Spurred by YEC messages to live like Jesus, teens minister in Lakeland’s neighborhoods
Apr 28, 2011
By BARBARA DENMAN
Florida Baptist Convention

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LAKELAND (FBC)—Three days after 515 teens and leaders from across Florida gathered for the Youth Evangelism Conference in Lakeland March 25-26, Andy Neely, youth pastor First Baptist Church@the Mall, received a phone call from a man in the community.

“He and his wife were the recipients of bags of groceries that students passed out during the YEC,” Neely reported.

The man told the host church’s youth pastor “the timing could not have been better,” Neely said.

“I had the opportunity to share that he was loved by God over the phone and prayed for him as he seeks a new job,” Neely recalled. 

After the compelling music of Rush of Fools and humorous spiritual insights of speaker Dave Edwards, 325 students put feet to their faith as they packed 400 bags of groceries and hand delivered them throughout the Lakeland neighborhoods.

Walking along streets in mobile home parks and low-rent housing developments, the youth engaged residents in conversations and prayed for their needs. Clad in matching gray T-shirts emblazoned with the conference theme “the cause,” the teens personified the YEC theme verse, “Wherever they were scattered, they preached the message of Jesus Christ,” Acts 8:4.

In an offering taken during the opening night of the conference, the teens contributed $538 to help supplement the cost of the groceries. Nearly 400 bags were distributed on Saturday afternoon during the Love Your Neighbor Outreach done in cooperation with the Lakeland church’s Compassion House.

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The recipient of the groceries said the three girls who visited them struck the right witnessing chord with the man and his wife, according to Neeley. “He said that he felt like they genuinely wanted to help him, and not simply convert or change him.”

The ministry project, was “something my teens will probably never forget,” said Tamara Fountain, youth director at the Lake Buffom Baptist Church in Fort Meade. “This was definitely a great experience!”

During the first worship session, keynote speaker Edwards told students from 21 Florida Baptist churches of the Israelites who talked themselves out of entering the Promise Land because of the “giants” that inhabited the land, he said.

Edwards warned the teens of comparing themselves to others, saying “comparison” is an “invisible giant” in their lives which “will keep you from achieving God’s purpose in your life.”

“Every time you try to figure out if you are happy based on some external standard, you will sabotage what God is doing in your life,” the Oklahoma City evangelist said.

Comparison causes “us to distort other people’s success” and “discount ourselves,” Edwards said.

People always compare up, Edwards said, suggesting for teens that includes physical looks and abilities, clothes, grades, and popularity.

Edwards, who has spoken in over 2,400 churches, said that as a young adult, he too, almost said “no” to what God had planned for him.

“We talk ourselves out of following God because we think we don’t have the skill sets that someone else has,” he said.

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