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Teens take up cross to model Jesus’ love to their neighbors

INTERLACHEN, Fla. (BP)–When was the last time you saw a group of teenage girls tug a wooden cross around your community?
In a number of Florida communities, the answer is, in the past few months.
Nearly 600 Florida Baptist Acteens, representing more than 70 churches, have displayed a six-foot cross along beaches, across lakes and down city streets, as part of a year-long effort launched last March.
Transported by foot, rollerblades, horses, parade floats, automobile and boat, the cross has stood as a reminder of Jesus’ example as the Acteens have shared in ministries to disadvantaged children, shoppers, elderly persons, tourists, recovering addicts, abused women, state legislators, beachgoers and fellow teens, including one “See You At the Pole” site.
The effort, known as “CrossWalk,” encourages Acteens groups and churches to take the cross with them while participating in ministry projects. The teens were urged to model Jesus’ actions as if he were to visit their community. Each group maintained the cross for one week.
Acteens from First Baptist Church, Interlachen, took advantage of an area high school homecoming parade and football game to showcase the cross. During the parade, the cross was displayed as the centerpiece on a float sponsored by an on-campus Christian club. The club was awarded first place by the homecoming parade judges, the first time a Christian club had ever won the distinction.
After the parade, several of the club’s Christian football players tugged the cross to mid-field. Afterward, a prayer service was held at First Baptist, which resulted in one student making a profession of faith in Christ.
Tiffany Niceley, an Acteen from the Interlachen church, said participating in CrossWalk gave her the “courage to stand up” for what she believed in, “no matter the cost. As we take a stand for what we believe in, we will be respected by our peers,” she affirmed. “We must do whatever we can to get the word out. A lot of people can be reached for Christ through CrossWalk.”
Mirroring Christ’s ministry alongside bodies of water, four Winter Haven Acteens and youth groups set sail across area waterways to share the cross’ message. During their maritime voyage, the groups docked at various ports where they led children’s Backyard Bible Clubs.
“When we challenged our groups to come up with ministry ideas that Jesus would do if he came to our community, they immediately decided to utilize the area lakes,” said Marcia McKinney, Acteens director at Parkland Baptist Church, Winter Haven. “Our Lord’s ministry was often on the water’s edge and with children.”
McKinney said participating in CrossWalk was an opportunity for the youth to participate in hands-on missions.
“Transporting the cross to places outside the church gave us the opportunity to get the message of Christ to all kinds of people,” agreed Amanda Miller, an Acteen from Parkland Baptist. “We must not be afraid to get out and tell others about God. They could one day come to our church and accept Christ.”
Martha Clark, CrossWalk coordinator from Long Avenue Baptist Church, Port St. Joe, said the goal of CrossWalk is twofold. The project is designed to help Florida teens recognize the need and purpose of applying their Christianity through ministry to others. Also, the project seeks to increase awareness of the Acteens organization among Florida Baptists.
The statewide project is based on Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
“It is an opportunity for Acteens to practice what it means to follow Christ in their communities,” said Sharon Thompson, Florida Baptist Convention Acteens associate.
CrossWalk events have been coordinated and led by laypeople, Acteens, Women on Mission and youth groups involving more than 7,500 Florida Baptists and unchurched Floridians. Hundreds of other church members have committed to pray for CrossWalk events and participants.
“The most encouraging part of CrossWalk has been the initiation and leadership of lay leaders in our churches,” Clark said. “We’ve been encouraged by the enthusiasm and creativity of the girls, WMU groups and youth groups who have taken up the cross and led in ministries around their community. That is what we as Acteens and Christians are all
Prior to each event, Clark said, the Acteens participate in a Bible study to highlight the biblical model of Christ’s ministry and provide the opportunity to explore ways to follow his examples.
In July, Florida Acteens will hand off their cross to Acteens in Kentucky during the National Acteens Convention in Louisville. Clark said the Kentucky group plans to hold similar CrossWalk events. Clark said she hopes other Acteen groups will pick up on the concept of CrossWalk.
“What could be more detrimental to the kingdom of darkness than young people living like Jesus all over Florida and our country?” Clark asked. “Because of another ‘cross walk’ more than 2,000 years ago, Satan is already defeated.”

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  • Stella Anderson