Reach Michigan's Impactful First Year
On July 31st of last year, 30 Michigan Youth Rush students participated in an activity that–at first glance–bore little resemblance to literature evangelism. For 6-7 hours that day, they called friends, family, and local church members, asking them to donate to a new project called “Reach Michigan.”
As strange as it may seem, their activities that day made it possible for young adults to place over 5,500 pieces of literature in homes across Michigan–from Fairplain to Ann Arbor, Lansing to Warren, Charlotte to Hartford–and beyond.
How could a bunch of phone calls produce such an impact? Let me explain. Reach Michigan is a new initiative of the Michigan Conference’s Literature Ministries Department–an annual “phone-a-thon” designed to fundraise the cost of easy-to-distribute sharing books such as Hope for Today’s Families and Hope for Troubled Times (under 100 pages, attractively designed, and easy to read). Each sharing book costs only a few dollars in donations. The sharing books are given to Youth Rush students to distribute during the year in partnership with their local church.
Reach Michigan was launched with a renewed focus on mission within the Literature Ministries Department. As David Pano, the director, puts it: “For many years, our regular ‘phone-a-thon’–where students ask friends and family to purchase magabooks for personal use–has been a financial blessing for our students. However, as a department, we’re always striving to make literature evangelism more mission-focused.
Using a “phone-a-thon” to fundraise for sharing books is not new. A few years ago, literature ministries leaders in the Southeastern California Conference pioneered a new concept: they raised funds for sharing books during the summer and organized a post-summer “mission trip” to distribute the books. Michigan’s innovation was recruiting students to lead the initiative and manage literature distribution–making them responsible for getting their church on board, promoting the events, and handling the logistics of training and territory.
How did Reach Michigan fare in its inaugural year? Students exceeded all expectations by raising over $30,000 for the project. Even more exciting, many students embraced the opportunity to involve their home churches in literature evangelism: Almost 30% of students from the 2022 Youth Rush program (9 total) led out in a Reach Michigan outreach within the past year. To date, these young people have organized over 15 local church events, involving over a hundred members in distributing over 5,500 pieces of literature across Michigan and beyond. We want to share some of their experiences with you.
Bethany Peterson used the Reach Michigan project to lead a literature outreach at the Fairplain Adventist Church in October of 2022. Her favorite memory from the experience was seeing many members get involved in the outreach. She says, “It was exciting to see my church family–many of whom had donated–participate in sharing the books with our community. My prayer is that more churches across Michigan will be privileged to support this wonderful project.”
Samuel Calvelage (Lansing SDA) used the Reach Michigan project to provide literature for a monthly outreach he organizes for his church’s youth group. As a result of these outreaches, Sam found that “we have seen the youth come together as a group and exhibit a genuine love for spreading the Gospel.” Commenting on how Reach Michigan empowered Sam and other young people in the Lansing church, Pastor Phil Mills said, "Not only did it inspire our youth to cary the good news of Jesus, but it also touched the lives of many in our community." Over six outreaches, the Lansing youth group has distributed thousands of books, flyers for upcoming church events, and GLOW tracts in the local community.
Juan Mendez (Ann Arbor SDA) used the Reach Michigan project to involve his Pathfinder club–the Ann Arbor Anchors–in literature evangelism. Over 30 church members and Pathfinders hand-delivered around 500 sharing books to community members in the Ann Arbor area between two outreaches. Juan says, “I was glad to see so many church members get involved. I had multiple church members asking me when we could do another one.”
Chaeli Austin is a former president of Michigan’s AYM (Adventist Youth on a Mission) chapter. She and her team used the Reach Michigan project to provide literature for a fall youth retreat in Charlotte, MI. She reported that “over 100 young people and their families were able to share around 300 books in the communities surrounding Charlotte, Michigan.”
In between summers, Sierra Sutton is a missionary serving in Belize with her parents. She used the Reach Michigan project to involve her school–MOVE (Missionary Outreach Volunteer Evangelism)–in literature evangelism to the community. To date, they’ve distributed around 400 sharing books alongside community programs that provide haircuts and glasses for community members in need. During one of the outreaches, she gave copies of Hope for Today’s Families and The Great Controversy to a lady who told her, “These are the best books I’ve ever [received] in my entire life!” Sierra and the MOVE team plan to distribute thousands more sharing books in the fall of 2023.
However, these stories are just the beginning of what is to come. Some of these students already have local church outreaches planned for next year! But to continue their work, these students need your help. On July 30th, students will begin the Reach Michigan “phone-a-thon” for 2023. I encourage you to prayerfully consider donating to support our young people in this powerful ministry. Suppose you don’t know a young person in Youth Rush this summer and would like to donate specifically to this project. In that case, I encourage you to call the Michigan Conference Literature Ministries Department to donate: (517) 316-1515.