[Pictured above, Mt. Ararat - landing place of Noah's Ark]Partners for the Younger Generation,
I came here not knowing God's purpose for this conference, only that He wanted me here. Now I know. He wants me to provide a secure place to get to know, share Christ with, and disciple [our teenagers]. So I have surrendered all spheres of my life to Christ in order to be an example for kids.
This one leader expressed the feelings of all as Sammy Tippet and I met with 60 youth leaders from 2 countries and 10 denominations for 6 days of training in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry. I saw God at work in churches from "Grave Danger" (country name withheld for security) and from "Surrounded" (Armenia). Although I have so many stories, I hope these will inspire you to join me in equipping more leaders in the future.
A Church from "Grave Danger"
The youth leaders in this "Muslim convert" church have broken the law. The government stalks them and their parents torture them. Sandy* was kicked out of her house and cut off from all finances for over two years. Despite severe tension these "20-30 something" leaders return to their families to express Christ's love to them.
With intense seriousness about reaching their Muslim friends, although it can lead to prison and even death, they spent five hours with me discussing how to modify JFYM for their situation. Their boldness is reflected in a journal they produce for "youth" (ages 18-35) which has grown from 1 to 60 pages of testimonies from Muslim converts. If they get caught "preaching" (speaking or writing about Jesus) they will go to jail.
Closing our time together, I began to pray "Lord Jesus..." They stopped me, placed their hands on their own heads and said, "Oh no, don't pray for us. Pray over us." So I laid my hands on their heads and prayed Spirit-led words over each of them. Tears flowed.
A Country Surrounded
Armenia has quite a history. Noah's ark landed there on Mt. Ararat. A Christian country since 302, Armenia has fought off the ravages of genocide, Muslim invasions, and Soviet occupation for 70 years. With Muslim countries surrounding it, today Armenia survives as the only Christian country in the Middle East.
God must have a special plan for this nation! The key youth leaders at our conference believe they play a role in that plan--leaders like Hovac. The pastor of an influential church in Yerevan, the capital city, Hovac has lived in Lebanon, Greece and America. When I gave him my last English copy of Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry, you would have thought I gave him $1 million. He outlined and recorded every session on his iPad to equip his church to reach and disciple teenagers. Not only did Hovac catch the Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry vision for his church and his country, but also for taking it from "Surrounded" to churches in "Grave Danger"--at grave danger to himself.
A Gift Received
After the conference, Diana* from the church in "Grave Danger" said, "I want to tell you something special." She told me that every year around Christmas she asks the Lord for a present--a special gift from Him. And every year for the last several years He has given one to her. But not last Christmas. She received only a Bible passage: Matthew 9:35-38. The Lord told her that was the gift. Disappointed that it wasn't something tangible, she felt excited too, anticipating what the Lord had in mind with those verses. But as she asked "the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest field," great turmoil came to her church. Eight "laborers" left the country. One was arrested. Then she came to our conference. Matthew 9:35-38 serves as the foundation passage for Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry! With tears of gratitude, she received her gift--the practical training to fulfill those verses in her own life and community. Through tears she could not stop expressing her thanks for Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry!
Through tears, I, too, received a gift on this trip--a vision to share the strong burden these youth leaders have for their respective countries. With tears in their eyes they asked me to pray for them and help them fulfill their vision to bring Jesus to their nations. With tears in my eyes I told them I will. How can I refuse?
Now I invite you to share in my gift--my vision to assist these courageous leaders in fulfilling their vision to reach and disciple the younger generation to follow Jesus--both in "Surrounded" and in "Grave Danger." Your gifts and prayers make the future of this vision possible!.