By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
DYER COUNTY — Instead of resting, catching up on their homework, or working some extra hours at their part-time jobs on their day off from school last week for Martin Luther King Day, about 220 teens here conducted service projects and considered God. They were participating in the 12th annual Jerusalem Project of Dyer Baptist Association.
“I see a sea of students who gave up a day off from school to worship God and serve others,” said Alisha Moody, youth leader of the association, at the launch activities of Jerusalem Project which were held on Sunday, Jan. 17. Moody also is Baptist Collegiate Ministries director of Dyersburg State Community College, based in Dyersburg.
One result of the event was that seven youth made professions of faith after hearing Chuck Johnson speak. Sunday afternoon and evening sessions were held at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Dyersburg. Johnson is associate minister to youth, First Baptist Church, Martin. Also leading a session was John Yates, a ventriloquist who is a minister at First Baptist Church, Yazoo City, Miss. Thirteen churches participated.
“God placed you on this earth and He did so for a reason,” Johnson told the crowd. He told the students that if they are to do what God designed them to do and have peace and realize their significance, they will have to be “plugged into the power source,” which is God, he explained.
(scroll – story continues after slideshow)So many teens “have no purpose,” he added. They go “from relationship to relationship” and struggle with “addictions of many kinds” because they “can’t find the power.”
Other teens are Christians “but somewhere along the line you’ve lost the power.”
Then Johnson used John 15 to teach the teens how to tap into the power God has available for them.
On Monday, church youth leaders had to make a difficult decision — whether to work outside despite the frigid temperatures which at 8 a.m. were about 20 degrees or to work inside.
Mark Schutzius, youth and discipleship pastor, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Halls, led 20 teens to work outside despite the weather. The wind chill temperature was in the single digits.
The group built a ramp onto a house for a member of the church as well as did other chores around the property. The member, Rachel Hendrix, said she was very appreciative. She has Parkinson’s disease which makes it difficult to manage the steps into her house and can’t afford to pay to have the ramp built, she said.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Hendrix said. “They’ve (members of her church) been very good to me.”
To thank them she was cooking lunch for the group despite her health.
One of the workers on her property was Taylor Welch, 16. She said she participates in the Jerusalem Project because five years ago she made a profession of faith at the event “so it’s kind of a special thing for me … .”
Schutzius said, “Some people think teens are the future of the church. I disagree with them. I believe they are the church now. This is more than just a fun time. There’s a purpose behind it.”
Jerusalem Project encourages youth “to put their faith into action … ,” he explained.
Despite facing many challenges, this group responded well, the minister reported. None of the youth complained though they worked outside all day and they worked hard, completing the ramp and many other chores. One participant told him afterward he “couldn’t have picked a better way to spend his day off,” added Schutzius.
Ricky DeSpain, youth director, McCullough Chapel Baptist Church, Dyersburg, said his church has a good-sized youth group although it only draws about 50 to Sunday morning activities. The church saw seven youth show up at about 7 a.m. at the church for breakfast before they began their work. This group did not sleep at the church overnight though many did.
The teens organized items collected for Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoe boxes which the church works on all year and painted in the church.
The youth here look forward each year to Jerusalem Project, DeSpain said.
“I believe in the Baptist mission. We’re to do missions and be helping our community,” he stated.
Joe Wright, director of missions, Dyer Baptist Association, credited Stan Cavness, former and long-time BCM director of DSCC and youth leader of the association, for “being instrumental in the development and growth over the years” of the event.
Wright reported that the event which “marries the principles of evangelism and missions” of the association, is funded by the association, a registration fee of $15, and special gifts. Jerusalem Project also is supported by the association’s Women’s Ministry group which provided a meal.