Around 10,000 young people across the East Venezuela Union Mission participated in the “Everlasting Friendships” tour, which sought to establish connections and move them to be witnesses and share Jesus across the region, on February 21–26, 2023. Young Adventist members and their leaders walked across several cities, distributing Christian literature and reaching out to local businesses and pedestrians.
Pastor Andres Peralta, Youth Ministries associate director and leader of Pathfinders for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, visited the country and took part in the six-day initiative. Despite a shoulder surgery he had endured a few days before, Pastor Peralta said he was happy to be part of the tour across several cities in eastern Venezuela. “I love this country and this youth,” he said, noting that more than any other region, it was the third time he visited.
Peralta commended Adventist youth in Venezuela, noting their high level of resilience. “Despite the difficulties they must grapple with, they always get up. I am thankful for the strength of these young people, who, no matter the setbacks they must face, keep trudging forward.”
Jesús David Chacón, Youth Ministries director for the East Venezuela Union Mission, emphasized that the tour “was not born in a human heart but in the mind of God.” He added, “It is known that the best way of keeping our young people in the church is through friendships, and it [is] the intention of this initiative to foster everlasting friendships.”
Encouraging Discouraged Youth
Chacón also pleaded with youth leaders across the region to make a special effort to include discouraged young people in various areas of youth ministry, such as Pathfinders and Adventurers clubs, march bands, and sports and recreation, among others.
The six-day journey, which welcomed more than 300 new church members, started at the Chuspita Camp near Caracas and continued in Aragüita, Anzoátegui.
“It was an initiative that allowed us to share, to unite among ourselves, and keep moving forward,” said Lizeth Cáceres, one of the participants.
Rosayni Murguey, another one of the participants, concurred. “It was wonderful to meet the world director of Pathfinders and spend time with so many friends,” she said.
In Maturín, Monagas, young people shared literature, books, and magazines with a message of hope. They also advertised the local Adventist radio station. The activity ended in a club where they organized a Bible exhibition.
Aldemaro Malavé, a local church member who participated in the initiative, said their walk showed a united yet multifaceted church.
Getting Members Involved
Pastor Misael Hernández, from the Patria Adventist Church district, agreed. “This event has gotten every member involved. It is something that has united us in our faith and filled us with the joy of preaching God’s Word and [feeling] His presence in our lives,” he said.
The event in Maturín was attended by Francis Contreras, a representative of the Legislative Council and president of the Religion and Worship Committee, and Iraida Arismendi, representing the governor of Monagas and the mayor of Maturín.
Pastor Peralta prayed for the two government officers and their families, asking God to guide and protect them and give them wisdom as they serve for the good of every citizen.
“I congratulate the Seventh-day Adventist Church for this wonderful event,” Contreras said. “It is refreshing to see young people devoted to God’s work. I encourage you to keep up with this great service, even more now that the coming of the Lord is near.”
Arismendi agreed. “Adventists provide a magnificent service through the local school, which is the benchmark in our state due to the high quality of the education it offers; also, through the local clinic, which is affordable for every member in our community. We admire the wonderful work you do,” she said.
In Bolívar, the “Everlasting Friendships” tour gathered more than 4,000 people. The ceremony on Sabbath, February 25, included 1,176 Pathfinder and Adventurer investitures and 102 baptisms. During the special service, a mass choir of students from the local Maranatha Adventist School sang praises to God. The tour ended at the El Paraíso Seventh-day Adventist Church in the national capital, Caracas. Peralta attended both events.
“Pastor Peralta is a servant of God who loves young people,” said Jorge Atalido, president of the East Venezuela Union Mission, during the closing ceremony. “We feel happy to have him in our midst.”
A Rewarding Experience
Peralta, who said he felt loved during the days he spent in Venezuela, thanked church members and leaders for the experience. “The fellowship of young people has been very rewarding for me,” Peralta said. “I can tell they are passionate about ministry.” He closed by sharing his personal experience. “When the Adventist Church got in touch with my family, I would try to avoid it. But after a lot of struggles, I gave my heart to Jesus, and I don’t regret it.”
Peralta said his experience can also be a contemporary reality for many young people. “Jesus fought for my family and me,” he told them. “This same Jesus wants to fight for you and defend you.”
The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division website.