Territorial Young Adult Conference challenges delegates to ‘Level Up’
By: Brad Rowland
Young adults from across The Salvation Army’s USA Southern Territory assembled in Atlanta for the 2021 Territorial Young Adult Conference from Sept. 24-26. The weekend centered on the theme and challenge of “Level Up,” with more than 100 delegates coming together at the Atlanta Temple Corps.
The conference opened with an inspiring Friday night gathering, with Major Tim Gilliam, territorial youth secretary, promptly setting the tone with a challenge to all in attendance.
“This weekend, we have opportunities to worship, to serve others, to be fed spiritually, and we have an opportunity to level up as individuals, with others, and with God,” Major Gilliam said. “We want you to participate. Don’t sit back and be a spectator. We want you to be an active participant in every aspect of this weekend. We are thrilled that you’re here. The Holy Spirit is thrilled that you’re here. He’s got something special just for you. Lean in. Pay attention to what the Lord is doing.”
In conjunction with Major Gilliam’s challenge, inspiring music from The Salvation Army’s own transMission helped to lay the groundwork for worship, both on Friday and throughout the weekend. Each session also featured a young adult spotlight segment, showcasing the work being done by individuals on a local level.
Bernie Dake, territorial director of communications, was the keynote speaker for Friday’s session. He spoke on “Leveling Up Ourselves,” focusing on Proverbs 27 and encouraging attendees to sharpen one another in an effort to draw closer to God.
“There is nothing you have done; there is nothing you need to hold onto; there is nothing you need to take with you that is in your past,” Dake said. “Leave it behind, because God’s got a future for you.”
Saturday was jam-packed, beginning with breakfast fellowship and transitioning into a full day of worship and service. The morning’s general session included an uplifting message from Emaniel Brifil, The Salvation Army’s missions program coordinator in Florida. His focus was on “Leveling Up With Others,” and Brifil spotlighted the need for meaningful humility.
“Sometimes it’s great to hear good things or encouragement from people, but I can tell you there is no greater encouragement than from our creator,” Brifil said. “To level up with others, I must be united with Christ. And to level up with others, I must be humble. What does humility look like for me day in and day out? If you want to be united with Christ, take time to be united with others. If you want to level up with others, take time to be humble.”
Following a time of lunch and fellowship in an outdoor setting, delegates and staff engaged in mission opportunities across Atlanta. The activities ranged from helping in Atlanta Temple’s food pantry to cleaning up the Peachtree Greenway, evangelism at a local apartment complex, and dedicated, mission-driven prayer walks.
Following a brief time to recharge, Saturday evening’s general session was unique and powerful. Rather than a more typical worship meeting, delegates were given the opportunity to engage with what was described as the “Southern Steps Prayer Experience.”
The experience featured a prayer guide with stations across Atlanta Temple’s chapel, as delegates walked through the Songs of Ascent, speaking to the experience of a pilgrimage in worship. The evening culminated in a time of sharing and worshipful music that was poignant and memorable.
Sunday morning’s focus was “Leveling Up With God,” with Commissioner Barbara Howell, territorial leader and president of women’s ministries, delivering the message. She illustrated how individuals sometimes see things not as they are, spoke on how character and depth are far more valuable than performance and optics, and encouraged surrender to God.
“Circumstances may have made things difficult for you, but they are not powerful enough to define you,” Commissioner Howell said. “The person who has labeled you is the person that created you. He doesn’t make mistakes, nor does he make junk.”
“God wants to improve you,” she continued. “He wants to increase your usefulness to Him. He wants to make you more effective. He wants to take you to the next level. But as anxious and eager as we are to go to the next level with our (technological) devices, why are we not as anxious to go to the next level with God?”
Her spirit-filled message was a fitting conclusion and challenge to an elevating weekend.
“We have to be bold, “ Commissioner Howell said. “We have to stretch ourselves. We have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to be ready to take hold of what He has for us next.”