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Liberty, Pikesville Youth Week of Prayer Leaves Lasting Impression
Story by Barbara Crawford
In the fading light of evening, 10 members from the Allegheny East Conference’s (AEC) Liberty church in Baltimore and Chesapeake Conference’s Pikesville (Md.) church, sit in a circle under a white tent and talk in excited tones of a youth week of prayer that ended days before. All share a deep appreciation for learning how to surrender. Punctuated with prayer and singing, those who have gathered share their impressions of the messages from the week—messages that have left many who attended yearning for a change.
“For the first time I understand prophecy in a useable way,” said Dianna McKenna, 23, of Pikesville church. “I mean, I know we have revelation seminars and we learn about the lion and the bear, but this is the first time I really understand how this connects to me and my life.”
McKenna is one of four youth who sit in the circle. The others in the circle are adults, including Hermin Cox who has been in the church for 16 years but feels this one youth week of prayer has revived her more than all her years of attending revivals.
“I am asking God to guard the word I received, so I don’t forget it and so no one takes it from me,” said Cox, who is a member of Liberty.
“A lot of times we say we surrender, but we really don’t surrender,” said Edwin Sherman, 20, of Pikesville who said the meetings opened his eyes. “Like the Bible talks about the dog who goes back to his vomit, we find ourselves going back to the same old ways.”
The youth week of prayer they speak of, called “Youth-4-Christ Stand,” was a youth-focused initiative that allowed members of two congregations to work together to plan and implement an outreach to mobilize the youth and young adults in the Randallstown, Md.-area to do evangelism. Instead of holding the meetings in the church building, the meetings were held on an athletic field under a tent and the youth of both churches ministered through ushering, song service, special music, opening prayer and a nightly quiz. For three weeks prior, the youth invited the community through door-to-door visits and a bottled water giveaway, and ended up giving out more than 2,000 invitations. In addition, senior youth organized a benefit concert for the homeless on Sabbath and raised about $500 plus received several bags of clothing and food, which they gave to two homeless shelters.
“I thought [the meeting] was tremendous,” said Robert Moses, AEC’s associate Publishing director. “Churches working together bring various gifts into the ministry. No one particular church has all the gifts, and churches working together combine their gifts to make a more complete package.” Moses noted that the open-air meeting combined with the energy of the young people was a real attraction to many.
During the week, Pastor Stephen D. Lewis, founder of The Present Truth, an independent ministry based in California, delivered messages with such clarity and power on God’s last day people, the mark of the beast and America in prophecy, that members listened with rapt attention.
“He said something that was powerful and I haven’t stopped thinking about it,” said Chris Cole of the Pikesville church. “’Take my heart because I cannot give it. I don’t want to give it.’” Cole added, “I had no intention of being here every night, but here I am. I don’t care who he is or where he’s from. All I know is the message is good, biblical and is the right message for the time.”
“I really appreciate how Pastor Lewis said to introduce people to Christ first,” said Thierry Lamour of Liberty. “We are to lift up Christ, not vegetarianism or dress reform because these will not save us. It is Jesus Christ who saves and all the other things will follow.”
During the week of prayer, 20 visitors from the community filled out cards requesting prayer and Bible study and even after the meetings closed, visitors were still drawn to the tent.
One visitor, William Diggs, said he listened to the messages from his apartment across the street from the tent. He said, one night Pastor Lewis said turn down the speakers because people need to know Jesus before they hear this. Diggs said when he heard “turn down the speakers” he bolted from his apartment and found a seat under the tent. This was the night he understood for the first time what the beast powers of Revelation 13 represented.
“This is the first person I have heard preach like that, who gave the knowledge solid and direct,” said Diggs. “I wish you would have been out there longer.”
Reflecting on what God had done, Pastor Lewis called the meetings a miracle. “I am so thankful for what our Lord has done for us and it brings tears to my eyes to hear these testimonies,” he said. “I am daily praying for the Liberty and Pikesville family.”
Remembering the Miracles
Conversations under the tent shift, and someone remembers the miracle of the weather that week. It was unbelievably cool and windy around the tent, it when just the week before in Baltimore, temperatures were in the 100s and in-fact, the Sabbath morning of the week of prayer, the temperature in the area registered 95 degrees. But at the tent there was a consistent breeze and a cool shade.
A cool tent in the middle of a heat wave was not the only miracle. Just securing the permission to put up the tent was a test of faith. In an incredible turn of events, the Lord moved upon the heart of the Baltimore County Public School (BCPS) officials who own the athletic field where the outreach occurred and granted the request for permission to put up a tent.
For months the committee had been back and forth with BCPS to get permission for the tent, but at each level the request was denied—policy, they said. Yet, at each step the Lord provided an opening to appeal to the next level of authority. During every communication with BCPS, the committee was told, “You are not going to be approved. They never approve anyone and there was no need in even trying.” Yet, after several attempts, one BCPS official finally said, “Ok.”
Another much needed miracle occurred one week before the outreach was to begin. Despite member donations and funds from Liberty’s evangelism budget, the funds to cover the rental of the tent were insufficient. God turned things around again and moved upon the heart of a member who donated $2,000 just in time to cover the cost of renting the tent.
Watering the Seeds
Perhaps, many of the youth initially doubted like Gideon, yet the youth leaders said they saw throughout the planning and conducting of this week of prayer that the Lord was with the youth and the church as He promised He would be.
“It was a blessing to my life,” said John Moses, 21, who organized the homeless benefit concert. “I have gotten closer to God because of the week of prayer.” Those who planned the week of prayer or attended the meetings echoed the same sentiments. Patricia Richardson, one of the youth leaders at Liberty said her faith in God has grown volumes through this experience.
As the youth leaders move forward, much prayer will continue for God to lead and shape the ideas. Follow-up with the youth in the church will focus on encouraging more prayer and Bible study through youth-led study groups, Adventist Youth Society programs that focus on building a relationship with Christ and supporting Pathfinder’s Bible Bowl efforts. Preliminary follow up in the community surrounding the tent site will include addressing the social needs of the youth through a weekly game night followed by small group Bible studies at a nearby community center. Personal contacts will continue with the 20 people who filled out visitor cards during the week of prayer for Bible study.