General Assembly Young Leader Testimony: Luis

Luis Mercado Ruiz (Puerto Rico)

When I arrived at the 2023 General Assembly, I felt burdened and weighed down. I had come to a realization as we were waiting for our team’s flight to the Netherlands that I had lost sight of the calling God had placed in my heart to serve in Youth For Christ Puerto Rico—to bring the Good News of Jesus and see the island ablaze with His name above all others. When I first arrived at the Youth For Christ Puerto Rico camp in February 2021, there was wonder and a deep reverence in my heart for the work being done. I lived in constant dependency on the Lord to fulfill that mission. However, as I waited for our flight, I realized that ministry had become work, a task in my own strength, and my heart was no longer focused on the mission Christ had placed in me. I wept and prayed for repentance, later stumbling upon a personal favorite verse of mine, Isaiah 57:15.

There was hardly a morning at the General Assembly when I didn’t shed tears for what I could already see the Lord doing. When worship began in the General Assembly room, it was evident that the Lord would revive hearts during that week, and indeed He did. The sight of people from every nation praising the one true God filled me with wonder, and I thought to myself, “How much better can it get?” Following this reflection, we had our first Young Leaders session, and the power of God’s presence filled the room. Imagine an entire generation breaking out in worship, praising the name of Yeshua, singing to the Waymaker in different languages. Each one of them is a person God will use to change our world for the sake of the Gospel. I resolved never to forget that God can always surpass Himself.

One of the most incredible experiences I had was witnessing the fervor (no other word can describe it) that many Young Leaders exhibited. They were like Davids, completely unreserved before the Lord. It didn’t take long before I joined them in this posture of the heart. On the surface, you may see Young Leaders being mentored and discipled, but for brief moments, you could see that they were the future ministers who would carry the mission of Youth For Christ International to a new generation in an unprecedented way. If I had to describe the feeling, it was like being part of a small group with giants. If these Young Leaders from Brazil, Africa, and Canada could be so unrestrained before the Lord, I had no reason not to be. God used them to rekindle the fire of worship in me.

I can confidently speak on behalf of many young leaders that our Young Leader sessions were extraordinary. Every day, our spirits were nurtured by the Gospel-centered hearts of our leaders. Whether it was Karen from Canada, who spoke about the unseen and our mission to reach them, or Neil from Britain, who moved our hearts with the importance of depending on God through prayer in our mission, there aren’t enough words to thank them. I’m extremely grateful for Brandon Johnson; God is truly using him not only to minister to us young leaders through his efforts but also through who he is. We, as Young Leaders, are blessed to build upon the foundation laid by the leaders who came before us.

There is so much more to say about our week at the General Assembly, but I will say this: God was present every moment. We tasted a bit of Heaven during that week, and Jesus refocused many of our hearts on the eternal reward, our true home, Heaven, rather than earthly victories or gains. Personally, God transformed my heart and opened my eyes to see how much He had blessed me through my ministry brothers, this incredible family, and the purpose found in Youth For Christ International. During our final worship session, Heaven seemed to descend, breaking my hardened heart. I couldn’t help but weep alongside the brothers and sisters I had met during that time, crying out “Holy, holy” and “worthy is He.” This uncontrollable weeping and the realization that we are called to serve the King of Kings was overwhelming. As we concluded worship, an older gentleman, a physical representation of what I imagine our Heavenly Father to be, gently passed me to my mentor and spiritual father in ministry, Daniel Peal, who held me as the Lord rekindled my heart for the mission. This is the image of Young Leaders, our Heavenly Father entrusting us to the care of our leaders to nurture us, so that one day we may impact an entire generation for the name of Jesus Christ.