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Mount Vernon Spanish Youth “Awaken” Their Talents for Ministry
Story and photos by Taashi Rowe
Maria Galeas sings a song, which encourages listeners to praise God through anything.
“God is really blessing,” shares Victor Martinez, the former youth director of the Mount Vernon Spanish church in Alexandria, Va. According to Martinez, the blessing is that this Potomac Conference church of some 40-50 active members consistently draws some 90 young people to their monthly Friday night “vespers” services at 2001 Sherwood Hall Lane.
One year ago, there was no such service. “We noticed that our young people didn’t really have any way to enjoy Sabbath,” Martinez recalled. “A lot of the time they would go out with their non-Christian friends and do non-Christian activities.”
This worried Martinez and the other youth leaders and so they started praying. Then they started hosting a traditional vespers service, which eventually morphed into what is now known, as Awakening, which is anything but traditional worship. Participants now say that this service has become a refuge and allowed them to use their talents to worship God. Each month, young people come from as far south as Stafford, Va., and as far north as Germantown, Md., to share their original songs, poetry and skits.
Awakening also has another twist—although it targets Hispanic youth, the service is in English making it easy for second-generation Hispanics to bring their English-speaking friends. “I think that’s why youth have come to the service from all over. We’ve also had non-Christians come as well and enjoy themselves,” Martinez says.
Maria Galeas, 20, is a student and member of Chesapeake Conference’s Spencerville church in Silver Spring, Md. She participated in Awakening for the first time last month at Potomac Conference’s Hispanic Lay Festival in Ocean City, Md. She is excited that this program exists for artistic young Seventh-day Adventists like herself. Galeas, who already sings at different churches, says that praising God through song is a part of her Christian journey. “Worshiping through singing? That’s how I worship,” she says. “Yes I could sing in the congregation, but in His Word He says we should use the talents He has given us.”
More Than Entertainment
Daniel Cruz, Mount Vernon’s new Youth Ministries director, is another founding member of Awakening who gets to exercise his acting talent by participating in skits. He frankly says that Awakening is helping to keep him out of the streets. “I grew up Adventist, but strayed a bit,” he said. “I got involved because I want to work for God, reach kids and keep them away from [the streets].”
Martinez, who does poetry and skits, says, “Most of the adults enjoy [Awakening]. Then there are a few who think it’s more of us trying to entertain.”
But for some Awakening participants, the service goes beyond entertainment. It can present opportunities to literally save someone’s life. During that weekend in Ocean City, Suranny Villamizar, who attends the Culpeper (Va.) Spanish company and works as a registered nurse on an adolescent unit for teens who are suicidal and homicidal, heard two mentions of suicide. Villamizar says, “I see these young people need Jesus badly.” Once on stage, Villamizar didn’t sing, she instead shared a passionate plea for young people to give their hearts to Jesus and share Him with their hurting peers.
Still, music can be a balm, and one singer Lizzy Mejia Trochez, who attends the Montgomery Village Spanish church in Montgomery Village, Md., sang “Jesus is My Lifeguard” with the following words:
“When I don’t have the strength; Jesus is the way, the truth, life; He is my reason for living.” Who knows how these words may have touched a suffering teen.
The ministry will continue to reach young people one Friday night a month. “We really do give God praise, and we are sincere in it,” says Martinez, who is now a member at the Community Praise Center in Alexandria. He and his co-laborers already plan to take the program on the road. The next program will be at 7 p.m. Friday, March 23. Find out more at facebook.com/creativeworship.