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Teenagers keep YouthLink promises to spend summer serving on mission

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–To keep a promise to God, 18-year-old Lydia Edrington is going to Africa to work for two weeks with Southern Baptist missionaries in Burkina Faso.

“God has given me a burden for the 1.86 billion people in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus and why he came,” said Edrington, of Bradenton, Fla. “I pray God can use me in some small way as he did the little boy with the two fishes and five loaves.”

That’s just one example of Southern Baptist teens fulfilling the commitments they made to God six months ago at YouthLink 2000.

More than 46,000 young people gathered for YouthLink 2000 in seven cities across the country Dec. 31 to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000. Students met in arenas and conference centers to worship and to listen to speakers and musical groups emphasizing the need to reach the world with the gospel. The event was sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union.

As they welcomed the new millennium, thousands of students publicly told God they were available for future career missionary service.

In addition, more than 4,000 promised they would spend a summer, semester or year doing God’s work full time before they graduate from college. Now it’s time to start fulfilling those promises, and many students are keeping their word.

“We’ve had an increase of over 5,000 participants in World Changers [youth mission program] compared to last year,” said Lynn Taylor, director of student evangelism at the North American Mission Board. “Part of the credit may go to the exposure students and youth ministers had to the mission opportunities presented at YouthLink.”

International World Changers has seen an increase as well, but more results from YouthLink are expected next summer after churches have had more time to plan international trips.

But there’s no shortage of mission action this summer:

— Will Aleshire, minister of music and youth at First Baptist Church, Hinesville, Ga., is leading a group of high school students as they minister July 15-22 to the people of Culiacan, Mexico, through International World Changers.

— Matt Mantooth, 17, of Greenville, S.C., joined International World Changers in Australia to help build facilities for Southern Baptists to use as they minister during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He also led sports camps and gave his testimony in Australian schools.

— The youth at Padre Island Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, are leading backyard Bible clubs in low-income housing areas of San Antonio.

“Our youth caught a vision and passion for what God can do through them, and our youth ministry has exploded since YouthLink,” said Darren Sutton, minister of youth and discipleship at Padre Island. “Before YouthLink, we averaged eight youth, but now we average 40.”

— Youth from Tabernacle Baptist Church in New Bern, N.C., are partnering with the inner-city mission in Atlanta they worked with during YouthLink. They are raising funds to provide a new roof for the people they worked with, and have named the campaign “Raisin’ the Roof.”

“YouthLink was the greatest event in our youth’s history!” said Sharon Bender, youth worker at Tabernacle.

— The youth group from Second Baptist Church in King’s Mountain, N.C., is traveling to Cleveland, Ohio, July 21-29 to conduct Vacation Bible School in the inner city and work with a homeless ministry sponsored by a church in the area.

— A group of 77 youth from Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., led kids’ clubs and did construction in Reynosa, Mexico. Eighteen were YouthLink participants.

— First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tenn., committed to three mission trips this summer. The middle school youth ministered to the homeless and children in inner-city Atlanta. The high schoolers headed for New York City. Senior high students from First Baptist are traveling to Sydney, Australia, to work with three churches in leading sports camps and worship services.

— Youth from Oak Hill Baptist Church in St. Louis, Mo., are traveling to Johnstown, Pa., July 28-Aug.5 to reach out with puppets, clowns, backyard Bible clubs and various street ministries.

“These kids are looking for ways to give their lives away to others,” said Sherry Woods, a missionary in residence who helped coordinate YouthLink activities. “This generation is out there, looking for God, and we’re offering them ways to serve him.”

Richard Ross, LifeWay youth ministry consultant and one of the co-chairmen of YouthLink, thinks the conference’s impact will be felt for generations to come.

“YouthLink 2000 has made an indelible mark on the Southern Baptist missions enterprise. The students who attended saw a vision for the world they will never forget,” Ross said. “The ‘rest of the story’ will not be told for decades.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: KEEPING THEIR PROMISES and GLORIFYING GOD.

To join a discussion about YouthLink’s impact or tell how you are following up on a YouthLink commitment, visit http://www.imb.org/forum.

Additional youth missions links can be found at the following sites: http://www.thetask.org/; http://www.studentz.com/interface.htm; http://www.wmu.com/wmu/organizations/youth/default.htm.

To search Baptist Press archives for previous YouthLink 2000 articles and photos, go to: http://sbcbaptistpress.org/search.cfm.

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry