North Carolina youth ask the important question, ‘¿Cuándo te vimos?’

April 2, 2024 by by Emily Enders Odom

Bilingual youth conference ‘When Did We See You?’ was made possible through the Pentecost Offering

Originally published by Presbyterian News Service

If given the choice, most people would rather not ride on a hospital gurney.

Except for Hector Cardenas.

In fact, the 17-year-old senior at SandHoke Early College High School in Raeford, North Carolina, said that getting onto “an ambulance bed and being picked up to be placed inside of the vehicle” was his favorite activity.

At a 2023 youth conference, that is.

Last April, Cardenas was one of 85 youth, ages 11 to 22, and 20 adult chaperones who gathered at the Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana de Fayetteville (North Carolina), for a daylong conference titled “When Did We See You?” “¿Cuándo te vimos?” [ te veemos].

The unique event — which attracted participants from five Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations in the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina and one church in the Presbytery of New Hope — was conducted in both English and Spanish using the event planning guide available through the office of Presbyterian Youth and Triennium (PYT), which also provided the organizers with generous grant support.

Offering innovative, creative and collaborative ways to bring Presbyterian youth together is one of the primary objectives of PYT. To support congregations and mid councils in programming such events as “¿Cuándo te vimos?,” PYT has published four free online resource guides with the Matthew 25-inspired theme “When Did We See You?,” so that youth and their leaders across the PC(USA) can contextualize the theme and make it their own.

“The ‘When Did We See You?’ resources were originally intended to be a part of a new endeavor called PYT BEYOND,” said Gina Yeager-Buckley, associate for PYT. “This program is a way to expand the reach of the excellent content, learnings and conversations that happen at the Triennium but can really be experienced everywhere. BEYOND is a way to open the doors on the event and welcome in so many others; and, more importantly, to share and reshare an important gospel message about faith grounded in and surrounded by justice, awareness and faithfulness.” 

Creating opportunities for the Good News to reach young people — wherever they may be — is what the Pentecost Offering, one of the PC(USA)’s four Special Offerings, is all about.

“I love how the 2024 Pentecost Offering theme, ‘I Am Coming to You,’ connects so distinctly to an event, moving out and about the church,” Yeager-Buckley added. “Literally, the Good News is coming to you!”


For over 25 years, the Pentecost Offering has not only been empowering young people like Hector by providing financial support to the Office of Presbyterian Youth and Triennium, but the Offering also helps to fund the Young Adult Volunteer Program and the Educate a Child, Transform the World national initiative.

Forty percent of the Pentecost Offering is retained by individual congregations for local ministries in their communities, while the remaining 60% is used to support children at risk, and youth and young adults through ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Although the Pentecost Offering may be taken anytime, most congregations receive it on Pentecost Sunday, which this year falls on May 19.

Among the Offering’s most enthusiastic supporters is Jerusalén Martínez Zarco, who has served as associate for Youth Ministry for the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina for the past four years. A native of Mexico where her parents were medical missionaries, Martínez heard God’s call to work with children at a very young age.

“My ministry started with playing music, but I also worked on the medical side, serving with my parents in the rural areas and helping them by bathing the kids, giving them what they needed and teaching them guitar songs,” she said. “I also started a youth conference and invited all my middle school friends to come to church. They really enjoyed it.”

Her passion for youth ministry only continued to grow after the family moved to the U.S. in 2014 when her father was called as pastor of the Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana de Fayetteville, where the “¿Cuándo te vimos?” conference was held.

Because the presbytery youth council that Martínez staffs was charged with planning and organizing the one-day conference, she counted on both resources and funding support from the national church.

“At the time the [2022] Triennium was going to happen, our youth were so excited to go, and it was canceled,” she said. “So, I asked myself, ‘What’s another thing we can do? Let me figure it out. I’m pretty sure that PYT has materials they can provide to us.’ That’s how it started.”

Since Martínez begins every planning process by asking the youth what they want and need in a program, the group quickly identified mental health — especially teenage suicide — as a key issue to be explored at the conference.

“Mental health in the Hispanic population is often overlooked,” she said. “And sometimes we’re not too comfortable asking for help when there is a situation in the family. There’s stigma.”

In addition to providing participants an opportunity to hear and respond in small groups to the keynote speaker, the Rev. Gedeon Cortez of Mexico City, the conference also offered two sessions with a choice of three workshops in each.

To design and facilitate the workshops, Martínez had the support of the Emergency Medical Service program from Fayetteville Technical Community College, the local Cumberland County EMS, the presbytery youth council and a psychologist. In these sessions, the young people were able to be open about their faith, sexuality, mental health and family. They also explored together how to serve the church and the community in a variety of ways, while learning about the many opportunities available to them for study and service.

Cardenas, who is a member of the Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana and the presbytery youth council, is already busy both studying and serving.

“My favorite subjects in school have always been math and science because English has always been the hardest for me,” he said. “Right now, I am in early college trying to get an associate’s degree in science to then go on to do a two-year promise program with free tuition before transferring to a university to complete my bachelor’s. I want to get a bachelor’s in the medical field because I want to go on and become a physical therapist.”

Because English was also a struggle for Martínez upon moving to the U.S., she was especially pleased that the bilingual model for the conference was successful.

“We had the songs and the Scripture in both English and Spanish,” she said. “It was amazing to see that combination coming together to help them see and understand everything in a different way. It could have been a problem — we could have run into some walls — but it worked out.”

As Martínez looks to the future, both the presbytery’s as well as her own plan to incorporate ministry into a career in the medical field, she’s considering whether the youth council might again hold conferences like this on a regular basis, perhaps every two years.

Yeager-Buckley and her colleagues can’t wait.

“Presbyteries are valuable partners in sharing new resources,” she said. “Our greatest joy outside of advocating for youth in the church and the world is to work so closely with our mid councils.  They are a direct pipeline to faith formation of young people.”

And so is the Pentecost Offering.

“It is important that Presbyterians and other people give money to support programs like ‘Cuándo te vimos’ through the annual Pentecost Offering,” said Cardenas. “It gives us the opportunity to bring Hispanic churches together that do not have the capabilities of doing things like this — experiencing new activities, learning and meeting new people. I think funding these events also brings our presbyteries closer because it gives us a goal and a mission to be selfless and share these experiences with others.”

read more stories:

participate with us

When we all do a little,
it adds up to a lot.

By giving to the Pentecost Offering, your congregation participates in helping our children, youth, and young adults grow up to proclaim with the Psalmist, "O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds."