By Jay Young
I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC) in Nashville, Tenn. February 16-18. YEC is a joint ministry of Missions Ministry Team and Discipleship Ministry Team of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and is designed help youth and adult leaders learn about and practice evangelism. This event was co-directed by TJ Malinoski and Nathan Wheeler and planned by the West TN Youth Ministry Planning Council. The theme for 2019 was Unite and we gathered together in worship, workshops, and servant immersion experiences to learn more about how evangelism can unite us to God and one another. YEC is an event for 6th graders-college freshman and adult leaders.
The event reminded me of a Mo Ranch weekend. Each session started with singing, energizers and games which were followed by a keynote address. The keynote speaker for the weekend was Reverend Lisa Cook. Lisa calls herself a street chaplain and her ministry, named Sacred Sparks Ministry, serves the homeless population near downtown Nashville. Her first keynote address focused on how she was called to the ministry and how she serves the homeless through her street ministry. The first small group session asked the youth to explore what evangelism meant to them and why it is important for Christians to do evangelism. Using Colossians 3:13-14 as a guide, it also asked them to identify the need for evangelism in their families, among their friends, at school, at church, in their communities and in the world. In the second and third keynote addresses, Lisa told us the stories of two individuals who held a special place in her heart for whom the Sacred Sparks Ministry made a difference. The focus scriptures for the other two sessions were 1 Timothy 4:11-16, and Romans 10:13-15. Again, the small-group activities focused on how we can make a difference in our families, schools, and communities.
The activity after the Sunday small-group session was for the groups to go out into Nashville and see some of the opportunities available there. The seven groups were assigned to go to one of the following:The National Diaper Bank, My Own Backyard, Gi Gi’s Playhouse, Still Waters, Ronald McDonald House, and Sacred Sparks Ministry. As mentioned in last week’s newsletter, the highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to take part in Lisa’s ministry on this day. The importance of this activity was that the youth were able to see firsthand the meaning of evangelism. The youth in my group weren’t too sure how to act, or react, around the homeless people, but soon warmed up to the task.
I was also able to make some contacts with the Cumberland side of our church. The other adults in my group were from a Cumberland church near Katy. We spoke at length about hosting each other if/when we traveled to Houston/San Antonio for an event or an activity. They have been planning a trip to SA to visit Sea World and/or Six Flags, but the missing piece was a place to stay. We can help them with that. I also spent a great deal of time with Nathan Wheeler, one of the co-directors of the event. He was extremely excited for me to be there and was anxious to find out how he, and the CPC, can be more involved in our youth ministry. CPC has a camp and conference facility in Gilmer, Texas, called Camp Gilmont that does weekend and week-long conferences for youth very similar to what we have historically done at Mo Ranch. They also do Cumberland Presbyterian Youth Connection (CPYC) every year at Bethel College in McKenzie, Tenn. Moving forward we are going to look at attending these events.