Impact Toronto 2000
by Tompaul Wheeler
We’ll never know the full effect of Impact Toronto (IT) this side of Heaven, but there are enough stories to keep us marveling at God’s grace ‘til kingdom come.
What was Impact Toronto 2000? A lot of things:
Three hundred young adults from more than two dozen countries, together for 10 days in one city, using their God-given gifts to touch others through 22 different ministry sections. Two evangelistic meetings attracting more people nightly. A day camp bringing Fun Learning About God. Christian graffiti. Mime, drama, music, recreation, compassion. Young people learning skills to take home to their own communities. New insights into God’s character and astonishing providence. Spiritual fuel for the road ahead.
Impact Toronto had two major goals: to train young adults in ministry, and to inspire them to take their work home with them. Each morning IT delegates trained, and each afternoon they went out to serve.
“I wanted to do a lot of practical stuff,” said Mark Baines, 23, a student at Avondale College. “I’ll get practical stuff in my theology training eventually, but not specifically community outreach out there. I can take this back.”
“I see people learning that God is surprising,” says 18-year-old Evan Howe of Boonsboro, Maryland. “People are learning that evangelism isn’t always what we expect. If you keep an open mind, it’s incredible.”
Impact delegates didn’t stop touching lives when they finished the day’s programs. Compassion Ministry team member Jennifer Gregory, of Chicago, Illinois, believes God particularly led her to one person: a homeless man who’d been raised Adventist.
On a quick trip to a nearby grocery she met a man selling Toronto’s “homeless newspaper.” When she stopped to give him some money, he saw her IT2000 badge and asked what group she was with. The man related how after being raised Adventist and experiencing much material success in life, he’d lost everything in a battle with drugs.
“He told me he knew God was still working on him because I’d come by to talk to him,” Jennifer says. “I prayed with him and didn’t know what kind of impact I’d make, but when I opened my eyes he’d been crying.”
22-year-old J.R. Erickson of Park Rapids, Minnesota, spent his afternoons as a leader in the FLAG day camp. “I was a little surprised at the openness the kids had toward prayer,” J.R. remembers. “I expected them to be less eager than they were.”
FLAG camp was based in Regent Park, a housing project where the IT team also conducted nightly tent meetings. Regent Park is home to many low-income families from around the world, including Muslims and Hindus.
“I really believe that we can reach the community through the children,” says John Ringhofer, of Tennessee. “We’ve been playing with the kids, just letting them know that they’re loved by God. A lot of these kids don’t even know anything about Christ at all.”
Delano Son, of Ottawa, Ontario, helped kids enjoy a ropes course as part of his recreation ministry. “I tell the kids to hold onto the rope and let their legs go. We’re teaching them that God is the rope.”
The FLAG camp staff watched as the Holy Spirit worked on the children. “The children have grown more loving,” says John. “Children who were biting and hitting kids have become more and more loving and joyful. I see them really participating in the songs that are all about Christ.”
The Regent Park evening meetings, featuring Andrews University seminary student Andrea Trustee-King, grew as a result of FLAG camp. Starting out small on Sunday night, attendance grew throughout the week.
“God brought 300 people down here just for me. I know that’s why you came here,” a heroin addict named David told a group of delegates he met on the street. They first encountered him Monday afternoon returning from FLAG camp. When he found out they were a church group, he asked if they’d pray with him. Confessing his love for God and sorrow for his sins, David prayed with the group, and the group asked for God’s power in his life.
When the group encountered David the next day, he shared the difference prayer had made. That morning he’d overslept, past when he usually wakes up for his heroin fix. Yet he had no craving. Every other time he’s missed heroin for a day, he said, his body had become numb and shaky and he’d become homicidal, yet this morning he had no symptoms at all.
When the group met him again two days later, he was still elated at being heroin-free. “None of my family would know me now,” he said.
“You have to be careful what you pray for,” says Shelly Bilo, of Portland, Oregon. “God comes through.”
Shelly attended the Christian café running with Jose Rojas’ nightly evangelistic meeting. Collette Muth, of Dayton, Ohio, ran a café in the basement of the Toronto East Adventist church, providing food, live music, and Christian fellowship. Tuesday, July 4, the ministry team said a prayer asking for a receptive audience to the movie on the life of Jesus that they were planning to show that evening at 6:30.
In the nearby streets they gave flyers to people they met, including a group of teens hanging out—some from the nearby shelter. At 6:30 they were pleasantly surprised to see eight of the teens. The youth watched the movie with interest and then went upstairs to hear Rojas preach. Rojas ended his message with an altar call, asking his listeners to give Jesus a chance in their lives. Four of the teens came forward, and all eight stayed for the café’s Christian fellowship and music after the meeting. The teens continued attending throughout the week, and the IT2000 team has worked to connect them with local youth pastors.
Hands-on experience in ministry proved of tremendous benefit to all involved. Drama ministry member Sarona Mulitalo, from Australia, enjoyed sharing her gifts with the kids at FLAG Camp. “There’s no way we could we could draw kids in with just Bible study, but with the use of drama and art we can draw many more,” she says. “It’s exciting for me to see how many young people realize the importance of creative arts.”
Katie Rossiter from England discovered that interacting one-on-one with children as a clown can be a great way to share God’s love. “This is the first time I ever felt like God’s hands and feet,” she shared.
What’s it like witnessing door to door in Toronto? Terri-Anne Hleady, from Saskatchewan, found out. “I gave my testimony to a 17-year-old boy, and he’s come to the meetings three times,” she shares. “Last night at the evangelistic meeting in Regent Park he signed a card to give his life to God.”
Terri-Anne discovered the power of life’s simplest courtesies at the Regent Park nightly meetings. “I stand outside the tent and see people who would like to come in, who are just watching, but they want someone to invite them. I just ask them, ‘What’s your name?’ and invite them to join us. I’m just blessed to meet these beautiful souls who are just longing for human contact.”
“To see how the spirit is working in these young people is just amazing,” says Steve Oshaway, of Regina, Saskatchewan, a member of the compassion ministry team. “It’s been a great experience and allowed me to become a lot more humble and to recognize just how powerful Jesus is in the hearts and minds of so many young people.”