MEET OUR TEAM

Following after the model left by Jesus, the General Conference Youth Ministries Department has adopted a servant-leadership model. Our team is responsible for seeing the vision and direction of the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist® Church implemented. Each person is responsible for their area of ministry to plan, implement, and execute the overall vision and focus of the Youth Ministries Department of the Seventh-day Adventist® Church.

Gary Blanchard

World Youth Director

Pastor Gary and his wife Erica have three young adult children (Gary, Ben and Sierra).  Erica is from Northern California and Gary is from Maine. “PG” as he is often called enjoys long walks in the woods, reading the Bible, going on dates with his wife and talking with God. 

Pastor Gary has served as a Bible teacher, chaplain, youth pastor, district pastor and most recently as the Texas Conference Youth Director. His motto is “making ministers for the Master.” He loves seeing young people “rightly trained” and empowered to be God’s army of youth. 

Gary has traveled around the world preaching the Three Angels Message and inspiring young people to do the same. Some of his messages can be viewed at rightlytrained.org and youngtexasadventist.org. Pastor Gary’s gifts are encouragement, preaching and leadership and he daily seeks to “walk in the Spirit” so that he can be a contagious reflector of Christ.

His favorite Bible verse is 1 John 4:9 (NKJV), “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

Jonatán Tejel

Associate Youth Director

Jonatán Tejel Subirada is the 7th Pathfinder Director of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church. The son of Andrés and Josefina Tejel, Jonatan is used to changes. As is common for many PKs (pastor's kid), the family frequently moved until they settled in Madrid, Spain, where he spent his adolescent years.

He was baptized by his father, Pastor Andrés Tejel, on December 26, 1981. In 1990 he began his studies in Theology at Sagunto Adventist College. He attended that institution for the first three years, and then moved on to Collonges (France) where he completed his degree in Theology in 1995. In 1992 he obtained an Official Certificate as Free Time Activity Coordinator, a title that is only granted by the Department of Education of the Spanish Government. He is married to the former Daniela Sciarabba. They are the parents of two daughters; Astrid, born in 1999 and Édera, born in 2001.

Jonatán Tejel has over 18 years' experience as a youth ministries director, speaks four languages (Spanish, Italian, English and French), and was the creator and the editor of Conexión, a youth ministries magazine for the Adventist Church in Spain. Jonatán enjoys sports like football, rock climbing, scuba diving and likes working with computers and doing puzzles. One of his favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 40:30-31. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

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Pako Edson Mokgwane

Associate Youth Director

Pako Mokgwane is the first born child of Thulaganyo and Masego Mokgwane and has two siblings, Boikgapo and Ogaufi and his wife, Ayakha. Pako is a Pastor's Kid. He is inspired by the lyrics of the hymn "We Speak of the Realms." It awakens the reality of the Maranatha motif—Jesus is coming again!

Pako draws strength from 1 Timothy 4:12, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." Pako is passionate about Youth Evangelism through the various forms of media. Media and physical opportunities prompt each young person do their part to expedite the coming of the Lord, contributing to TOTAL MEMBER INVOLVEMENT and more intentionally TOTAL YOUTH INVOLVEMENT. Pako is very sociable and outgoing.

Pastor Mokgwane is a product of Adventist Education, from Primary School to Graduate School. He completed both his Bachelor's Degree in Theology at Andrews University in 2004, Masters Degree in Theology at Adventist University of Africa in 2015 and his currently pursuing PhD in Leadership with the same Institution. He most recently served as the Youth, Stewardship, and Communications Director for the Botswana Union Conference after first serving as a frontline pastor in both North Botswana and South Botswana Conferences.

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Jessica Oliver

Administrative Assistant

Jessica Oliver is a new addition to the General Conference Youth Ministries team. Although she lived all over the United States and internationally, she still considers Silver Spring, Maryland home; where her parents and brother also reside. She enjoys reading, music, photography, travel, and spending quality time with family, friends, and her dog Rosario. Jessica has been blessed with the opportunity to have lived, worked, attend school, and visit all around the world. Having traveled to 35 countries and the majority of the United States, she loves the study of different cultures and has a deep sense of the world around her and her place in it. She believes that developing global awareness among young people is extremely important for the future of our world. Jessica holds a Master’s Degree from Loma Linda University in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Andrews University in Spanish Studies with a minor in Behavioral Sciences. One of her favorite bible verses can be found in John 14:27 (NIV), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

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Maria A. Manderson

Editorial Assistant

From her start as a teenager in Kingston, Jamaica West Indies, to coming to Silver Spring, Maryland, Maria has seen every position the Lord has blessed her with as an opportunity to serve God through serving others. Maria lives with her family in Baltimore, Maryland. The mother of three young adults, she enjoys traveling and being with her sons Andrew, Jonathan, and Nathaniel. Her hobbies are cooking, driving and reading and her favorite ice cream is grapenut.

"Over the past years I have learned many lessons and truths, but one of the most important ones is this, that, 'God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.' (Romans 11:29, Message Bible). That is sometimes a very scary reality, but it is also humbling because it makes me realize that each of us have to walk in the calling that God has called us to, and His way is always the best."

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Sophia Boswell

Senior Editorial Assistant

Young, fresh, talented and smart, Sophia Boswell is the department’s Senior Editorial Assistant, who manages the department’s social media accounts and the Youth Connect Newsletter. She holds a Master's Degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor's Degree in Communication, with an emphasis in Media Studies. She has worked as a freelance content editor for both Hope Channel and Adventist Mission's missiontothecities.org. A published writer with over six years of editing and content management experience, Sophia now works with Junior Youth and the GC Youth Ministries’ website.

Sophia is a visionary who enjoys the art of communication and is passionate about motivating young people around the world. During her spare time, she can be found teaching Sabbath school, traveling with family and friends, enjoying the outdoors, taking photos, cooking or writing. In 2015, she self-published her very first children's book entitled, "My Skin Is Great," and her second children’s book “Be Grateful” in 2016. Her favorite bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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Our Theme

#powerofone
We are a global movement of destiny, united in purpose and mission, yet diverse in culture, language, geography, economy, and heritage. It is through the power of Christ and His Spirit that we can celebrate our unity in the midst of such diversity. In a world of ethnic and national divide, this exquisite expression of unity in Jesus is the most powerful expression of the reality of the gospel in the midst of God’s people.

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