The 2023 conference in Riga brought stories of divine appointments and the power of prayer.
August 12, the last full day of the 2023 GYC (Generation. Youth. Christ.) Europe Convention in Riga, Latvia, included special music and congregational singing, small-group Bible study, a spiritual message with a call to action, and ample opportunities to get involved in outreach. Hundreds of young people left the ATTA Centre after lunch to join groups who were bussed downtown for various outreach initiatives.
The day began early with prayer groups and singing. Justin Kim, Adventist Review executive editor, coordinated a panel and small groups during the review of the Sabbath School lesson for August 12. The panel included GYC members from Austria, Belgium, and other countries.
A local church choir sang in Latvian. The choir’s conductor is Mārtinš Subatovičs, pastor of the Central Riga Seventh-day Adventist Church. Subatovičs, who was the morning devotional speaker during the conference, is also trained as a choir conductor and music therapist.
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT TO SERVE
Pavel Goia was the speaker for the Sabbath worship program, which included the visit of members of the Riga-area Adventist churches. Goia, an associate director of the General Conference Ministerial Association and editor of Ministry magazine, called GYC members to trust in the power of fervent prayer, be truly committed to God, and then go out to serve Him by sharing Christ with others.
“God called you to service,” Goia told the crowd gathered at the ATTA Centre. “He called you to be a light to this world,” but how can one do it? “By being filled with the Spirit—being baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The presence of the Spirit is key, Goia emphasized. “The Spirit leads you to the whole process of conversion or justification, then growth or sanctification, and finally salvation or glorification,” he said. “It leads you from baptism to heaven; without the Spirit, you can never go through that process.”
Goia explained the process by sharing some common examples. “It’s not enough to jump into the water [to swim]; you must get out of the water; it’s not enough to go to school; you must graduate; it’s not enough to get married; you need to stay married and grow in love.” He then drove his spiritual point home: “It’s not enough to leave Egypt; you need to cross the wilderness and get to the Promised Land; it’s not enough to be baptized; you need to grow from being a baby to the fullness of the stature of Christ.”
Outreach activities on Sabbath afternoon included meeting people in Riga and distributing books in the streets and parks of the city. During the evening program, several GYC members shared some of what they called providential contacts with passersby. They included a man who was bored at home watching TV and decided to visit the market. As he was walking through the market, he heard singing and went to check out what was going on. GYC members discussed biblical topics with him and invited him to a local church.
“I think God wanted me to be here,” the man told them at the end as he promised to visit a local Adventist church in Riga.
For GYC members, it was a direct answer to their prayers. “To me, it was heart-melting,” said one of the young women who talked to him with the help of a Latvian interpreter. “It just showed that all the prayers we said before we went out, God faithfully answered. This was directly from this man’s mouth. And for me, it was wonderful to hear and really, really encouraging.”
“Today is a happy day,” a young, Latvian GYC member shared. “It’s always a happy day when one soul comes closer to God.” He shared how, as he was walking, one of the books he was carrying fell to the ground, but he didn’t notice it. Four women who saw the book ran after him.
“This is your book,” they told him.
“Oh, thank you!” the young man told them. “But it’s your book now.”
That triggered a conversation that ended up with the four women taking a copy of both Steps to Christ and The Great Controversy. “And it all started because one of my books fell by accident—well, it was no accident,” the young man said.
A third young person shared another providential encounter. “I was on a prayer walk, asking God to give us divine appointments,” she said. As she was walking, she met a man on a scooter and felt impressed to talk to him. She greeted him and gave him a flier.
“Oh, this is religious,” the young man told her. “I used to go to church.” When she asked him which church he used to attend, he answered, “Seventh-day Adventist.”
His acknowledgment triggered a conversation in which he shared a story of family heartbreak and resentment. It included a mother who forced him to go to church but then left, remarried, and is now living on another continent. Holding back tears, they discussed the importance of forgiveness.
“Is it possible to forgive?” the young man asked the GYC member.
“It is,” she answered, “because God has forgiven us.”
After reading from the Bible, the young woman said she perceived the Holy Spirit working in the former Adventist’s heart.
“He got so emotional,” the young woman shared. “We prayed together, and after that, he told me, ‘This is not a coincidence.’ ‘No,’ I told him. ‘It’s a divine appointment.’”
Seeing God working through them was encouraging to GYC members who participated in the afternoon outreach.
“I just want to thank God,” a young participant said. “[He helped us] reach out to those who are looking for Him.”