Lessons from Little Ones

Youth Encouraged to Share the Gospel from the Pulpit
June 21, 2021

Out of the mouth of babes. Last November, for the very first time, eight young people ages nine to 18 joined in a youth challenge unlike any other in the Oklahoma Conference: a challenge to preach the word of God. This event, called the “iPreach 4 Him” challenge, was live-streamed over the Oklahoma Conference Facebook page, gaining over 1,000 views. In addition, several young people responded by asking how they, too, could get involved in preaching.

Oklahoma Conference Youth Director Daniel Ortega and then Oklahoma Conference Children’s Ministries Director Yesenia Ortega, a husband and wife team, felt blown away by the response. They immediately scheduled a second event for Spanish-speaking churches that took place in February 2021. Yet, this time, even more youth requested to get involved after watching the challenge online.

“I had no idea how many kids were interested in and passionate about preaching,” said Yesenia. “It was an eye opener to see... God is working in them and we need to provide preaching opportunities for them.”

The challenge will now be held as a regular event in the Oklahoma Conference. Each year there will be two challenges, one in English and one in Spanish. In the future, the events will be held in person, if possible.

“We want to see kids get excited about preaching and about sharing God’s word,” said Daniel. “This is an opportunity to empower our young people. They are learning about their relationship with Christ.”

The inspiration for this event came from Daniel and Yesenia’s nine-year-old son, Isaac. One day, without any prompting, Isaac approached his parents with a very serious invitation. He announced, “We are going to have a family worship program and I’m in charge. Please come.”

“We don’t typically do an entire service for family worship,” said Daniel, explaining that their family worship is usually fairly simple. Yet, when they gathered together that night, Isaac not only prepared a sermon, but he also planned out an opening song, a scripture reading and a skit which he performed with his 12-year-old brother, Benjamin.

This inspired the Ortega family. They wanted to see if other children were also interested in preaching and they wanted to discover new ways to empower youth in ministry. Now, with two “iPreach 4 Him” challenges complete, they are even more enthusiastic about creating opportunities for this type of mentorship and discipleship. “We need to be intentional about mentoring children and helping them through the process,” said Daniel. “If we are intentional about helping them to succeed, it will help inspire and encourage them to continue.”

The two events garnered participation from a total of 14 children and teens. Their names, ages and the churches they represented are listed on the opposite page. The youth in the first challenge preached on the parables of Jesus. The youth in the second challenge preached on encounters with Jesus. Daniel’s oldest son, Benjamin, hosted the events with the help of his father. In addition, four Conference and Union pastors served as judges, giving feedback and encouragement.

Each participant received an Amazon gift card and the  first, second and third place participants received trophies.  In the first event, Isaac, Daniel and Yesenia’s son and one of the youngest of the participants, earned first place.

“You know what? I was not even thinking that would happen,” said Yesenia. “I told Isaac, ‘This is not about winning. It’s about participating. At the end of the day, it’s not a competition. It’s about you wanting to preach and follow what God’s asking you to do. Try not to be disappointed if you don’t win.’ And I told Daniel, ‘Please don’t be a judge!’ If Isaac did win, I didn’t want him to feel like he only won because his father was the judge. I wanted it to be fair. I’m really proud of him.”

“I was kind of nervous and excited at the same time,” said Isaac. “I talked about how the foolish man built his house on the sand and the wise man built his house on the rock.”

In the second event, 18-year old Marvin Arodi Lopez Barrientos earned first place. “I’m from Honduras and when I was 12 my mom taught me a lot about the Bible and how to preach,” said Marvin. “So, when I heard that I had a chance to preach in Oklahoma, I said, ‘I want to do it.’ God can do great things with us if we let Him. I have learned that we must give Him all our lives in service to do His work.”

To build off this event, Daniel and Yesenia plan to create specific preaching and training opportunities for children. While these ideas are still in the preliminary planning stages, the Oklahoma Conference will soon offer even more support for the mentorship of young people in ministry.

“We are really making it an opportunity to minister to the kids,” said Daniel. “Yes, the kids are ministering by preaching but, ultimately, by focusing on them and giving them the attention of something positive that is spiritual and Biblical in nature, they are being ministered to.”

By Makala James. James is a freelance writer based in North Texas.Watch the iPreach 4 Him sermons at Facebook.com/OkAdventist/videos and Facebook.com/MinisterioHispanoOklahoma/videos.

iPreach 4 Him Participants

Katia Andino, 17
Bonham Spanish Mission Group (Texas)

Marvin Arodi Lopez Barrientos, 18

Oklahoma City Central Spanish Church

Emmanuel Bartolon, 17

Garnett Spanish Church

Derek Abraham Bello, 10

Midwest City Church

Enddy Devia, 13
Independence Spanish Church

Allen Gamas, 11

Tulsa Spanish Church

Daniel Orellana, 15
Three Angels Church

Isaac Ortega, 9
Oklahoma City Central Church

Samuel Osorio, 10
Edmond Church

Angel Perez, 9
Independence Spanish Church

Adam Plank, 17
Three Angels Church

Ramon Loyo Plata, 13
West Siloam Springs Church

Abraham Velasquez, 16
Independence Spanish Church

Alex Vasquez, 14
Durant Spanish Church