conduct. Instructions were given both for herself while she was pregnant, and also for her son after he was born. These principles are very important to follow today also.
Families need to be proactive. We cannot control the actions of our spouse, but we can control ourselves. The wife looks for empathy and husbands look for respect. Be open and communicate. Think ahead and do your duty. For your children, plan their work together. If parents are so occupied with other things that they cannot keep their children usefully employed, Satan will. Idleness is a curse. Build good relationships within the family by open communication. Each home should be a heaven on earth, filled with peace and tranquility.
The mission of the home extends beyond its own members. “When religion is manifested in the home, its influence will be felt in the church and in the neighborhood.” –The Adventist Home, p. 38. “Ye are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14
During the week, several outings were enjoyed in nature. A combined trip (family and youth conference) to Little River Canyon gave us some peace and rest. We could rest surrounded by the scenes of God’s creation and come apart for a short while and spend time together in fellowship. Another day saw us at the Bible History Museum in La Grange, Georgia. At this museum we viewed many original artifacts from Biblical times that were donated by the country of Israel. A guided tour led us through a re-creation of a Jewish village, the cross of Calvary, a shepherd’s tent, an olive press, a wine press, a Jewish market and more. Some of the fascinating facts that were related were very informative. The afternoon saw us at the wildlife safari where we could feed and pet many animals from the safari bus, such as deer, zebras, ostriches, giraffes, and buffalo. God has given us the animal kingdom to enjoy and to take care of. It was beautiful to see the animals in harmony with themselves and with man.
On Sabbath, Brother Idel Suarez gave the divine service, wrapping up what had been studied throughout the week and challenging everyone to go forward. He spoke on the theme of the youth conference, “Moving forward – beyond this moment” was taken from the following Bible verse, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12
He began by relating the story of Derek Redmond in the 1988 Olympics when he ruptured his Achilles tendon while racing. Rather than quit he was determined to make it to the finish line. His father ran down from the stands to help him limp to the end. We also have a Father who will help us to run this race, to make it to the end. He will help us reach the finish line. Paul describes the Christian journey as a race—a race in which a person can only reach the end successfully if they keep all the rules of the race. “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” 2 Timothy 2:5. The rules in the Christian race are the Ten Commandments. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
All too soon the conference was drawing to a close. Our family will either have a positive or negative effect on our church. God wants us to restore our families. He uses different means in this restoration process and sometimes it includes trials. “Therefore also now, saith
the LORD, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.” Joel 2:15–16. The Lord is calling each family. It is a solemn and serious time in which we live. The angel of mercy is about to take flight. Let us each do our part to sound the trumpet and bring a message of healing and hope to families.
Note: all seminars from the Family Conference can be viewed at: http://livestream.com/accounts/2702118/events/5885005