KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–More than 3,000 teenage girls, collegiate young women and leaders were challenged to live the “Amazing Life” during July 10-13 Blume conference sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union in Kansas City, Mo.
Taking a holistic approach to serving God and others, Blume was based on Luke 10:27 when Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself.” All components of Blume, from general sessions to interactive conferences to hands-on missions and ministry projects, aimed at helping participants gain a deeper understanding of Christ’s command.
Keynote speaker Clella Lee of Fayetteville, N.C., used an analogy to the reality TV contest show “The Amazing Race,” asking the girls to consider what is necessary to live “The Amazing Life.” Her answer, which she and other speakers, including international and North American missionaries, set forth over five general sessions, was to live out Luke 10:27.
“God wants you to have an amazing, fulfilling and purposeful life,” Lee told Blume attendees. “That’s why He made you and that’s why He died for you. The Amazing Life is not a way to life, it’s a way of life — and you have to choose it. It is God’s plan for you to be God’s instrument in the world to carry out His plan just as you are.”
At the conclusion of the evening general session July 12, 81 girls came forward during an invitation time, with 10 making professions of faith, 26 indicating that God was leading them into missions as a life direction, and many others rededicating their life to Christ or wanting someone to pray with them about a specific need or decision.
As part of the breakout sessions, an elaborate interactive area called “ME” provided attendees with opportunities to learn more about various ministries, join in hands-on missions efforts, experience different cultures and explore how they can use their gifts and passions to further the Kingdom of God.
In exhibits like “A Day in the Life,” they could experience what life is like for girls their age in countries across the world. Entering this marketplace exhibit in small groups, each girl was given a profile of their new identity along with “Blume bucks” which represented a typical sum of money she might have, ranging from 10 cents to $650. The girls had 10 minutes to make purchases in the market based on their allowance, with choices of food, personal care items, clothes, transportation, entertainment and school supplies.
Those with limited means realized the hardships many face as they struggle to obtain basic necessities. As they exited the exhibit, a volunteer reviewed some of the purchases the girls made, talked about the realities of poverty and encouraged the group to keep their identity card as a prayer reminder.
Girls visited with missionaries serving with the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board along “Missionary Row” and many sent e-mails to international missionaries and wrote “encouragrams” to NAMB field personnel.
In another exhibit area, the girls could write letters of support to U.S. military personnel and spend time in prayer for the recipient of each letter. “I told them thank you for fighting for our country and freedom,” Lindsey Allsup, a 10th-grader from Acton Baptist Church in Granbury, Texas, “and that God loves them.”
The exhibits also showed how God can use any passion and willing heart to further His Kingdom. IMB field personnel Margie Drane and Sue Sprenkle, for example, demonstrated how they use their passion for videography and journalism, respectively, to share Christ through stories of how He is working around the world. Participants were able to join in mock interviews and operate the video camera.
The girls enjoyed other areas that were set up just for fun, like a karaoke stage, scrapbooking, a coffee shop, staged photo opportunities and a giant inflatable obstacle course.
Of the 100 collegiate girls who attended Blume, 25 walked more than a mile to the Kansas City Rescue Mission, a men’s shelter and soup kitchen in the heart of the city. As part of a poverty simulation, they stood in line with other shelter guests to get their food, then later spent the night on the floor of a warehouse across the street.
“It was nice to put faces to this issue [of poverty],” said Rachel Gerke, a member of Reyondsburg Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio. “We talk about the marginalized, but it was cool to actually sit and talk with them. It was humbling. It’s easy to think we have it all together, and we may have a good heart or we may think we have it better than them. But I don’t have anything on my own. It’s all of God.”
Blume also included “A Night in the Middle East” outdoor cross-cultural experience which transformed the lawn of the Kansas City Convention Center into a Middle Eastern market. With instrumental music in the air, the girls could sample such foods as baklava and hummus, write their names in the Persian alphabet and spend time in prayer for the various peoples of the Middle East. The event ended with the showing of a recent film about the biblical Esther, “One Night with the King.”
5 WAYS OF GIVING
As part of Blume, girls were given a “5 Ways of Giving” opportunity to put their faith into action by learning about and supporting five different ministries — Blood:Water Mission in Africa; Beginning of Life Foundation in Moldova; The Ricks Institute in Liberia; a ministry* in Jordan that helps Arab women; and Locks of Love. With the exception of Locks of Love, WMU is partnered with each ministry through its International Initiatives and Pure Water, Pure Love projects.
“It’s really great that Blume did the 5 Ways of Giving,” said 13-year-old Lottie Rich of Memphis, Tenn. “It made you feel like you are a part of something even though you’re not there [countries which these ministries impact].”
Jena Lee, executive director of Blood:Water Mission, a ministry founded by Christian rock band Jars of Clay to provide clean water to Africans, was on hand to describe the initiative to provide clean water to 1,000 villages.
Part of Blood:Water Mission’s thrust is its “Two Weeks of Sacrifice” campaign to forgo everyday beverages such as soda or coffee and drink only tap water; each dollar of savings donated through the ministry can provide clean water to a villager for a year. After watching a video about the project, Cassie Short, a 10th-grader from First Baptist Church in Odessa, Mo., was challenged by “how far the [people] had to walk to get water and how dirty the water was.”
In the “Welcome to Moldova” exhibit, girls wound their way through a maze, their path based on tough life decisions presented at each doorway, to depict life for many in Moldova, how thousands of girls become enslaved by human trafficking and how the Beginning of Life Foundation helps trafficking victims. with safe housing, education and job skills training, and Christian counseling and discipleship.
“Girls generally get into human trafficking in one of three ways,” Jean Cullen, who heads up WMU’s International Initiatives, told the Blume crowd Thursday evening. “They run away straight from the orphanage, families in poverty actually sell the girls or the girls themselves answer ads for what sounds like a promising, respectable job. Thousands and thousands of girls experience this every day.”
A classroom and petting zoo filled with goats and a pig were set up to invite girls to learn about the Ricks Institute in Liberia, a K–12 school for children of the war-torn African nation. The institute purchases livestock for children and their families who receive the immediate benefits of the animal, such as milk or meat from the offspring. In addition, they learn animal husbandry skills toward earning a living.
A representative* from a Christian ministry of Arab women who minister to other Arab women through a radio program aired in 22 countries in the Middle East and Africa and the Internet distributed samples of items from Jordan, such as Arabic coffee and candy. In a sound booth, girls were challenged to record a 60-second testimony about their faith that could be aired in the Arab world without relying on typical Christian terminology.
“We believe if we reach the woman, we reach the family,” the representative said, “and if we reach the family, then we reach the society.”
Finally, in the Locks of Love salon, girls personally gave to the ministry by donating their hair to be made into hairpieces for children with long-term medical hair loss.
Breanna Maddox, a seventh-grader from Layton Hills Baptist Church in Layton, Utah, had been growing her hair for more than two years in anticipation of this moment. “This girl in my school got cancer and I saw what it was like for her,” Maddox said. “I wanted to give my hair so other girls could have hair.”
The 5 Ways of Giving sparked the hearts of Blume participants; more than $45,000 had been donated to the ministries by the end of the event, with nearly $20,000 going to Blood:Water Mission by way of WMU’s Pure Water, Pure Love outreach, a little more than $9,000 each to the Ricks Institute and Beginning of Life Foundation and approximately $7,000 to the ministry to Arab women. Additionally, Locks of Love received donations for 120 hairpieces.
In other hands-on missions opportunities, Blume participants made ESL (English as a Second Language) flash cards and sorted items they brought with them to donate for school supply packs and hygiene kits. By week’s end, the girls put together 861 school supply packs, 764 hygiene kits and 298 complete ESL kits to help NAMB field personnel in that work. They also learned about the work of Baptist centers firsthand from Kay Bennett and Mindy Jamison, missionaries who serve with NAMB in New Orleans and Des Moines, Iowa, respectively.
The next Blume, previously known as the National Acteens Convention, is planned for the summer of 2011 in Orlando, Fla.
*Ministry name and representative’s name withheld for security reasons. Reported by Julie Walters, Amy W. Richardson, Jennifer Harris and Shea Vailes.