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Garden Tomb visited via satellite on second day of YouthLink

ATLANTA (BP)–As about 45,000 participants in YouthLink 2000 watched via live satellite link, evangelist Jay Strack walked through the Garden Tomb site in Jerusalem Dec. 30. He assured students the tomb indeed was empty.

“The Lord is not here. He is risen,” Strack said during the second daily link from the Holy Land. “This is where a burial took place. It was over. Satan thought he won.” Strack reminded students, however, that Jesus is alive.

The evangelist led in a prayer for salvation and encouraged students to make their decisions known publicly later in their respective YouthLink locations.

The Dec. 29-31 YouthLink 2000 is sponsored by four Southern Baptist Convention agencies — LifeWay Christian Resources, the International and North American mission boards and Woman’s Missionary Union — as well as state conventions affiliated with the SBC.

Also shared via satellite link was a 30-minute session featuring each of the seven sites. In Anaheim, basketball star A.C. Green, who urged students “to link into God’s plan and purpose. The decisions you make today will have a direct effect on tomorrow,” he shared.

Atlanta youth speaker Louis Giglio told YouthLink participants that, “While you can’t choose the day we live in, you can choose what kind of person you can be in that day.”

Video from Houston showed students packaging rice to send to flood victims in Venezuela, one of hundreds of ministry projects YouthLink participants at all sites participated in the afternoon of Dec. 30.

From Denver, Christian author Josh McDowell exhorted students to put into practice what they learned from YouthLink.

“Back at your schools, in your communities, they will know you love Jesus because of the way you love each other,” he said.

St. Louis and Anaheim vignettes featured music from featured concert artists.

The second day of the event also featured worship, concerts by Christian recording artists, and inspirational messages from a number of speakers – some of whom were appearing at several of the seven cities.

Ken Freeman, a full-time evangelist from San Antonio, Texas, spoke before 5,300 YouthLink participants in Tampa the morning of Dec. 30 and 8,200 in St. Louis that evening. He challenged the teens to take advantage of God-given opportunities to “give God full control of your lives.”

Freeman, who has a cross sculpted in the hair on the back of his head, described how his life, at age 7, “changed from a playground to a battleground.”

He experienced sexual molestation. His father abandoned the family. His mother was an alcoholic who told him he would never amount to anything. He was filled with anger and was in and out of juvenile detention.

In 1968, a Christian teenager began witnessing to him. He became a Christian in response to an invitation directed to people who were tired of running from God.

“Christianity is not religion or going to church,” Freeman said. “Christianity is an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Also in St. Louis Buster Soaries observed that the teen-age generation today “is described as though you are Goliath.”

School violence and teen pregnancy are problems that seem like Goliath, said Soaries, secretary of state for New Jersey and an ordained minister. And as King Saul’s army did not know what to do about Goliath, Americans do not know what to do with this generation, Soaries said.

Part of today’s problem can be attributed to negative media attention, Soaries said. Positive events such as YouthLink receive less attention.

Nevertheless, “there are thousands of young people who gather in the name of Jesus all the time,” Soaries said. “It’s time for Christian young people to stand up and stop acting like the devil has won the war.”

In Houston, evangelist Voddie Baucham said Christian teenagers preparing for a new millennium need to make sure they have become “new creatures.”

“If we’re going to understand what it means to be born again, we’ve got to look at each other from a new perspective,” he began. “We don’t see flesh and blood, but a deeper reality.”

Whereas most people judge each other by appearances, Christians must comprehend the spiritual reality of life and living, he said.

“We think this (physical world) is all there is, but there is a part of you — a spiritual reality — that will go farther than this physical part can ever go,” he said. “When you come to Jesus Christ, you realize what you thought life was all about is only a shadow of what God has in store for you.”

Several hundred students attending the Thursday night session of YouthLink 2000 in Tampa, Fla., flooded to the front of the Ice Palace, responding to an invitation to ask God for renewal, salvation or cleansing.

“The one thing every one of us has in common tonight is that we are in need of a fresh movement of God in our lives,” Dave Edwards, a youth speaker and writer from Oklahoma City, said. “That’s what Christianity is about — God doing something unique in your life that only he can do.”

Students attending the events indicated they had felt that move of God.

Brooke Pflasterer, a member of First Baptist Church of Troy, Mo., said she had discovered some areas in her life that needed to be changed. “YouthLink has been an amazing experience,” she said at the St. Louis event. “Personally, I’ve been challenged to reevaluate my relationship with Christ and to strive to share him with others.”

Lindsay Beach, a member of First Baptist Church of Bartlesville, Okla., also attending in St. Louis, said she too had been spiritually impacted. “It’s so amazing to see so many people come together for Christ and not be ashamed,” she said. “I’m glad I got to be a part of this.”

Helen Kim, a member of Montgomery Korean Baptist Church, Rockville, Maryland, said she recommitted her life to Jesus Christ following a musical presentation from Christian rocker Rebecca St. James. “The praise was really good. I just felt a part of the group because we’re all Christians sharing the same beliefs,” observed Kim.

Josh Butler, Arlington Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., said it is “awesome to see so many Christians gathered together to stand up for God.”

Amanda Molares, First Baptist Church, Maitland, Fla., said she has “decided to renew my faith and share Jesus with my friends in the new millennium.” Molares and three other girls from the church said they have posted a quote in their church van, “Friends don’t let friends die without Jesus.”

In addition to the personal spiritual renewal, students also were challenged to consider their part in fulfilling the Great Commission across the street and around the world.

Emily Brookhart, 15, a member of First Baptist Church of Wrightstown, N.J., could be found Thursday afternoon in the exhibit hall at the International Mission Board’s East Asia display in Philadelphia. She and Crystal Phillips, also of Wrightstown, were trying their hands at picking up M & M candy — with chopsticks.

While trying, and eventually succeeding at this nearly impossible task, the teens also learned for the first time that China has some 400 unreached people groups, those that have never heard the 2,000-year-old good news of Jesus Christ.

“It really makes me grateful that I live in a society where Jesus Christ is known,” said Brookhart, who agreed to pray for unreached people groups. Phillips said she would also pray for those in other cultures and she would consider becoming a missionary.

Sarah Ploude, a high school senior and a member of New Colony Baptist Church, Billerica, Mass., said she will have an opportunity when she returns home to share about her commitment to Jesus Christ. Friends will ask how she spent the dawn of the new millennium and some will be curious why she bypassed traditional parties to go to Philadelphia.

For a part of YouthLink Philadelphia, Ploude joined a group of older students in the college track activities, which were organized by John Ramirez of the Baptist Convention of New England and other college-ministry leaders from New England.

When midnight strikes in a few hours and the calendars roll over to a new century, Ploude said she would silently pray a prayer of thanks to God “for putting me in a position where I can worship him… It’s great to be 18 in the year 2000 and have a long life ahead.”

Lonnie Wilkey, Linda Lawson, Dan Nicholas, Shawn Hendricks and Marv Knox contributed to this report.

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  • James Dotson