By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
“im 14 and i go to dunkirk baptist church and my name is cassie i was saved on march 27 2009” –Actual blog entry about Uncharted, Mar. 28, 2009.
BALTIMORE—Service in the city and technology in the conference highlighted the third annual Uncharted 2009 Youth Evangelism Conference, held Mar. 27-28 at Mt. Pleasant Church and Ministries in Baltimore, Md.
This year’s sold-out conference featured afternoon service projects throughout the Baltimore metro area as well as onsite live blogging and text voting during the conference. All through the weekend students logged on to the “Uncharted Blog” (www.uncharted.bcmd.org) and published their own posts about their experiences. They also participated in a variety of real-time polls, updated on the screens in the church and on the blog, using the text-messaging feature on their cell phones.
Organizer Maina Mwaura, missionary for student and children evangelism at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said that over 1,100 teenagers from 60 churches participated in the two-day conference, which included three main sessions taught by Kevin Marsico and music by Rush of Fools, Stellar Kart, Devin Turner, Eric Arceneaux, and Trip Lee. Fallen Grace, a youth band from Emmanuel Church in Huntington, Md., also performed.
Lead vocalist/songwriter Wes Willis of Rush of Fools shared that he heard the call to the worship ministry as a student attending a similar Youth Evangelism Conference in Alabama.
Marsico, senior pastor at North Star Community Church in Ijamsville, Md., inspired students through three messages that examined the life of Daniel, an Old Testament teenager who resolved to not defile himself in the new city to which he had been exiled.
“Imagine being 100 percent on your own and you don’t have to follow someone else’s rules and you can do whatever you want. Would you be like Daniel and choose ahead of time?” Marsico asked the students. “If you were left alone to choose, would you choose God?”
Ultimately, 45 students made decisions for Christ during this conference, which also featured 22 breakout sessions covering topics such as politics, sex, and serving in places such as Jamaica and Africa.
In her session, Charity Gardener, from the Arkansas Baptist Convention’s mission support team, led over 100 students in a “Homeless for a Day” poverty simulation activity. Using a life-sized game board, similar to a game of Life or Monopoly, students walked through a two-hour experience as families with varying financial situations, life choices, and available resources. Designed to put the participants in the shoes of other families, the experience encouraged the students to think about the issues that could have helped along the way and to think about how they could help people they already know involved in these circumstances.
In another message, Marsico urged the students to be careful of how they lead others—or whom they chose to follow. He pointed to Daniel and his three friends, who made a simple choice to eat vegetables rather than eat at the King’s table.
That small decision led to a lifestyle of change, Marsico noted, encouraging, “Your ability to influence others begins with the simple decisions every day. You be first when you serve and take the risk. Do what God wants you to do and let others follow… lead well by serving well.”
For Mwaura, the highlight of the weekend was seeing the teenagers involved in service projects all over the city. After praying on their knees on Friday night, students traveled to over 40 sites on Saturday afternoon to volunteer their service in feeding the homeless, beautifying parks and other property, assisting with animal care, holding a sports clinic for young children and spreading the word about church plants throughout the city.
The five-hour effort resulted in over 5,000 volunteers hours, more than what multiple people can do in a full year!
In the last session, over 50 students shared about their service experiences in an open mic time, with most saying that the experience brought them closer to God or made them realize how easy it was to make a difference.
Students also raised $2,500 in a special offering to benefit Orphan Concern International, a global outreach with the mission to help children who have lost parents to the AIDS epidemic in Kenya.
“This is definitely one of the most unique church event (sic) that I have been to,” wrote Chris, 15, from South Columbia Church, on the Uncharted blog. “Many of them go and tell you that you should do this or that, which is still good. But YEC is only event where the people say ‘come with me to do work for God’ and we go out and actually do stuff for God.”
Beginning in January, Mwaura hosted 12 Uncharted YEC parties throughout BCM/D churches and on May 16, Mwaura will host a free “Your Call My Call” Uncharted Reunion at First Church, Laurel.
“Uncharted is a tremendous opportunity to share the love of Christ with Baltimore….but Uncharted is only one weekend,” Mwaura stressed. “We want to see and hear about how God is using you in your community and beyond!”