The 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 and 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.”

DR. Pako Edson Mokgwane | Associate Youth Director

Dr. Pako Edson Mokgwane is the firstborn child of the late Thulaganyo Mokgwane and Masego Mokgwane. He is married to Ayakha Babalwa Dywili, and together they have two sons, Akim Thulaganyo Mokgwane and Pello Tshwaro Mokgwane. Pako is a pastor’s kid. He is inspired by the lyrics of the hymn “We Speak of the Realms” as 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.” His leadership philosophy is founded on sociability; the more leaders connect with people, the more they wield their influence and relevance, yielding an authentic opportunity for discipleship.

He 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.

Dr. Pako Mokgwane is a product of Adventist Education, from primary school to graduate school. He obtained a Bachelor of Theology from Andrews University (MI, USA), a Master of Theology, a PhD in Leadership from the Adventist University of Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. Prior to joining the Youth Ministries team of the General Conference, he served as the Youth, Stewardship, and Communications Director for the Botswana Union Conference, and as a frontline pastor in both North Botswana and South Botswana conferences. Dr. Mokgwane is an endorsed chaplain (SID) and an ordained minister.

Dr. Andrés J. Peralta | Associate Youth Director

Dr. Andrés Peralta is an ordained minister born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He answered the call of God and enrolled at Antillean Adventist University in Puerto Rico, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Theology. After completing his studies at Antillean, he enrolled at Andrews University where he earned his Master of Divinity. While enrolled at Andrews he simultaneously served as the Youth Pastor for Maranatha Spanish and Grand Rapids Central Spanish Seventh-day Adventist churches in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Upon completing his Masters he joined the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, there he served for ten years. He served as a district pastor before transitioning to the role Youth Ministries Director. While serving in the Greater New York Conference, he earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Andrews University in Teamwork and Urban Youth Ministry. Dr. Peralta has been commissioned by the US Navy and the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventist as a Lieutenant Reserve Chaplain. 

Dr. Andrés Peralta is passionate about empowering children, youth, young adults and adults to grow in Christ, looking to Jesus as their ultimate example, while practicing servant leadership. He has been married to the love of his life, Martha for the past 16 years.  Their union has been blessed with their precious daughter, Melany Abigail. He enjoys reading, writing, travel, sport and spending quality time with his family.

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, Nathaniel and his wife Kalandra. 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.”

Kenia Reyes-De León | Senior Editorial Assistant

Kenia Reyes-de León was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. She is of Guatemalan and Honduran descent and is the eldest of three sisters. She attended Lehman College and majored in English Literature. During her childhood, she was taught to always give her all when it came to serving the Lord and that He had great plans for her life. Since then she has dedicated her talents and centralized her passion to serving young people. In her ministry, she hopes to always demonstrate God’s love so that love for Him may be awakened in others. Kenia is motivated by the words found in Romans 12:11-12, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

She has been a Master Guide for 10 years and during her time at the Greater New York Conference she served as a Pathfinder and Adventurer Area Coordinator, Drilling and Marching Instructor, and Drilling and Marching Coordinator. At her local church, she served as Adventurer Director, Pathfinder Sub-Director, and A.Y. Sub-director.

 During her spare time, Kenia loves to read, take walks in nature, watch documentaries, and sing. Above all, she truly enjoys speaking life into others and motivating them to fulfill their God-given purpose. As a true Pathfinder, she seeks to always be a servant of God and a friend to man.

She is happily married to Pastor Wilson de León. They enjoy working together for the Lord and his church. They currently live in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Mwenya Mpundu | Administrative Assistant

Mwenya Mpundu is a young adult who is passionate about Jesus, serving others, and Young people. Mwenya was born in Zambia and moved to New York at the age of 8. Mwenya Studied Business Administration and Communication in her undergrad classes. She loves to read, is very competitive, a lover of all things nature, and is terribly afraid of heights. In her free time, she enjoys being surrounded by those she loves. 

At a young age she realized her love for ministry, she acquired her Master Guide and AY Leadership certification. She also served as a director for several ministries in her local church as well as being a coordinator in the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Mwenya assisted in the planning and executions of Congresses, Camporees, and other events for the conference and union. She helmed the digitalization of the department using smart technologies. 

In her own life, 1 Timothy 4:12 has served as her guiding verse of what she hopes to achieve through her ministry: “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” Mwenya hopes to show everyone the true love of God and his unyielding Mercy through all she does. Her largest passion is introducing youth and young adults to the lover of her soul, Jesus Christ.


If you would like one of our Directors to attend your event you may request the visit using the form below.

Division Youth Directors

Thirteen division youth directors support the General Conference Youth Department.

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Our History

Twice in our past, brave writers have undertaken the task of putting the Youth Department history into print.

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