Months and months of planning and preparations were brought to fruition when the Soquel Virtual Camp Meeting went live from July 14 to 24 with the theme of “The Return: Longing for Home.” Whether participants attended on the Central California Conference (CCC) website or on YouTube, this virtual camp meeting brought together beautiful music, inspiring testimonies, and God’s Word. Not only were there meetings for the adults in both English and Spanish, the children and youth were able to attend stimulating and inspirational programs designed just for them.
Of course, everyone is looking forward to once again getting together in person at the Soquel Conference Center next year—and registration is now available. It will be a time to once again enjoy cool weather, fellowship, and good food made in the Soquel kitchens by Jannell Gallemore. (Tastes of Soquel recipes can be downloaded at soquelcampmeeting.org. The site also has information about registering for next summer.)
Although we couldn’t be together on site this year, there is no doubt that God’s Spirit was present during this virtual experience. A special prayer revival weekend was held just days before, and prayers continued to ascend throughout. The CCC Camp Meeting Committee undertook a huge task to deliver it virtually. Many hard workers dedicated their talents and abilities in order to make it possible. (See sidebar for just a few.)
Each night offered a special message focusing on “The Return” theme. The programs were packed with variety, and participants had many opportunities to receive a special blessing. Based on some of the comments, some especially enjoyed the Bible quizzes at the beginning of each adult presentation and the challenge of answering all the questions correctly.
Attendance numbers were inspiring, with as many as 3,800, as of the end of July, tuning in on YouTube. More attended on other media platforms as well. Of course, these numbers will continue to grow as more join in to watch.
Viewers were challenged on Wednesday evening by John Bradshaw from It Is Written with his message about the “Prodigal Son,” and on Thursday evening when he talked about the “King’s Downfall.” They were stirred by Soquel favorite Henry Wright with his message on Friday evening about what it means to be “Displaced.” On Sabbath morning, Wesley Knight spoke about what it means to pick up Elijah’s mantle, while his thought-provoking message on Sabbath evening asked, “What Did Jesus Do?” During the Sabbath afternoon program sponsored by African American Ministries, Hyveth Williams kept with the theme of “Longing for Home,” additionally asking, “Doomed or Determined?” From July 18 to 24, audiences were blessed to listen in Spanish to featured speakers Homero Salazar and José Espósito.
Some were most inspired by the beautiful music. The Visalia Worship Team not only contributed special music but also recorded the theme song, “Watch, Ye Saints.” Sergio Leiva, a previous Soquel performer, reminded us with his piano solo that we have that “Blessed Assurance.” Karina Lopez, CCC Korean pastors and families, the Friendship Quartet, La Sierra University United Vocal Group, and the Cartagena family also praised God in song. The Sabbath afternoon presentation sponsored by African American Ministries included a wonderful concert by Noelette Leader-Hutton and George Simpson.
Creativity in action was on display in the children’s programs, which included original music videos and theme-building crafts. The high-energy skits of “Lindi Sue & You” and the spiritual messages by Pastor Lindsey Haffner allowed over 2,000 families and their children to more fully understand “The Return.” Lisa Plasencia, CCC children’s ministry director, and her team developed the new content each day for the virtual experience of teaching children about Jesus’ sacrifice and His soon return. One little boy told his grandma that he hoped to see the skit characters Lindi Sue and Roscoe in heaven someday.
For those who registered, craft boxes (or PDF downloads) were sent so that the children would have the opportunity to engage with the content they were watching. One of those craft boxes even went to a military family overseas. In addition, the children were given various challenges to complete for a chance to win a prize. One such challenge was to wear the themed T-shirt (or one they designed) while helping a friend or family member. They were then encouraged to take a photo and send it in. Beautiful faces that we want to see in heaven someday!
Youth and young adult programs
Meanwhile, both the youth and young adults had plenty going on just for them. Under the direction of Anil Kanda, CCC youth discipleship department director, the youth had Zoom online meetings that included devotionals, vespers, Sabbath School, and an “iTestify” segment that included art, testimonies, and much more. The speakers were Heather Thompson Day and Chad Bernard. The devotionals and online connections really brought together those youth who attended.
The CCC young adult department, also under Kanda’s leadership, continued many of their dynamic and well-liked weekly programs. During the virtual camp meeting time, the program included Bible studies, Sabbath School, discussion groups, and socials. Young adults from everywhere joined in the programs and fellowshipped online together.
One story featured on the CCC website and in the Friday evening adult program was the story of Mark Jones. Becoming a “young adult Zoomer,” he joined over 1,000 others in the regular 11 to 12 weekly Zoom meetings. He made his decision to follow Christ and was baptized on May 22 of this year.
In spite of the pandemic, evangelism was able to continue, using new and innovative approaches. As a result, there are many miracle stories. Some of those inspiring stories were shared either through interviews or videos in the “Miracle Roadways” segments.
Two segments dove deeper into stories told in previous Recorder articles: Fight the Hate’s response to Bay Area community needs and the opening of Soquel Conference Center to those displaced by fires last summer. Another stirring story told of how the CCC and mountain churches rallied to help those in their community ravaged by fire.
It was also inspiring to hear Nelson Ernst, CCC director of literature ministries, explain that the Youth Rush program was able to continue last summer. Although it could not be held in CCC territory due to the pandemic, 40 young people spent five weeks in Oklahoma. They sold 9,000 books, which will contribute about $106,000 toward their Christian education.
Ernst also spoke of the GLOW project that was started in CCC in 2007. Since then, over 137 million GLOW tracts have been printed. When given away, each of those tracts will have a story that only heaven may reveal. You are urged to take advantage of these attractive tracts as a way to do personal evangelism.
Another story showed how the pandemic, a death in the family, and health concerns finally brought a family back to God through prayer groups and a loving and caring church. Those evangelism stories are only a few of many others that could be told. Some are just now coming to light and will have to be told at another time. Like the Apostle John, we might also say, “if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NKJV). All of them demonstrate that God’s work never stops and we have the personal opportunity to help it move forward.
While we are so thankful for those who have so sacrificially given in the past and how God so richly blessed those gifts, these stories demonstrate that evangelism must continue—we still need to bring others to Jesus. The work of saving souls is not done. Eddy Perez, conference evangelist, and Pierre Steenberg, CCC evangelism and ministerial director, explained that, while the pandemic may have changed how evangelism was conducted, it still went on in a mighty way. Amazingly, media and technology even enlarged the footprint in many ways. The conference invested in necessary equipment for those churches who were willing to conduct online evangelism. In this way, people in the CCC territory and from all over the world were able to access programs—and do it again and again. This might never have happened otherwise.
While we hope that more in-person evangelism will once again take place, the pandemic has confirmed that “Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing” (Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 481). Please remember the CCC Evangelism Fund so that the evangelistic work will not stop. It needs to continue by God’s grace, using every creative approach possible. The CCC website explains the ways to pledge or give throughout this coming year. We cannot stop—and it will take each of us. May we continue to work to that end!
By Deloris Trujillo
Thanks to these leaders and their teams
Virtual host: David Hudgens, vice president for human resources
Producer: Benjie Maxson, pastor of Modesto Central church
African American programs: James Scarborough, director
Media productions, webmaster: Sergio Cano, director, creative arts department
Children’s programs: Lisa Plasencia, director
Music director: David Dean, pastor of Clovis church
Young adults and youth: Anil Kanda, director
Hispanic programs: Ricardo Viloria, director
Planning and preparations: CCC administration and Camp Meeting Committee