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Global prayer networks resulting from YouthLink 2000 preparation

HOUSTON (BP)–Focused intercessory prayer for the nation’s young people has become one of the early ancillary benefits of YouthLink 2000 — the millennial event for an estimated 200,000 youth ages 13-22 in seven major cities across the country.
The 30th of each month has been set aside for prayer and fasting related to the event, global prayer networks are in place through both Southern Baptist mission boards and Woman’s Missionary Union, and a prayer guide is ready. The Southern Baptist network also will be linked with a large database of prayer intercessors from other Christian groups for an even greater impact.
“God had been putting on people’s hearts the desire to really bathe this whole event in prayer,” said Bron Holcomb, YouthLink 2000 global prayer strategy coordinator for the Dec. 29-31 event.
“Jesus himself is interceding for our kids,” said Henry Blackaby, author of “Experiencing God” and special assistant to the president of the North American Mission Board for prayer and spiritual awakening. “He’s praying not that they would come out of the world, but that God would keep the evil one from them. This is not the time to withdraw. It is a time for our students to drop down into these schools with boldness.”
During the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Atlanta, YouthLink 2000 co-chairs Richard Ross and Dean Finley will ask the entire assembly gathered on the afternoon of June 15 to kneel and pray for the thousands of students involved in the event. During the pre-convention Pastors’ Conference on June 13, the two leaders will also ask pastors to commit themselves and their churches to prayer.
In July, a “prayer room” in the Woman’s Missionary Union Internet website will join the prayer networks of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board with the www.youthlink2000.org website to build the global prayer network.
An international prayer network is in place in the IMB’s 14 regions with 150 locations. “I think the missionaries have a great concern with what they see happening to American young people,” said Sherry Woods who coordinates IMB involvement in YouthLink 2000.
In March of this year, Holcomb challenged YouthLink 2000 national leaders, site coordinators and site prayer committees serving in each city to observe a regular day of prayer and fasting for the event on the 30th of each month and to call volunteers to conduct prayer walks. Host cities are Anaheim, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa.
“This is a very big part of our strategy in reaching new areas at the IMB,” said Holcomb, youth team leader for Volunteers in Mission at the agency. “We want volunteers to go to the areas where students will minister each afternoon during the event and pray for things like their safety and for people’s openness to ministry and witness.”
Interest in the prayer preparation intensified as Holcomb met with IMB leaders and then those working on the YouthLink 2000/Houston prayer committee. Very quickly they found ways to coordinate efforts. “In the right time and the right place God put some folks together, to listen, to dream, to visualize what could happen through praying prior to this event,” he said.
One Houston Baptist who signed on was Mary Ann Bridgwater. With a belief that prayer “supernaturally brings about what God purposes,” she developed a prayer guide, which will be included in the registration packets for YouthLink 2000/Houston and will be available electronically after mid-June at www.youthlink2000.org.
“I believe that God is looking on our earth and his heart is filled with pain,” Bridgwater, founder of Pray the Word Ministries, said. “He wants to transform us through prayer to do his work with boldness. He has gone before us. He says have courage. Take the gospel fearlessly. Possess the land.”
Her prayer guide is Scripture-driven, like those she has provided for Promise Keepers rallies around the country, the annual Fasting & Prayer conference sponsored by Mission America and Campus Crusade for Christ, and for her own church, First Baptist of Houston. The guide is small enough to slip in a school backpack and simple enough to use in various settings, from private devotion to small groups to corporate worship.
“When Southern Baptists get these prayer guides, it is our hope and intention that they pray with the fervency of God’s Word for the event and for students,” Bridgwater said. “God desires to be the life and foundation of these kids. They are the next generation who will build a kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”
Missionaries from two of the 14 regions are praying specifically for students, for the IMB missionaries who will come to Houston and for the event itself. With distribution of the prayer guides, YouthLink 2000/Houston will encourage:
— students praying for themselves and friends.
— parents praying for kids.
— church members praying for their own students, for students in their communities and for committees working out details on YouthLink 2000/Houston.
Also scheduled: prayer walks in places around the city where students will do mission work Dec. 30-31 while 25-50 volunteers will be reading the entire Bible and praying in the 60,000-seat Houston Astrodome the day the event opens there.
Prayer committees are at work in each YouthLink 2000 site. Anaheim set up a prayer request line and conducts regular prayer meetings which cross generations and cultures. The Denver committee publishes a prayer newsletter. “Houston’s plans may be a good model to share with the other sites,” noted the IMB’s Holcomb.
Both Holcomb and WMU’s youth resources design editor Karen Anderson who also serves on the Houston prayer committee like to think about the impact this global prayer effort could have on missions. “It is special to think that missionaries in all of these regions will be praying for America and its teenagers,” Anderson said. “These students will be the next generation going to the mission field and missionaries are actually praying now for the Lord to send the laborers.”
She and others believe Southern Baptists should also consider the potential of this global prayer movement in the context of the recent student-on-student shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
“Prayer certainly curbed the extent of the tragedy,” said Chris Schofield, NAMB manager of prayer evangelism and church renewal. As people pray for YouthLink 2000 and those who attend the event, he asked, what if they began to pray fervently for their own students or might even conduct their own quiet prayer walks around neighborhood schools?
“Pray for the students,” he suggested. “Pray for teachers. Pray for parents. Pray for all those associated with the school.”
Pray and act, said Blackaby. “The one thing that I see in Scripture that I don’t see enough in God’s people today is linking prayer with action that follows. It never crosses my mind to pray and get up and then not see how God is going to direct me to answer that prayer,” he said.
“The hour is so serious,” he added. “The shootings, Y2K computer concerns, YouthLink 2000. We can build bunkers and withdraw. We can demonstrate that we have no faith in God. But we have a generation of teenagers watching what the adults do.”

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  • Celeste Pennington