There is no doubt GA 2017 will be one for the history books. Unlike any other General Assembly, this conference faced not just one major challenge, but a number of challenges that could have easily brought any event to a standstill and even a cancellation. A hotel fire at our original venue prior to the event, a last minute change in worship bands, the loss of our communications director to a heart attack, rejection of visas for more than 30 attendees, and a history-making hurricane in our host city just 2 days prior to the arrival of our event team were just a few of the challenges surrounding the international gathering of Youth for Christ staff in Miami this year.

This global staff conference, which takes place every three years, was held in Miami from 14-19 September. Every time the Youth for Christ family gathers it is a very special occasion. Being with like-minded brothers and sisters from around the world who share a common commitment to our vision of reaching every young person and giving them the opportunity to be a follower of Jesus is a tremendously uplifting experience. There is something extra special about General Assembly. While it is essential that ministry leaders throughout Youth for Christ gather together to work through the most important matters of our ministry, they also gain insightful training, time together in the Word, opportunities to share and exchange ministry ideas, encouragement, affirmation, laughter, challenge, prayer, celebration, rest, renewal, and time with their ministry family.

While the conference team may have wondered several times whether the conference would happen, God showed up in miraculous ways to overcome each of the obstacles:

  • A hotel fire at the original venue turned out to be providential, as it relocated us off the beach, where hotel properties sustained the most hurricane damage, to a hotel that turned out was not shut down by the soon-to-follow Hurricane Irma.
  • Stepping up to lead worship after our originally signed worship band needed to bow out, Miqueas from Christ Fellowship Church did a fantastic job leading attendees to the Throne at the General Sessions.
  • While no one could ever replace Pieter Verhoeven, a significant number of volunteers stepped up to help with photography, story gathering, production of the daily GAzette newsletter and the GA App, introduced for the first time at this conference to assist with communications.
  • Although many of our registered attendees faced rejection during their visa applications, letters of assistance from both a Congressman and a Senator enabled some of our rejected attendees to successfully reapply for visas so they could come to the USA for the conference.
  • Hurricane Irma, originally forecast to hit Miami directly, veered west just prior to landfall. While much of the city lost power and numerous trees and structures were damaged by the storm, the hotel where General Assembly had been moved was spared, never lost power, and was able to operate normally for the duration of the conference.

Peter Reid, of Torchbearers, International, led the daily morning sessions, focusing on Scripture as one of the Core Values of Youth for Christ, while Adam Shepski and the prayer team focused attendees on Prayer; Neil O’Boyle (British YFC) on Discipleship & Evangelism; Holly Culhane (YFC USA) on Integrity; Sasha K** (Asia Pacific) on Church; Koekoes van As (Africa ALT) on People; and John Bastian (Interim YFCI President) on Mobilisation.

Other key events in the schedule included a Nations & Culture Celebration on the pool deck, numerous facilitated discussion seminars (featuring panels of facilitators and trainers vs. the previous model of lecture-type seminars), Area meetings, Super Seminars focused on Leadership from the Shepherd’s Perspective, the Business meeting for voting delegates, and a Prayer Evangelism Initiative.

All Board members were ratified at the Business Meeting, where it was also announced that five Presidential candidates had been interviewed during General Assembly, and a decision will be made regarding the selection of a YFCI President within one month.

And finally, a highlight for many was an opportunity to serve in some of the communities of Miami which were hardest hit by the hurricane. With the help of Miami Youth for Christ and a truckload of resources (generators, chainsaws, shovels, bottled water, diapers and more) organized by East Alabama Youth for Christ and The Chapel in Fort Wayne, Indiana, many of the GA participants also took part in multiple outreaches to hurricane victims on Monday, helping with everything from food distribution to removal of tree and trash debris.

Despite the challenges faced, GA 2017 was a time of joy, celebration, giving, serving, worshiping, learning and sharing that could not have been replaced with anything else. May our time together help us focus on the mission and commitment we make together to “reach young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up life-long followers of Jesus who are characterized by godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, boldness in evangelism, and commitment to social involvement”!

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