By Jennifer Harris
Word&Way News Writer
Youth at National Heights Baptist Church in Springfield recently spent $549.76 to buy items for families in need, but they never saw any of their purchases. Instead, they worked with World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization tackling the causes of poverty and injustice, to buy four sheep, malaria prevention kits for five families in Africa, and critical supplies for impoverished children in America.
The students traveled to St. James for an annual winter retreat. “The retreat, for me, was really just a time to get away and just make my focus on God, because that is where it should be all the time. Unfortunately, we get a bit distracted,” said Scott Kirchner, sophomore at Ozark Technical College.
High school junior Kendra Weatherford agreed. “It’s really nice to be able to get away in the middle of the hectic school year and literally retreat with close friends,” she said. “It meant a lot because it gave us, as a youth group, an opportunity to bond in a way that probably couldn’t have happened at home.”
“The retreat was a great way to spend time in a comfortable, God-focused environment,” said Rachel Miles, a high school junior. “As a Christian teenager, I struggle every day with facing people and situations that go against the life I’m trying to live. The retreat was perfect for escaping all that, even if only for a couple days. When we separate ourselves from worldly distractions, God has room to step in and really work in our hearts.”
During the two days of corporate worship, quiet time and recreation, the group focused on justice.
“Justice used to carry such a negative connotation for me,” Miles said. “I thought that only ‘bad’ people had justice done to them. During the retreat, I learned that God calls His people to fight for those who desperately need to be fought for. We are the justice-givers in this life and can radically change others’ lives.”
Instead of ordering T-shirts, the group decided to donate the money to a World Vision project. Jason Davis, associate pastor of youth, passed out catalogs and told the students they had $100 to spend.
“The students decided the best use of our funds would be to purchase a sheep to provide milk and wool for a family,” Davis said.
Unfortunately, the sheep cost $5 more than the funds they had. “One student immediately donated the needed $5,” Davis said.
Once the students realized they could contribute, they came up with an additional $100 to give to World Vision. “It was really incredible to see how truly giving the kids in our youth group are,” Weatherford said. “I think a lot of times, we forget how much we can do to change the world – especially us kids. We think that we are too young to make a difference. 1 Timothy 4:12 says ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.’ Not only can we make a difference, but we can be examples. And that’s just what God calls us to do – to seek justice.”
When the youth group returned to Springfield, members of the church heard about the project and added their contributions. According to Davis, the youth have decided to eliminate T-shirts from other events, as well.
“As Christians, we get overwhelmed with all the need in the world,” Miles said. “We’re so stunned, we end up doing nothing. Justice can be given on a small-scale, everyday basis. The Bible calls us to take care of the orphans and windows. Similarly, anyone you know at school or work who doesn’t have someone telling them they are valued and loved needs to be fought for.” (3-8-07)