By Araya Moss
The venue was set, the keynote speaker was confirmed, the flyers had arrived, the workshops were chosen, and the team was finalizing last-minute details in preparation for the annual ONE House gathering scheduled for May 2. But as Iki Taimi, Southern California Conference (SCC) Senior Youth and Young Adult (SYYA) director, was reminded, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV).
“The day I ordered the flyers, COVID-19 hit,” recalled Taimi, “and it changed everything.”
The SYYA team had to quickly decide if they would cancel the event or move forward in a different direction. “Even though we could have postponed this event,” said Sarah Grover, SYYA team member and associate pastor of Lancaster church, “there seemed to be an overall consensus with the planning team that we need to still gather in some way to support our senior youth and young adults.”
The team shifted gears to begin planning for a new event. According to event managers Pono Lopez, pastor of Long Beach church, and Kevin Camato, pastor of Upper Room Fellowship, inspiration came from a combination of living room concerts that had become popular during stay-at-home orders and TED Talks. Thus, Living Room Sessions—a week-long online gathering—was created.
“I just put my trust in God and the team, and we went for it,” said Taimi. “We hoped to create a sense of relevancy on issues that people were dealing with.”
The team spent five weeks planning via Zoom meetings, three to four times a week. The result was a cross-regional week of prayer, learning, and discussion. “The collaboration between churches, ministries, leaders, church members, and pastors was incredibly evident throughout the whole week,” added Grover.
Every night during the last week of May, viewers tuned into watch on YouTube or Facebook from the comfort of their homes. Monday, for example, included praise music from Kalēo and San Fernando Spanish churches and New Life church plant. Lawrence Dorsey II, pastor of Altadena church, gave the devotional message, and Caitlin Lopez led the workshop about ableism and the church. Afterward, there was a live Q&A with Caitlin in which viewers could send questions in real time. Each night followed this format, which even included raffle prizes.
The event concluded Sabbath with a dynamic afternoon of worship featuring uplifting music from different churches, personal messages from different members across SCC about what they are currently persisting through, and cross-conference performances of “It Is Well” and “Waymaker.” In his sermon, Pastor Sam Leonor spoke about how suffering can lead to hope. After the sermon, all were invited to a live Q&A discussion with Leonor, lead by SYYA team members Isaac Nevarez, pastor of Pomona Valley Spanish company, Donavan Childs, associate pastor of University church, and Grover.
“Many people have shared thanks and appreciation and were excited to see our conference unifying across regions,” said Camato. “This event exceeded our initial expectations and excited us for future possibilities.”
For Pono Lopez, the next steps are threefold: “To engage with youth and young adults with relevant content, to add to the conference’s goal of building bridges between our diverse regions, and to build a model to help other churches produce good digital evangelism.”