Growth among young Christians
The past two months have been as exciting as any other two-month period during my twenty-five year stay in the New York City area. I can think of fifteen baptisms during this period, but may be overlooking a few others. Most of the new disciples are teenagers from different congregations in the area who have been drawn into an increasingly large network of young Christians. They are determined to support each other in the battles against the world and draw closer to God. There are special Bible studies for teens going on almost every night in some part of New Jersey and New York City. Yes, they like to play basketball and socialize together, but their priorities are definitely spiritual.
To give you an idea of the numbers involved, we had over 190 campers and counselors at our summer camp in July and then about ninety teenagers from various congregations at a special Saturday Bible study session in early August. Click here for more pictures from the summer camp and here for pictures from the Saturday Bible study session.
Keys to the renewal
Ive tried to analyze the causes for the revival and come up with several.
(2) Leadership God has blessed us with an outstanding group of young leaders between 20-25 years of age. Ive mentioned these names before and will overlook some but a few are: Emily Ferenzce, Esther Rodriguez, Roger Polanco, Brigham Eubanks, Tim Bunting, Neil Grupp, Megan Duke, Marcos Alcántara, Ernesto Orellana, Eddie Jinks, Jennifer Reyes and others. They are constantly communicating with younger Christians, encouraging them in their battles with the world, praying with them and building them up. They are treasures! Two outstanding Christians from Atlanta, Daniel Broadwell and Matt LaGrone, visited us several weeks in June and are constantly text messaging kids up here.
I am especially encouraged to see a new group of leaders developing among the fourteen to seventeen year olds: Raymond DeLorenzo, Dan Wydro, Beto Guerrero, Antonio Ruggiero, Hannah Works and Miriam Works.
(3) Extensive time together This is the great advantage of the weeklong summer camp. Though some newcomers are nervous the first day or two, by the end of the week of studying, praying and spending time together the strong bond that binds many of the kids together is palpable. Summer is also a great blessing, since the youngsters are out of school and focus on each other and their spiritual goals. Click here for pictures taken during one Tuesday session together and here for pictures taken last Monday through Wednesday.
(4) Communication Those curses of twenty-first century culture- text messaging, cell phones, "Facebook," and other internet sites, have become blessings for this network. They use them to contact each other constantly with Bible questions, prayer requests and spiritual advice. I may put a list of some sites where you can check on their activities below.
Perhaps the biggest boost this summer has come from Roger, who has returned permanently to New York and has worked all summer long, teaching several home Bible classes each day. Roger has the great advantages of being of Dominican ancestry, a New Yorker (complete with accent, walk, clothing, etc.), much God-given talent and excellent teaching. Hes been taught by Gary Fisher, Caleb Churchill, Emily Ferenzce, Tommy Peeler, David McClister, and others.
Roger and Tim Bunting spend hours every day teaching home Bible studies and their work is making a big difference! Though Roger has had tremendous expenses with tolls and gasoline, he has paid them with no monetary compensation of any kind. I believe the Spanish congregations will give him some help next week, but hes going to need some more substantial help soon if hes going to keep up with the demand for his teaching. He plans now to get a part time job, receive part-time support and then perhaps in the future try to get full time support. If you know of any who could help Roger, please let me know!
Not just a local revival?
Im not a trained observer, but as I travel around it appears that other areas also are enjoying spiritual growth among the young. When visiting the Eastside congregation in Athens, Alabama I noticed the front pews filled with children and young people that listened attentively and took notes. When I was a member of that congregation around forty years ago, there were some nice young people, but many sat on the back rows and showed little interest. There was nothing like the note-taking and special attention that I notice now. There is the same type of interest at Embry Hills in Atlanta and other places.
Could it be that Christian parents and teens all over the country are waking up to the fact that our increasingly shallow and evil world is not our friend and that we must emphasize separation from it in the home? May God help us to maintain this revival among the young and be vigilant to protect it from Satans influence!
Ive used up all my space writing about the revival among the young in New Jersey and New York, but will mention as well on this web page the visit to the leadership camp in Russellville, Alabama the last week of July. What a thrilling experience it was to spend a week with over a hundred zealous young men and their excellent teachers! Click here for more pictures from the camp.
I hope to spend the week of September 7 in Midland, Texas and then the last week of the month in Nashville and then in Georgia for a quick visit with our parents.
Some web pages where you can check on activities of young Christians in the Area
|Two new disciples, Carlos Peralta (white shirt) and Bill Sanchez (gray Donald Duck shirt) with those who have helped teach them: Tim Bunting (green shirt), Emily Ferenzce (pink blouse) and Roger Polanco (blue shirt). These young men have good leadership potential.|
|One of our new converts who is not a teenager is Yohanny, in the black blouse, shown here with Jennifer Reyes who was her primary teacher.|
|Another group of young people (with two exceptions!) that hiked to Point Mountain, near Port Murray, to see the sunset. Left to right in front: Beto Guerrero, Beverly, me, Willie Guerrero. Back in the yellow shirt, Marcos Alcántara.|
|Several young people at scenic Weehawken, NJ with Manhattan skyline in the background. Front row left to right: Emily Ferenzce, Becky Thrower (visiting from Canada). Back row left to right: Zachary Daltan, Marcos Alcántara, Jonathan Ortiz, Melanie Ferenzce, Beto Guerrero, German Ortiz.|
Picture of campers and staff
Picture of campers and staff at the leadership camp, Russellville, Alabama