Powerful worship, fellowship at the forefront of 2021 Territorial Youth Institute

By: Chris Benjamin

In late July, more than 200 delegates and staff convened at The Salvation Army’s 2021 Territorial Youth Institute. After a virtual event in 2020, the institute was held at Camp Walter Johnson in North Carolina, with the theme of “In The Waiting” and a focus on Psalm 27:13-14.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Attendees were treated to a moving week of worship, fellowship and education, with fun-filled moments along the way. Programs included an Olympic-themed evening, a time of holiday celebration and, more than anything, the opportunity for corporate worship and praise that kickstart change when delegates and staff return home.

“In talking with many of the delegates, many of them described a real ‘freedom in worship’ this year. Because it’s been two years since the last in-person TYI, there was a strong desire to gather in fellowship, learning, and worship together,” said Major Tim Gilliam, territorial youth secretary. “Our prayer was that TYI would not only be for the delegates, but also for the staff who craved an in-person event too. The Lord was faithful! We believe generational curses were broken, chains of the past were cut off, and that lives will be transformed. Our prayer is that these blessings will travel back to the local corps and that TYI could be the spark that ignites a revival.”

A powerful and engaging time of worship and reflection

From the kickoff of TYI, the tone was set for what became a memorable week of worship, study, and fellowship. To put it plainly, there was a feeling of excitement with a return to corporate worship after a virtual edition in 2020.

Morning worship, led by Ronnie Murchison and his team throughout the week, established the tenor of the institute. Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they led attendees in a freeing worship environment that led to substantial change in the lives of many. The delegates were passionately engaged in worship and the opening morning concluded with a crowd of young believers praying over each other as chains were being broken.

New to TYI in 2021 was the establishment of “waiting rooms.” Unlike elective classes from the past, waiting rooms represented more casual class environments focused to a different group of delegates each day. Examples included a discussion of addictions with Captain Chris Doborwicz and Lt. Chris Pachik, a class on the power of prayer with Sandy Cabrera and Shalini Danielson; and I was honored to be asked by Majors Tim and Cheryl Gilliam, territorial youth secretaries, to lead a class on evangelism.

In the “Can I Get a Witness?” class, videos were shared on the topic of Christians holding discussions with non-believers, and how those chats made observers feel. In addition, there was dialogue on how many non-believers had been hurt by the church or had experienced trauma so heartbreaking they lost their faith entirely. There was a challenge to youth to understand they will never know someone’s walk until listening and loving all individuals where they are. These resonated with each group as some of these delegates have experienced many of the same criticisms from non-believers, as well as pressure from well-intentioned, but judgmental, believers as well.

These evangelism classes each ended with a powerful reminder of a beautiful, empathetic verse from Matthew chapter 5.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The truth is, in everyone’s story, whether they are a believer or not, God is working and doing incredible things. It’s simply our job to listen and help them see where He is moving in their life.

TYI is always a refreshing and engaging time of encouragement but during the 2021 edition, there was a collective sense that God was doing something new, and no one in attendance wanted to miss it.

**Photos by Laura Dake**