Unity challenges youth to make a difference

By Noah Jaeger, Photos by Stella and Olivia Frasca | Aug 17, 2021

Young people from across the state were equipped to serve and be the church at the 7th annual Unity youth conference, presented through Arizona Southern Baptists’ Hispanic ministries.

Due to COVID-19, Unity was canceled in 2020. For 2021, the conference was held in three locations across Arizona on three separate weekends. About 250 people attended the June 9-10 conference in Tucson, 50-60 were present in Yuma June 25-26, and 250 attended in Tempe July 30-31.

“Send Me” was the conference theme. Students were challenged to lift up their churches and make a difference for the kingdom.

The events started with powerful worship. The speaker for the event was Josue Castro, Hispanic Ministries facilitator with the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

“[I spoke] on what it means to live for Jesus and to be ‘sent,’” Castro said.

Throughout its history, Unity has had an impact on Arizona Southern Baptist churches.

“This conference has truly been changing churches in Arizona and teaching their youth to not just go to church, but to be the church,” Castro said.

Many students gave their lives to Christ at Unity this year. During an altar call at the Tempe location, one leader reported at least 10 people raising their hands to make personal decisions to follow Jesus.

One young woman shared about Unity’s impact on her personally.

“I truly learned to forgive, to let go and to get back to my purpose,” Camila Ibarra, youth attendee at Unity 2021, said. “That specific weekend taught me that the church is for the imperfect people not just the ones that are happy. [The church is] for the people who struggle and are in need of God’s grace. I came back home with [the] most loving friend I call Jesus.”

In addition to the worship and preaching, the conference offered several workshops for youth to attend. The topics included worship leading, mental health, purpose while you’re single, how to prepare for college and starting multimedia ministries in the church.

Sam Castro, youth pastor and creative director at Tierra Fertil in Yuma, directed the conference and saw great potential in the multimedia workshop.

“Because of COVID, many churches have purchased equipment for virtual use,” he said. “We want to encourage youth to know they can start a multimedia ministry at their church. It’s good for young people to be inspired and uplifted and for them to think they’re not just the church of tomorrow, but today as well.”

Many youth left the conference excited and enabled to serve Christ and his church.

“Many kids wanted to take on the call of ‘Send Me,’” Sam Castro said. “They realized they could be sent in their school or their jobs as an ambassador for Christ. Many who came left as a different person.”

The leadership for Unity understands reaching and raising leaders of the next generation is crucial for the future of churches.

“Young people need to be loved, cherished and be reminded that the church needs them and that they are extremely important,” Josue Castro said.

The leadership wanted to thank the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and the team in Yuma, who planned this event, for their help in making it happen. The future of the church is more empowered because of all those who contributed to Unity 2021.

Noah Jaeger, a freelance writer and photographer, is a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church and serves on the Christian Challenge staff at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

Stella and Olivia Frasca, freelance photographers, are members of Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix.

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