Partners for Newtown, CT,
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT struck a deep chord of grief in our nation, especially for those who love kids. But for that community the pain went much deeper. My friend, Ryan Ventura, the youth pastor at Walnut Hill Community Church, 7 miles from Sandy Hook, says that for him, his church, and the community, the pain has been palpable. Because Reach Out had planned months before the shootings to lead a Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry Forum at Walnut Hill Community, we have talked and cried through that pain with him.
Yet from one phone conversation to the next, the tragedies kept piling up: a mother gave birth to triplets and all three died; one student in their youth group has Stage 4 cancer; another student died in a car accident; a college student in their church watched as her best friend fell over the side of a mountain and died; a girl's leg was paralyzed in the Boston Marathon bombing. As a result of this string of painful events, the church has found itself exhausted and the staff even more so. You can imagine that our Forum had an unusual and sober setting.
Knowing this onslaught of suffering, Ryan and I agreed to send out a special prayer alert to Reach Out's Prayer Team--66 people who pray for us consistently. We asked them to pray for the Lord to work with an unusual sense of His graceful and healing presence, and with a demonstration of His power to heal and give hope. God answered, or began to answer, each of our prayers in simple, yet meaningful ways.
Bryan Cerrone and Paul Johnson
For churches to come together at the Forum for unity, encouragement and restoration Churches did come together. They came from Newtown, but also from Springfield, MA; Nashua, NH; Southbury, CT; and White Plains, NY. They left united around the common vision and plan that Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry offers.
For younger generation leaders to decide to attend the Forum Amazingly, 10 days before the Forum, 1 person had registered. After these Prayer Requests went out, 20 people registered. Ryan Ventura and I were elated about that number.
Turn back the tide of multiple tragedies and heal the deep pain Hopeful and optimistic, the people who attended the Forum expressed their desire for the Lord to use the tragedies and death to bring triumph and life--especially among the younger generation. This added another piece to the healing puzzle.
Push back the kingdom of darkness that seems to cover New England, and bring in the Kingdom of Light
Southbury, CT group in prayer
In our Forum, we prayed specific prayers about this request six times. The leaders prayed for themselves to go deeper in their intimacy with Christ. They set up ongoing "Prayer Triplets" to pray in groups of three with their leaders. They plan to engage their kids in "Prayer Triplets" too. Accelerating the "place and space" of prayer will accelerate the Kingdom of Light.
For leaders to envision their brighter future at the Forum
Each person and each team received needed plans and resources, and left the Forum with clear direction--their Personal Plans of Action and Team Plans of Action completed.
For individuals and churches to put Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry into action
One good example: Ryan Ventura's plan for Walnut Hill
to structure JFYM for their five church campuses that only have two full-time youth leaders. Reach Out now coaches Ryan on his practical plan to implement this effectively.Please keep praying for New England!
Through your prayers and gifts, we will lead more Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry Forums this fall in Nashua, NH; Springfield, MA; and Dunnstown, ME.