News Articles

Acteens, Challengers team up for first-ever national project

CHARLESTON, S.C. (BP)–Some led sports camps or Vacation Bible Schools in multi-housing communities. Some worked with migrants, an international congregation or the seafarer’s center. Others painted houses or cleaned up yards. And still others went on prayerwalks through neighborhoods, visited nursing homes or helped out at a medical clinic.

Their ministry tasks varied. But all of the 275 teenagers from nine states were “lighting their world” with the love of Christ.

They were part of the first-ever, national, joint Acteens and Challengers missions project. Coordinated by Charleston Outreach, a ministry arm of Charleston Baptist Association, the co-ed missions venture was held in Charleston June 25-29.

National Woman’s Missionary Union and North American Mission Board leaders worked with the Charleston Outreach staff to pair up ministry assignments with the gifts and interests of each of the 24 church groups involved.

“We want to give students opportunities to experience and participate in missions to learn about themselves and how God can use them in a variety of ministries,” said Tim Rice, a NAMB missionary who directs the association’s seafarer’s ministry. Since April, Rice has been serving as temporary director of Charleston Outreach, which coordinates the ongoing missions efforts of Southern Baptist volunteers in the Charleston area.

Sharon Earls, youth leader at Nazareth Baptist Church, Blacksburg, S.C., brought four boys and 12 girls to Charleston after reading about the event in “Accent,” a WMU magazine for Acteens, and attending a preview retreat. “I wanted our youth to experience what a real mission trip is all about. It’s not a week of vacation, but a ministry experience from which they will grow in the Lord by serving others.”

Adam Fisher, a seventh-grader from Blacksburg, painted houses and helped load a trailer with recreational equipment, snacks and craft materials for a children’s camp. But what he and eighth grader Hannah Earls enjoyed most was “spending time with the little kids” who attended a Vacation Bible School that the group conducted in a subdivision. “Instead of a teacher always teaching me, I finally got to teach others about the Bible and Jesus’ love for us,” Adam said.

For junior Ashley Turlington and a group of 11 from First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., the Acteens/Challengers event provided a firsthand opportunity to see God at work. The group brought lots of toothpaste to give out in toiletry kits, but they still needed toothbrushes. When they arrived in Charleston, they found a dentist’s office near the housing development where they would serve and asked for extra toothbrushes to distribute.

“The dentist gave us 215 toothbrushes,” Ashley rejoiced. The dentist was a Christian who had gone on a mission trip to Venezuela recently, but the toothbrushes had arrived too late for him to take with him. “It’s amazing how God answers prayers!” she exclaimed.

Andrew Huesing, a senior from Cumming, Ga., enjoyed acting out Bible stories, such as the fall of the wall of Jericho, to “get kids interested in God’s Word.” He was part of a group of 12 from Concord Baptist Church that led sports camps at a multi-housing complex and worked with migrants.

Tenth-grader Amanda Todd, who came with a group of seven from Hollow Creek Baptist Church in Aiken, S.C., did light construction and yard work at the home of an elderly woman, who “blessed us because she was so sweet and appreciative of the help.” The Hollow Creek youth also assisted at a medical clinic, washing out “what seemed like 1,000 medicine bottles” and checking in patients, Amanda added.

“I liked doing the work, knowing you were helping someone in need. They weren’t able to do it themselves, but we could. And we know they are happy now,” said eighth-grader Angela Williams of Nelson, Va. She and 20 others from Nelson Baptist Church helped paint the exterior of a house for a family.

The group had made little contact with the family that week until eighth-grader Philip Hudson invited the boys outside for a game of basketball. Leader Dennis Hudson said that the small gesture “seemed to open the door for other ministry opportunities.”

The painting and yard work were rewarding, agreed Misti Waldrep, also of Nelson, but the fellowship with all the other youth at the end of each day also was exciting. The worship time featured music by a student evangelism group, black-light puppetry, skits, videos, testimonies from youth and a Bible study led by Debra Berry of the national WMU.

While it was the first national project for Acteens and Challengers together, Acteens Activators participated in a similar project in Charleston last year. The success of their experience and the professionalism of the Charleston Outreach staff helped pave the way for broadening the missions event to include younger Acteens and Challengers, according to national Acteens consultant Pam Smith of Birmingham, Ala.

“I believe we have a strong Acteens group in our churches, when there is also a strong Challengers group,” Smith said. “Through joint projects like this one, WMU and NAMB want to present a unified front to Southern Baptists that we are in single-gender, student missions education together,” she added.

Alan Huesing, national Challengers consultant at NAMB, is excited about the potential for more joint missions projects. “We want to equip students with the skills necessary for different ministry situations, and then mobilize them to use those skills,” Huesing said.

The Charleston missions project was a focal point of the Challengers Rally in Gatlinburg, Tenn., last February. The Charleston Outreach staff was invited to tell about the many ministry opportunities available to groups, he noted.

William Wells, editor of “Go” magazine for Challengers, added that the ministries of Charleston Outreach will be featured in each of the 12 units in the missions organization’s plan book for next year, which will be released in August. “Anecdotes from Charleston Outreach ministries will illustrate mission skills we want all Challengers to develop and use,” Wells said.

For more information about other missions opportunities for youth, college students and adults through Charleston Outreach, see www.charlestonoutreach.org. You can also visit www.WMU.com (click on Ministries, Volunteer Connection) or www.namb.net (click on Be on Mission).
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: A PRECIOUS PRAYER and JOINT OUTREACH.

    About the Author

  • Todd Deaton