By Ryan Simpson
The Impact projects in the Southern New England Conference trace their roots back to an idea born at Atlantic Union College and some teachers’ desire to provide a way for students to reach their community: “Impact South Lancaster” was born. Students participated in Spring cleaning projects, yard work, and indoor cleaning, as well as collecting non-perishable items from the community for distribution to families at Thanksgiving.
Since that time the Youth Ministries Department of the SNE saw the value and relevance of the Impact projects and adopted it as one of their annual youth and pathfinder initiatives. Each year our youths and young adults engage in a community impact event in a major city throughout the territories from Worcester Massachusetts to Hartford Connecticut to Providence Rhode Island. Over the years it has grown exponentially both in numbers and diversity of projects as well as the number of youth and young adults from around the conference who participate.
Through God’s leading and inspiration, Impact Boston 2012 took the Impact event to a higher level in accordance with its thrusts and intentions to build upon previous initiatives. On Saturday, September 22, in a collaborative venture between both the Youth Ministries Departments of the Southern New England Conference and the Northeastern Conference, more than 1,500 Adventist youths, young adults, pathfinders and church members converged upon the Boston Common Park in the city of Boston, Massachusetts under the theme “My Community, My Responsibility.” Mr. Hodari Cail, Director of Community Relations at the Boston City Hall, describes the event as “An amazing church- in-the-street experience.”
Our young people volunteered in a wide variety of different activities in and around the city that addressed the social and spiritual needs of the community members. Some of the activities included:
* In the Street Prayer & Track Distribution Ministry - 500 young people swarmed the city of Boston distributing some 16,000 literatures of hope to people in the streets and stores, praying with them and signing them up for future Bible studies and support groups. There were other initiatives such as the “Share a hug” campaign where people with hug placards offered hugs to passersby.
* In the Street Music Ministry - Many of our talented singers and musicians went into the train and bus stations around the city, ministering to passersby with music and songs.
* In the Park Homeless Projects - Volunteers packed and distributed 250 care hampers of winter and toiletry items to the homeless in and around the Boston Common Park. Each care hamper contained winter blankets, scarves, gloves, head coverings, soaps and deodorants, etc.
* Homeless Shelters Feeding Projects - In addition to the homeless ministry project in the park, 160 youths and youth leaders signed up and volunteered with twelve homeless shelters, food banks, and women’s shelters in and around the city. One such organization was the Rosie’s Place: A haven for battered and homeless women. Impact Boston catered meals for 150 homeless women at this shelter and our volunteers went on that day to prepare and serve these meals while at the same time ministering to the spiritual needs of these women.
* Community Health Fair in the park - This gave the Adventist church an opportunity to parade its message of healthful lifestyle to the people of Boston through the NEWSTART message. In addition, people were able to receive free health checks as well as physiological consultations.
* Flash Mob Ministry in the street - 500 young people participated in this very dynamic and unconventional form of ministry in the street. The gospel was packaged and choreographed in a very artful form with an intentional surprise factor that immediately arrested the attentions of onlookers and, in a rapid yet very powerful moment, burned the intended message upon their minds.
The day began with a grand opening ceremony that featured some of the musical talents of both conferences such as Higher Praise Singers and the Greater Boston Adventist Academy School choir of the SNEC as well as the New England North Mass Choir and the Pathfinder honor guards of the NEC. Other highlights of the opening ceremony included an award ceremony where in the tradition of the Impact Event, individuals who have served the community with distinction are identified and acknowledged. These individuals are usually nominated by their peers. This year Impact Boston had the distinguished honor of recognizing four outstanding individuals from the city of Boston, namely City Councilors-at-large Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley of the Boston City Council, Deputy Superintendent of Police Nora Baston of the Boston Police Department, and Mr. Kevin Lambert, a former US Army veteran and Director of Special Populations for the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services. We were also honored to have the presence of Secretary Colemann Nee of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services who brought greetings to the delegates. The opening ceremony culminated on a spiritual high as our guest speaker, Dr. Hiskia Missah, Associate Youth Ministries Director of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, reminded us of the reason we exist, which is to bring hope to our fellowmen by becoming relevant to the needs around us.
We believe that through the grace of God, Impact Boston was a great success. Through this initiative the Adventist Church became more visible in the eyes of the community and community leaders. Many relationships were forged between the church and community organizations as well as civil leaderships, and above all every participant was afforded the wonderful opportunity to put into practical and real terms the essence of what their ministry should be, as described by Ellen White, “Mingling with the people as one who desired their good, showing sympathy to them, ministering to their needs, winning their confidence and bade them ‘follow me’” (see MOH p.144).