PEACE Class of 2017 Graduation
1st December 2017
The atmosphere was relatively tense. You could tell by the way they all nervously looked at each other. They knew what lay beyond the wooden doors. Silently they waited their call. One by one they had lined up behind each other. Beyond their obvious apprehension about what was waiting for them in the next few moments, you could see something else. Their faces are lined with a shimmery, quiet excitement. There was a mix of bitter sweetness. Three months, they had ate, prayed, worked and trained together. Now was the moment they all knew, too soon, they must part ways.
There wasn't much time to say anything else as the music began drifting in the air. This was the long-awaited moment. The trumpet sounded, they knew it was their call.
"Quick it's starting" someone whispered. Everything of insignificance was forgotten in that moment because they were there for a reason. They had a duty to fulfil, the trumpet had blown and now they are to obey.
So finally, they marched down the aisle one after another. Twelve men and women lined up seated in the front two rows on the right side of the church. Each had their head lifted high. "An army of workers as our youth rightly trained."[i]
As the descendants of that old "church in the wilderness"[ii] sang songs before battle, these youths joined Yardley Seventh-day Adventist church in song to sing their own battle cry[iii]. Ready they were to fight the darkness and evil that surrounded the world. They were now ready to spread the light and love they had experienced in Christ. The PEACE 2017 three-month training had successfully come to an end.
For three months they were in classes being prepared and trained, learning of their mission and identity in Christ. All those long hours they spent knocking on doors. All those memories were enshrined in the moment as this day, Sabbath 9 September 2017, they were to receive their tokens of achievement.
In their company were friends and family who had travelled from far and wide. Pastors had flown in from Austria and America. On that day they were reminded that they had reached thirty-seven members of the local community. Through God's help they had made twenty Bible study contacts and participated in the running of a two-week evangelistic campaign.
Present at the graduation were the leaders of the North England Conference (NEC). Pastor Richard Jackson, NEC President, encouraged the graduates to keep up the good work they had begun. Pastor Alan Hush, NEC Executive Secretary, prayed for and commissioned the graduates to proclaim the 3 Angels' Messages wherever they go. Elder Charles Bramble, NEC Treasurer, beaming with joy and Pastor George Kumi, NEC Ministerial director, were also present to exhort and encourage the students.
Pastor Adam Ramdin and Sis Beulah Plunkett were overjoyed to see the work of training young people effectively being continued. Pastor Steve Palmer expressed his thankfulness at the blessing the training had been to Yardley church over the past few months. All the leaders and organisers were overjoyed to see the work God had done through the young people.
However, no joy could parallel that which was fixed on the faces of the PEACE director Elder Craig Gooden, Outreach coordinator, Joseph Philpott, and Assistant administrator, Florence Manji, whose smiles never seemed to end.
Craig expressed a warm thank you to parents, pastors and friends who came to support. A few words of gratitude were also offered to the volunteers, church members and staff who made the PEACE programme for 2017 possible. The graduates were encouraged to stay close to God and to "Support the churches and preach the gospel wherever you go."
"Be strong, be courageous, be smiley, be courageous. And in those moments when you don't feel like being bold and courageous, what do you say? Be strong, be courageous" Joseph reminded his students.
Florence in her words highlighted the importance of faithfulness in little duties, "Desire the work in the background, the heart of doing God's work lies in the background."
Pastor Mark Howard, the director of Emmanuel Institute USA gave a rousing encouragement fit for any team who was to be sent out to wrestle against principalities of darkness[iv]. Drawing lessons and parallels to the work of Jonathan and his armour bearer[v] he addressed one of the biggest challenges that these young people would face, "I'm just one person, what can one person do?" he said. However, Pastor Howard spoke plainly in response to this question. Jonathan was not content to do nothing. The faith that Jonathan had inspired another.
"And Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armour, come and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few."[vi]
Most of the students had no prior experience in doing door to door evangelism. Yet they didn't let a lack of experience get in the way of the training which they had to undertake. One by one they lined up. Their names were called; Daisy Mpofu, Jehlise Woodburn, Daniel Hope, Jerson Martins, Lisa Gyuroka, Mthuthuzeli Maseko, Nadine Hamilton, Nelson Mukombiwa, Rebecca Whitttle, Ruth Ssebuliba, Unathi Thsuma and Wuni Bannah Sesay. As their names were announced they each had their favourite verse read and a cheer came from parents, friends and church members looking on as they shook hands with teachers, leaders, mentors and elders.
The joy on their faces couldn't be contained when Wuni gave his valedictory speech. Lisa also gave a touching word of encouragement for her fellow students. Songs were sung. Instruments were played and just as soon as the course had begun it ended. The prayer of dedication was offered and the service was over. They had graduated. This was the beginning of something new.
"With such an army of workers as our youth rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come ‒ the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!" Ellen G White, Education p 271
[i] E G White, Education p 271, Pacific Press 2002