Hugo Guillén – Denver, Colorado … The Hispanic youth ministry organization, Federation of Adventist Youth (FEJA), held the Hispanic Youth Congress at Mile High Academy, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, October 13-15. Over 250 attendees gathered to worship, listen to the Word, and look to the future to better fulfill the work set out before us.

At a conference level, Hispanic churches are assisted by FEJA. This organization kept youth activities ongoing through the pandemic and, immediately after, began planning activities to strengthen the spiritual life of our youth.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a mold that shaped every aspect of our lives, including how we go about our church activities. And even though it seems like mask requirements and social distancing took place a long time ago, we continue to feel the effects in everything the pandemic altered.

Since we were able to leave the pandemic practices behind, we have realized that what we had already built had, at least in part, been torn down. Church attendance was a fraction of what it was prior to COVID-19, leadership had also taken a hit with some leaders losing their spiritual vitality and not returning to lead their congregations, and our youth were no exception. Besides losing young people, we also lost our “groove” with our church youth activities.

But as the apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, we were “struck down, but not destroyed.” So, it has been with the Hispanic youth of our conference. Slowly, but surely, after restrictions were lifted, our young people in our Hispanic congregations have begun working to rebuild what past challenges seek to destroy.

Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC) Hispanic churches last year immediately began working on reestablishing their Adventist Youth programs on Sabbath afternoons at a local level. The reboot of youth ministries was underway.

This FEJA youth rally titled “Glow In The Dark” was put together with the intention to be a catalyst for strong spiritual lives of our Hispanic youth. Our guest speaker for the weekend was Benjamin Carballo, pastor and director of Hispanic ministries at the Nevada-Utah Conference, who has been involved in youth ministries for more than15 years in his pastoral experience.

His sermons, based on Biblical stories, struck the spiritual chords of many of the young people that were present. Jesus, a young person from one of the Denver area Adventist churches, was quick to respond to the appeal made by Pastor Carballo on Friday evening. He stated that he enjoyed the experience as he took in the messages and interacted with other Adventist youth.

Some of the FEJA leaders shared their thoughts on the event. Abisai Aguilar, Denver Metro Area FEJA president commented, “The weekend turned out very successful! More so than I personally imagined. We had attendance from almost every Hispanic church in Colorado ranging all the way from Montrose to Colorado Springs. I was very happy to be able to see so many people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I enjoyed the activities during the two days a lot more than I expected.”

Aguilar continued, “FEJA has seen some very good years in the past, but, due to Covid, we have struggled a bit to regain the traction we once had with the youth in years past. But this past FEJA Youth Congress showed me that there is still a lot to look forward to!”

Another staff member of Denver Metro Area FEJA, Daniel Gonzalez, shared, “Being surrounded by so many young people this weekend was amazing. We learned that we NEED to be light in the darkness; it doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from. All of these youth came from different cities, different families, different situations in life, and my wish is that they all went home shining a little bit brighter with the light of Jesus to share with the rest.”

There was a good number of attendees that came to represent the regional mountain areas, cities like Montrose, Olathe, and New Castle. These young adults and youth leaders seek to strengthen their participation at the local and conference level. This is testimony that there is strong youth leadership in our Hispanic churches in the mountain areas. It’s obvious that these cities don’t have the same resources that may be available in the metro area, but that has not hindered their courage and ability to uphold and contribute to the well-being of their churches.

An important decision that was made during this weekend was to bring together the two FEJA organizations that existed during the pandemic period. One FEJA organization oversaw the Denver metro area while the other concentrated its efforts in the Hispanic churches located in the mountain region.

During a mid-afternoon meeting with a healthy representation from a wide range of Hispanic churches, presided by RMC Hispanic Ministries coordinator, Pastor Ruben Rivera, a unanimous vote was taken to approve the fusion of the two FEJA organizations and strengthen future youth activities and events. That same afternoon, a secondary meeting was held to elect the new leaders for FEJA for the next two years.

Pastor Carballo was able to finish his series of messages with a calling to our young people to have the courage to “GLOW” for Jesus in this dark world. Another young person in attendance, who came up during the altar call, said that the sermons by the keynote speaker motivated him to focus on his calling and be loyal to Jesus amid all the worldly distractions. If this sentiment is shared among our young people, a revival will take place in our churches in RMC.

So even though the enemy of souls continues to look for distinct ways to tear down the church of Christ, we are certain that the church will be built up as we continue to set our eyes upon Jesus. Let the young people never forget that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

—Hugo Guillén is the pastoral counselor for the Denver Metro Area FEJA. Photos supplied.