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Off-site ministry projects leave lasting impact on teens, city

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“God has brought us all here to do something through us,” Sarah Groves told 10,000-plus teens gathered for the opening session of the July 1-4 National Acteens Convention in Louisville, Ky.
Groves, youth consultant for WMU and a key organizer of the event, was referring not only to what would happen inside the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, but also to the impact the girls would make across Louisville and southern Indiana through four sessions of service projects.
On Thursday and Friday, the 10,315 teens and leaders fanned out across the area to clean up local parks and recreation areas, minister to children and senior adults, clean and paint ministry centers and perform a variety of other volunteer ministries at 220 sites.
NAC, held every four to five years, was sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union.
The hands-on local ministry was a new addition to NAC, made possible with extensive help from Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.
“Do you know how long we have been waiting for you girls to come to our city?” Carol Butler, a representative of the mayor’s office asked the girls in the opening session.
Butler lauded the girls for their “beautiful hearts” and energy.
“You are a part of something much larger than this one event,” she said, referring to a nationwide movement to increase volunteerism.
“You are the future not just of our city and not just of your state, but of the world,” she continued. “You have something only you can give that will make the world a better place.
“Every single one of you will leave a permanent mark on the lives of people you will touch.”
Butler also told the teens Abramson had declared July 1-4 as “National Acteens Convention Days in Louisville” and “encouraged all citizens to take notice of this special recognition.”
Outside the exposition center, NAC participants received high marks for their ministry.
“They’ve done an excellent job,” said Randall Harvey, director of Jefferson Street Baptist Center in downtown Louisville. “I’ve been very impressed with their work ethic. They’ve gotten more done than we expected.”
About 200 girls worked at Jefferson Street Baptist Center during the two-day period, cleaning and painting the building that houses a long-standing ministry to Louisville’s homeless.
Renee Bryant, director of Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries Inc., said the young women reminded her of when she was an Acteen in Irving, Texas. Workers cleaned, painted and sorted food for the food pantry at the center, which offers assistance to individuals and families.
“Hopefully through the conference as well as the mission projects they’ll see how volunteer mission projects really help the community,” she said.
That was precisely the goal of organizing the thousands of hands-on ministry opportunities, said Julie Keith, Acteens consultant for Kentucky WMU and coordinator of the ministry projects.
“That was our whole intent, for people to come here and see needs and how to meet them and then go home and see needs and meet them,” she said.
As an example, Keith cited the 40,000 items Acteens donated for the Infant Resource Project, a Louisville ministry center that works with low-income mothers to provide basic necessities for children age 3 and younger.
Many girls who worked sorting the donated good for mothers and babies said they would like to go home and help start a similar effort, and Cathy Neel, director of the Infant Resource Project, received several invitations to come help them do just that, she said.
Neel also said the effects of NAC on Louisville will be long-lasting. “A year from now when I fill an order I still will remember NAC,” she said. Not having to round up these items from other sources will free her time for other priorities, such as fund-raising and parenting projects.
Overall, the ministry projects were the highlight of NAC for many participants, Keith said. “They loved it.”

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