EQUIP 2019 embraces The Salvation Army’s legacy of outreach to young people
By: Brad Rowland
From the opening moments of the conference’s first general session, the concept of legacy permeated the 2019 EQUIP Youth Workers Conference, with hundreds gathering for an intellectually stimulating and worshipful experience.
Though the entire assembly was purposeful and moving in nature, a video engineered by Rob Bridges, territorial youth communications specialist, set a fitting tone for what would transpire during the conference, held in Orlando, Florida, May 6-9.
The video illustrated the legacy of mentoring from the perspective of four different individuals, with a young man named Teatio Cal from the Chattanooga East Lake Corps reflecting on his relationship with Chris Reeder, the corps Blood and Fire Initiative youth director. Reeder then shared of his relationship with Captain Ruth Cancia, Chattanooga East Lake corps officer, with Captain Cancia doing the same in honoring the relationship she has with Major Janice Riefer, territorial assistant secretary for personnel.
With that as the backdrop, Captains Dan and Sarah Nelson, territorial youth secretaries, reflected on mentors and examples from their youth, citing the inspiration they received in embracing their work with young people. “You are already leaving a legacy with the things you do each and every day, and we are so grateful for that,” said Captain Dan Nelson.
The through line of legacy permeated the remainder of the week, with inspiring general session workshops. Amid the educational aspect, a trio of corps were recognized for a legacy award, as the Territorial Youth Department tracked more than 15 years of data to recognize the Fort Myers, Florida; Kerrville, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina, corps for excellence in youth ministry.
From a workshop and intensive standpoint, myriad options were available, ranging from job-specific pre-conferences for BFIs and Salvation Army mission specialists, to a week-long fellowship through the lens of Jesus Theater. In addition, qualified leaders from across the territory shared their expertise in dozens of different specialties and, specifically, a LGBTQ+ panel convened on Tuesday afternoon for an open and constructive discussion aimed at helping young people navigate potentially challenging situations.
Andrew Stanley, son of Andy Stanley and grandson of Charles Stanley, both prominent Atlanta pastors, entertained with stand-up comedy during the first general session, while Dr. Krish Kandiah, executive director of Churches in Mission and England Director for the UK Evangelical Alliance, told of his history with The Salvation Army as a young person and emphasized the importance of welcoming others into fellowship with Jesus.
“You are Jesus’ legacy,” Dr. Kandiah said. “When Jesus was dying on the cross, he scorned the shame of that cross. He saw you and me, and every other lost person. He thought this was worth it. Whatever the cost. He was going to invest in all of us.”
In the general session gathering on Wednesday afternoon, Rev. Dr. John Teter, senior pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church and executive director of Fountain of Life Antioch, encouraged those in attendance.
“One of the jobs of a leader is to say thank you,” Rev. Dr. Teter said. “I’d like to say thank you for your work and your ministry. As a parent, I’d like to say thank you. In every way, you’re pouring into the next generation. It is challenging. It is only getting harder, but I want to inspire you and pray over you. Thank you for your ministry. Thank you for your endurance. And I hope and pray that I can encourage you.”
Finally, Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood, territorial secretary for program, ministered with the message of the closing general session and encapsulated the overarching mission of what the Army aims to do.
“Your ministry, your influence, can really change the trajectory of a child’s life forever. … Those kids need you more than you can even begin to imagine, and I know that because I was one of them. Keep loving, keep serving, keep giving. You may not see it on this side of eternity but, one day, you’ll see the legacy and impact you’ve left on so many people’s lives.”
The EQUIP Conference will return in 2021 with plans for bi-annual implementation moving forward.