By AT News Team, March 26, 2015:   For two weeks leading to the Adventist Global Youth Day on March 21, nearly 150 youth and their sponsors participated in service projects in San Antonio. The MOREcompassion Mission Trip was planned by the Texas Conference, which “has been working towards preparing San Antonio for the General Conference this summer,” Armando Miranda told Adventist Today. Miranda is the associate youth director for the Texas conference. “We wanted to impact the community before the GC event,” Miranda said.

The General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (GC) meets to decide church business and elect new officers every five years. The 60th GC session will be meet in San Antonio July 2 to 11, 2015. Thousands of Adventists will gather from around the world for the event.

Taking creative lead from San Antonio’s slogan, “I want MORE,” Miranda asked, “More what? More compassion.” Miranda said he was introduced to the Compassion movement by pastor Jose Cortes, Jr., who first promoted compassion events on the east coast.

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Adventist youth march against human slavery and trafficking to mark Global Youth Day as the conclusion to MOREcompassion in San Antonio. (Credit: Texas Youth and Young Adults Facebook page.)

Miranda and other local pastors designed MOREcompassion as a way for youth to serve the community during their Spring Break. “We had four areas of service plus a march against human trafficking at the end of the trip on Global Youth Day,” Miranda explained. Participants from church youth groups and a number of schools—Burton Adventist Academy, Valley Grande Academy, The Oaks Adventist Christian School, Adventist Christian Academy of Texas, Burleson Adventist School, and Scenic Hills Adventist School—were able to choose from activities relating to yard work, food distribution, shelter support and toiletry distribution.

MOREcommunity involved doing lawn care in local communities. “We went with lawnmowers and weed-eaters, and we mowed lawns in the community around the church,” Miranda said. “We prayed with people. Some people said it was the first time they knew there was a church there. Some of the local pastors got interests for Bible studies. So this was a way to get to know the community just by mowing lawns and talking to others.” When it rained, the group picked up garbage or went door-to-door, praying with residents.

MOREfood included working with food banks and food fairs. On Tuesdays and Thursdays during the two weeks, the Durango Spanish Church and the Three Angels Spanish Church hosted food fairs. Community members came to the churches to pick up food. “On those four days I think we served close to 800 families,” Miranda told Adventist Today. On the other days of the week, the volunteers supported the San Antonio food bank.

Pastor Eric Louw of the Richardson Adventist Church in Dallas explained to Adventist Today how his youth group supported the food distribution efforts. “A food bank donated a truck of food,” he said, “and people from the community would turn up, give their information, and share what they needed. Then we’d load their trunk as they drove through the parking lot. At another food fair, we packed and organized food.”

MOREsupport aimed at benefiting local homeless shelters and women’s shelters. “We spent a few days there, meeting people and working in the kitchen,” Miranda reported.

The final project, MOREshoes, did not go as intended. The purpose of the project was to get donations of new shoes, fill them with toiletries, and give them to people in homeless and women’s shelters. When the shoes did not arrive as planned, the youth distributed the toiletries directly.

Participants volunteered more than 1,400 hours on these various projects, according to a report Miranda posted on the NAD Ministerial Department website.[1]

In addition to these four service areas, youth also participated in MOREoutreach. “On Sabbath afternoons we went around the churches to give invitations to Pathways to Health that’s coming up on April 8-10,” Mirada said. “The city of San Antonio has allowed us to use the Alamo Dome on those three days. Volunteer doctors and nurses will come help people for free. People can come for eye care, dental care, and surgeries for free.” MOREoutreach also included distributing print materials, praying with people, and inviting community members to an evangelism series by Jose Rojas.

The two-week event ended with a march against human slavery. “Texas is second in the nation for trafficking. And San Antonio is a hub on I-10 and I-35. I-10 runs east and west across the U.S. and I-35 runs north to Minnesota,” Miranda explained. “We had the privilege of working with local nonprofits who are already dealing with this,” he noted. “We worked with The Freedom Project and Ransomed Life. We marched even though it was raining. It was wet and muddy. But we had 800 or 900 people in the march. The drum corps from the Dallas City Temple, which is part of the Southwest Region Conference, led the march. Jose Rojas came and marched with us.”

At the end of the march, representatives of the nonprofit organizations and the Adventist church spoke against trafficking. A young person from a local church also gave a statement. “She did a great job,” Miranda reported. She declared, “It is time for us to do something. Let’s not just talk about it. Let’s put aside all differences and let’s start helping others.”

Louw told Adventist Today that the trip positively affected his youth group. “One of the kids in the morning gave a devotion. He shared how the experience had changed his view on things. He realized he’s been focusing on the wrong areas in his own life. He was seeing the needs of other people,” Louw said. He continued, “A lot of my youth say they’d love to do another mission trip, so they’ve really caught on fire from it.”

Miranda reported that plans are already underway to host a MOREcompassion mission trip in Dallas next year. “It was an amazing two weeks with kids from different backgrounds, but all united for the same purpose, which was serving the community in San Antonio and making an impact,” Miranda enthusiastically declared.

With the success of the event, Miranda reflected on the value of service. One pastor told Miranda that in twenty years of ministry, he had never seen the church make such an impact on the community. “In two weeks of mowing lawns, he got more connection with the community than he had ever had before,” said Miranda. “We think there’s no other way to reach people besides preaching, but I think we should do something else before preaching. We need to get out and serve our communities.”