February 4, 2024 | Melbourne, Australia | Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
“Never underestimate the importance of one of these flyers,” Chris Guo says as he gives hundreds of multicolored invitations to prophecy meetings to a group of young Adventist volunteers attending the 2024 Adventist Youth for Christ (AYC) Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Guo is coordinating the Sidewalk Evangelism West team, one of several January 27 outreach options for AYC members and supporters of all ages.
The plan is simple: go to a western suburb, knock on doors, and talk to people, inviting them to prophecy meetings a week later at a nearby community center.
“Remember to emphasize that meetings will take place in their neighborhood, close to their homes,” Guo tells the eager participants, which include children, adults, and older, gray-haired volunteers. “And that there will be free food.”
Guo, one of the pastors of the local Gateway Adventist Centre, knows what he’s talking about. In 2010, as a foreign college student, he found one of those invitations in his letterbox. “The phrase ‘free food’ stood out,” he shares with a smile. “So, I went and attended the meetings, enjoy a tasty vegetarian meal, made new friends, and learned about Bible prophecy.” Guo eventually took Bible studies, was baptized, and a few years later went to Seminary to prepare for ministry. “I am a pastor today because of that flyer in my letterbox, a free meal, and Bible prophecy,” he says.
On Saturday (Sabbath), January 27, in the afternoon, AYC attendees could choose between several outreach options. While one group went to the west to share the invitations, another went to the east. Another group went to an old age home to minister to the residents, while a fourth group visited the WeExplore Wellness Centre, an outreach hub that works with Gateway. Each group boarded a bus from the venue and spent part of the afternoon reaching out to others.
The Happiest Place to Be
The program began in the morning with a time of praise, Bible study, and testimonies. Adventist church members from local churches in Melbourne joined hundreds of AYC attendees for singing, prayer, and reflection.Jan-Harry Cabungcal, an award-winning former scientist, shared how God led him and his family from a comfortable life in Switzerland to become an Adventist World Radio missionary.
“We didn’t know well what to do when we felt the call to mission,” Cabungcal said. “But the call was clear. ‘Go!’ we heard.” The Cabungcals relocated to the Philippines and spent months connecting with and serving people. Cabungcal began offering Bible studies to neighbors while his wife, who is a physician, tended to their physical needs. He eventually connected with Adventist World Radio. Now he enjoys participating in various evangelistic initiatives around the world.
“Every time you are at a crossroad, ask God, ‘Which one, Lord?’ Because the happiest place to be is where God wants you,” Cabungcal said.The Joy of Obeying God
Then guest speaker Shane Anderson, pastor of the Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University, delved into the third of five key elements that, according to him, can help Jesus’ followers to develop a closer and more fruitful relationship with Him.
“If we want to have a deeper, meaningful relationship with Jesus, we have to … obey Him,” Anderson said. “Often, obedience is not perceived as something good.”
Anderson cautioned that there’s a kind of obedience that does not lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus. The Pharisees of the Jesus’ time are a case in point. But the obedience the Bible suggests is different. Drawing on the example of John Wesley’s life as described by Ellen G. White in The Great Controversy, Anderson explained that when we accept Jesus and love Him, obedience is not “the ground but the result of faith, not the root but the fruit of holiness.” He read, “ ‘The grace of God in Christ is the foundation of the Christian’s hope, and that grace will be manifested in obedience’ ” (p. 256).The Joy of Witnessing
In the afternoon, the Sidewalk Evangelism group went to the west community center, got their maps and directions, prayed, and left in pairs to walk the neighborhood. A couple of hours later, they returned, tired of the walk but with wide smiles and a sense of accomplishment. Gesturing animatedly, they shared their experiences.
“I know some of you had some doors closed on you, but it’s OK,” a volunteer leader comments. “We have all gone through that. But we have also met wonderful people, who seemed to be waiting for someone to come and talk to them,” she says.
Stories about meaningful exchanges with residents soon started piling up. Most people have been friendly and even welcomed when a young volunteer offered to pray for them. Others asked questions, eager to know more about the meetings and the beliefs of those who knocked on their doors.
The group of volunteers went back to the event venue singing songs of gratitude and praise. “All I have needed, Thy hand has provided; great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me,” they sang.