On Saturday, October 23, 2010, my wife and I participated in an event that we almost missed. Over a month before I had received a brochure in the mail about this conference and, mistaking it for an appeal for donations, almost tossed it as junk mail. After I registered online to attend I lost both the link to the registration page (which offered no information anyway) and couldn’t find the brochure. In the end it took a tweet to Jeremy Del Rio and a call to the American Bible Society to get the date and location information again. I’m so glad I put the effort forth.
The day began with a great breakfast. I mean really good. Eggs, bacon, juice, coffee…the works. From there we went into a time of worship and prayer, followed by a video about the work of the American Bible Society. Here’s the video:
The first session of the day was led by Jeremy Del Rio, described on his website as “Youth Specialist, Organizational Strategist, Author and Speaker, Justice Advocate.” He spoke on the challenge of literacy, providing an example from his own experience helping a boy from his son’s grade school class to improve his English and reading/writing skills. This boy in particular is from a Muslim family. This isn’t just a New York thing, it’s a matter of the kingdom of God reaching across cultural and religious lines and barriers. It’s about disciples of Christ extended a hand of friendship and help to their neighbors. It’s good.
After a brief break, Abel Lopez gave an excellent presentation of the work of CLAY Student Leadership. This is an effort to encourage churches to partner with local public schools to provide a non-sectarian (but harmonized indirectly with Scripture) curriculum that teaches solid values, self-worth and leadership. The point was made that just in New York there are five churches for every one public school. What if those churches could just agree to pray consistently for their local school? What if just one of those churches took the initiative to reach out to help the schools in whatever ways they need?
Lunch was provided (it was great!), and then we worked at our tables discussing how to implement something along the lines of CLAY in our own communities. It was a worthwhile discussion. Some questions were raised about implementation, such as finding volunteers who would be available during school hours to help, but these were set aside for future training and orientation from CLAY.
Our discussion concluded, we moved on to the announcement of the relaunch of Elementz of Life magazine. This periodical, a project of the American Bible Society, is aimed especially at urban youth and deals frankly and biblically with the sort of challenges they face. Each participant received a free copy of the magazine, and my wife and I were both impressed. It appears that rather than a subscription magazine, each edition will be sold individually and in bulk. At the end of the day a reception was held, complete with food and drink, to celebrate this relaunch. They certainly fed us well at this conference!
The final session of the day was led by Fred Lynch, lead pastor of Tha Myx church in Dallas, Texas. He gave a moving message from Scripture and his own life, focusing on lessons learned. Here are some of his best lines:
“The thing I don’t have going for me is the best thing I have going for me.”
“My weakness sure has made me strong.”
“Hey, I know me, so I know if things are turning out successful, it’s God.”
Point is, those of us who feel led to work with youth may feel that we are facing giants and mountains, but our success doesn’t depend solely upon our efforts. If it did, we’d be in trouble.