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A taste of persecution slated at student missions conference

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Christians living in the United States do not worship under persecution, but organizers of the Missions 2000 conference will try to recreate the experience for youth and young adults Feb. 18-20.

The conference is open to high school and college students, and will take place at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

On the night of Feb. 19 students will hold a worship service in the basement of one of the seminary dorms — in essence going “underground” to worship as persecuted Christians must do in some countries.

Missy Woodward, one of the Missions 2000 coordinators, said attention is being paid to detail. There will even be storyline “guards” — supposedly looking for Christians — posted outside the dorm.

“Hopefully we can find some actors to be arrested on the way to the church, so the students can see that,” she said.

The persecuted church experience is one of three areas of focus of the conference. On Friday night, Feb. 18, the conference will focus on Generation X. Randy Smith, the founder of Youth Ministry International, will speak.

The focus Saturday afternoon, Feb. 19, will be on the Latino community. The speaker then will be Juan Sanchez, coordinator of missions activities at Southern Seminary.

Jerome Byrd, a pastor from Ohio, will be in charge of the service during the “underground” church meeting.

“We wanted the students to get a feel for the nations, instead of always having things our way — the American way,” Woodward said. “And we wanted to include Generation X, because that’s such a large group. We wanted this conference to be so impacting that it would change people’s lives and open their eyes to the world.”

The theme this year is “Jesus, The Way,” which is taken from John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Sanchez believes that conferences such as Missions 2000 can have a great impact on students.

“There’s a great missions movement among young people, so I think there’s a great interest in what God is doing around the world,” he said. “It’s exciting for me to see the impact that a young single person can have. They have no strings attached. They have their life ahead of them and can just say, ‘Whatever the Lord wants me to do, I will go.'”

On the first two nights students will break into small groups and create strategies to reach the world’s unreached people groups with the gospel.

Students will get a chance to sample foods from other countries on the second day, when the seminary’s foreign students hold a “taste of the nations” luncheon.

Missionaries from the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and North American Mission Board will also be on campus for consultation with students.

“Of course, we do want people who do want to go into missions to come,” Woodward said. “But we also want people who are just thinking about it and may one day go on a mission trip to come.”

Sanchez said that John 14:6 is an appropriate verse for the conference.

“The fact that you would say that Jesus is the way is offensive to some people,” he said. “If Jesus is not the way, the truth and the life, then we don’t need missions.”

For information on the conference, call 1-800-626-5525, ext. 4617, or visit the Internet site, http://missions2000.sbts.edu.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust