Nov 28, 2023 | The Rev. Lisa DePaz*

Over 45 enthusiastic, mostly Latino youth and young adults came together November 11, at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Warrington, to attend Youth Force Unleashed, a diverse, bilingual gathering hosted by the church’s Casa del Pueblo Latino/Hispanic ministry.  They came to foster fellowship, make connections and learn in two insightful workshops about navigating social and spiritual challenges while unleashing their leadership potential.

Music, social media and creative ministry were among the many topics explored during the six-hour (from 2 to 8 p.m.) Saturday gathering of young people. They also worshiped and witnessed to their growing faith. “Learning how to be a Christian while making a positive impact online and staying true to your faith” was a key message.

Two guest speakers led simultaneous workshops. Pastor William Jimenez helped young attendees delve into contemplation of the paths to becoming transformative leaders capable of influencing lives, irrespective of the challenges they might encounter. Described as “a music-loving, youth-engaging guru,” he urged them to embrace creativity, seize opportunities and overcome obstacles on their leadership journey.

Pastor Cesar DePaz Jr.

Pastor Cesar DePaz Jr., who leads the Hispanic Community Church of Boston, Mass., guided his listeners in exploring the risks and opportunities prevalent in the digital age. He emphasized the importance of maintaining a steadfast commitment to the values bestowed by God, family, and the church. And he encouraged them to resist external influences that may diverge from their guiding principles.

Worship filled with exuberant praise and inspiration

Sponsored by the Eastern PA Conference’s Latino Commission, the event culminated with a worship service filled with exuberant praise and a sermon delivered by DePaz. The son of the Revs. Cesar and Lisa DePaz, both Eastern PA pastors, he called on the youth to draw inspiration from the life of young King David, highlighting “his humility, respect for family and unwavering relationship with God.”

Drawing parallels to David’s triumph over Goliath, his message resonated with the idea that young people can conquer any metaphorical Goliath that may appear in their life journeys. By doing so, they can “accomplish remarkable feats beyond their imagination, fulfilling the divine calling to become leaders poised for the transformation of the world.”

Some youth, like Briana of Church of the Good Samaritan, said the Youth Force event felt like a revival. Lena Melendez and her friend from Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit) UMC in Philadelphia described it as “simply awesome.”

They noted that “the concept of conducting a retrospective of themselves was unfamiliar, but it proved to be an enlightening journey.” The young people were prompted to seek and discover their untapped potential and to ponder and express the purposes and passions of their hearts.

*The Rev. Maria Quesada “Lisa” DePaz is the Eastern PA Conference Coordinator of Latino Ministries and the pastor of Haws Avenue United Methodist Church in Norristown.