“IMPACT Atlanta changed my life! I will never be the same after this experience,” gushed seminarian Lavina Seawright, 28, from Andrews University. “It gave us tools to help us in our efforts to make an impact in our community.”
Converging Seventh-day Adventist young adults from around the world, IMPACT Atlanta [iATL] was held June 23 through July 3, 2010 with aims of sharpening leadership and compassion skills through training and community service to the neighborhoods of greater Atlanta.
“iATL took some of the tenets of discipleship and outreach that I knew, but gave me a completely new and revitalized perspective,” revealed pre-med student, Rolanda Kingston, 23, from New York City, USA. “It was awesome seeing young adults like myself that were passionate about kingdom work!”
The Salvation Army homeless shelter, Hosea Feed The Homeless, and working with the Sweeney family to clean bathrooms/kitchens and tend the community garden of a urban apartment complex were among the array of service opportunities.
“Through iATL I’ve found that the most powerful way to share Him is through personal and relational evangelism,” noted theology major, Shane Harper from Auckland, New Zealand. “That is, actually mixing with people and connecting with them. Through our actions/service we may be the only Jesus they get to meet. It was a humbling honour to simply plant the seed and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.”
Kingston continued, “The best part of that experience was that I learned that true ministry is all about letting people share in your life story and not serving them from a safe distance as we often see.”
iATL delegates partnered with Atlanta churches and local agencies to serve the heart of the city, but also joined with organizations like the Adventist Development and Relief Agency [ADRA] to serve worldwide humanitarian causes.
“The most inspiring aspect to me was the blessing that we got from serving others,” noted hydrogeologist Geoffrey Marshall, 30, from Kingston, Jamaica. “The significance of choosing to help someone and the visible impact it makes was really powerful.”
“Community service was one of the best iATL experiences I had,” shared musician Camille Rivera Meced, 31, from San Juan, Puerto Rico. “Being able to serve a young mother who was ill gave me a sense of worth.”
Held concurrent with the 59th General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, iATL’s hallmark is certainly community service. However young adult leadership and discipleship experience were also emphasized through morning training sessions where delegates actively engaged the great commission and great commandment in intensive workshops and experiential learning. Pastor Laurence Burn of Adventist Frontier Missions, and Pastor Yami Bazan of LaSierra University, led delegates in training for the Discipleship Adventure.
The most impacting moment for me was the Discipleship Adventure studies that we did,” offered nursing student, Jeremy Barnes, 26, from Alvarado, Texas, USA. “It taught me to open up Scripture in a way that was new and exciting.”
“The discipleship training increased my knowledge of many Bible parables that demonstrated the extent to which we should respond to the call to serve,” offered Deslynne Roberts of Bromley, Kent, United Kingdom. “I believe that this, amongst other aspects of iATL, was profoundly inspiring.”
“The Discipleship Adventure increased ten fold my understanding of the relationship God seeks to have with me,” observed Attorney Meki Bracken, 28, from Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA. “I am personally liberated from my misconceptions and well equipped to make disciples.”
“iATL was a watershed moment in all aspects of my life,” exclaimed Marshall. “It provided refreshment for my soul, exposure to new ideas and different ways of ministry, it instilled in me the true import of Jesus’ commission to go and make disciples–not Adventists or [cultural] Christians–and it encouraged me to be fully committed to Christ’s work.”
“iATL was a life changing experience!” testified industrial psychology student Jermaine Johnson, 25, from Johannesburg, South Africa. “I appreciated receiving training, but further being able to practically apply what we learned.”
Dr. Tim Elmore, director of Growing Leaders, based in Atlanta, mentored the iATL delegates in habits and attitudes of leadership. The Habitudes morning sessions used powerful images and stories to engrain valuable skills and perspectives in this new generation of leaders.
“The leadership sessions with Tim Elmore were so enlightening,” raved Seawright. “I got practical information on how to [as a leader] deal with people and how to care for myself. . . I feel 100% more confident than when I came.”
Pastor Nathan Teye Odonkor from Accra, Ghana lauded, “iATL was overwhelming, it was practical, not just theoretical; What an experience with the Lord!”
“I was challenged and encouraged in the discipleship and leadership training that was presented,” offered Janelle Cuthbert, 30, of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. “My soul was refreshed.”
Following mornings of training and afternoons of community service, iATL delegates, as well as many other young adults in attendance at the GC Session, would gather at encounters café, a casual, relaxed setting to refresh and relate with God and each other. Worship, socializing, music, refreshments, and intentional exploration of Ephesians 2 were among the meaningful features each night.
David Helbley, a 29-year-old missionary from Almaty, Kazakhstan, shared, “The most inspiring aspect of iATL for me was being challenged to search the Scriptures again for myself–listening, looking, and expecting God to speak through the experience.”
“I had an extremely powerful experience,” shared Barnes. “I feel like I truly met God for the first time.”
At encounters café, Pastor Eddie Hypolite from South England Conference, UK; Chaplain Sam Leonor from La Sierra University; Pastor Chris Bullock from fusion church atlanta; and Dr. Matthew Gamble from the Centre for Postmodern and Secular Studies offered Scriptural teaching, stories, and smiles to café patrons. Notable artists Nick Zork, Chris Picco, Elia King, Maria Long, Karla Dechavez, Fidi Mwero, Destiny Drama Company, amanecer—as well as delegates themselves—added their talents to each evening’s blend of worship and inspiration.
“I experienced evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in my life and in the lives of the presenters and other participants,” commented Bracken. “There was no fluff; every activity was authentic.”
“To see young people working for the same cause, uniting cultures, languages, ideas to give back the fame to His name. . . Sharing with Atlanta that Jesus, our Lord, loves all. . . iATL was an incredibly spiritual experience,” endorsed architecture student Jorge Villarreal, 28, from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
At first glance at the title IMPACT Atlanta, the presumption might be that these young adults would focus on changing/helping the city. However as organizers set forth early in the experience, the objective of iATL was primarily to transform and change. . . to “impact” these young adults, empowering them to make an difference in their home communities and local churches. As these young adults shared in the training, serving, and worship experiences, it became more and more vivid that the relational bonds they were making with GOD and each other were powerfully and influentially attaining that goal.
“I was expecting to be bored, but iATL was the exact opposite of what I thought,” confessed mathematics major Trisha Lsheia Carter, 20, from Landover, Maryland, USA. “It afforded connections with people that’s hard to find anywhere. iATL was a life changing revelation.”
“We were able to share our testimonies of when God became real to us and encourage each other to continue to serve Him in our individual churches and lives,” shared Cuthbert, reflecting on moving conversations she had with iATL peers. “I know this so encouraged me—to hear how God is working in different people’s lives.”
“Oh the experience has only just begun,” purposed Harper, “I plan to duplicate and perpetuate it—firstly in my home church, then Conference, and any other opportunities that arise from there. My heart and passion for young people has increased ten-fold. I can’t (and have no right to) hold on to any of the learning for myself. I have every intention to pass it on!”