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8,000 youth at BWA conference hear ‘Now Is The Time’ challenge

HOUSTON (BP)–Paying no attention to the outside Houston heat, more than 8,000 young people from 81 countries generated their own warmth for five days, July 22-26, in the city’s George R. Brown Convention Center for the 13th Baptist Youth World Conference, fellowshipping, singing and swaying to lively music and responding to the thematic challenge that “Now Is The Time” for them to take the gospel to a needy world.
Sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance youth department, the youth conference is held every five years on a different continent, to bring young people and youth leaders together to celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ. From Cuba, Uganda, Zambia and numerous other countries came stories of young people who made tremendous sacrifices to attend because they wanted to meet people from around the world and hear a fresh word from God.
From the opening evening, featured speakers moved the young people with appeals to a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ and to serve the world.
Wednesday evening’s opening speaker, Stephen Gaugroker, pastor of Gold Hill Baptist Church, Buckinghamshire, England, stressed the need for prayer and a life that attracts people to the gospel. “If we act in a way that demonstrates the gospel, we will see breakthroughs in our communities” he said.
With much humor, Thursday evening’s speaker, Frederick Haynes, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, urged the youth to reject the world’s value systems, change their course as God commanded the children of Israel to do after they had wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, and be stretched by God to walk in the world as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“It’s important to know we have been re-routed. Therefore, we must go where we have never gone and do what we have never done,” Haynes said, speaking from Deuteronomy 2.
Chamunowra Chiromo, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Harare, Zimbabwe, encouraged the youth to fight injustice and oppression, adding: “Our actions of saving the world as Christians are to spring from a heart of love.”
Preaching in English and Spanish, Yamina Apolonaris-Concepcion, executive minister of the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, told the youth to do as Jesus did when he touched and healed the leper — by placing themselves where they are needed the most. “God is calling you and me to enter the territory of the leper world, so that people can see the loving, transforming power of Christ,” she said.
“We are in a world that is letting us know through its cries of anger that we have a tremendous task to respond to those who are in need of healing” Apolonaris-Concepcion said.
On the Sunday morning conclusion of the conference, hundreds of young people responded to the challenge from Ezekiel 47 issued by Louie Giglio, director of CHOICE Resources, a college-geared ministry based in Atlanta, to get out of a shallow Christian experience “and into the river of God that flows for surrender, healing and to eternity” to serve a dry and thirsty world.
Stressing prayer to know God’s power, Giglio said, “We are filled with great plans but so little power.” He urged the young people to pray “until God hears the desperate cry of his people and sends his river of healing and revival to the world to focus on the things that are eternal.”
To those from around the world who came from places of injustice, oppression or civil war, Giglio told them, “God’s message to you today is that Jesus is taking you to a place that lasts forever.”
Also featured during the conference were “The Company,” a drama group from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; Leena Lavanya of India who described her ministries to prisoners, lepers and victims of AIDS; and Svetlana Vorobyeva from Moscow who talked about the continuing persecution of minority Christians in her country.
Workshops and Bible studies spoke to practical Christian needs and brought young people into closer contact with others from around the world. Maria Demeshkina from Moscow said, after meeting a pastor from Indonesia, “He made me aware of how ignorant I was about things going on around the world. I felt very convicted when he said that it is great that Christians in other countries have the freedom to worship God, but they also have the responsibility to share the burden and pray for those who do not.”
As a practical act of caring, on Thursday evening, an offering was taken for the H.H. Jones Agricultural Center in Liberia where more than 300 abandoned children will be educated to help them re-enter society after the country’s seven-year civil war. Meanwhile, in one workshop session enough money was raised to put a roof on a church in Uganda.
Jamaican reggae worship dancers and choirs from Norway, Zambia and the Philippines were among various featured groups that not only performed at the evening celebrations, but also gave concerts at various venues.
In the only business conducted, Donald Lawrence, BWA youth vice president for the Caribbean the past five years, was elected BWA youth department president to succeed Ronald. L. Bobo, pastor of the Westside Missionary Baptist Church, St Louis.
Among vice presidents elected was Dean Finley for North America. Finley is a field staff member in student evangelism with the Southern Baptist North America Mission Board. Other new vice presidents are Kingston Adeyemi, Africa; Eiji Osato, Asia; Fe Panfile, Latin America; and Eric Francis, Caribbean.

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  • Wendy Ryan