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Annual conference aims to engage students in helping persecuted people around the world

Awsom

The lights in the room dimmed. Suddenly, there were loud, wailing sirens and the sounds of hovering aircraft and explosions. Shouts could be heard from each corner of the room as the girls yelled out, eagerly looking to find the rest of their lost family members.

The IBSA Building was transformed into a refugee camp Nov. 5 for the annual AWSOM conference for young women (AWSOM stands for “Amazing Women Serving Our Maker”). Through an intensive, simulated overnight experience, this year’s AWSOM focused on helping the 222 students in attendance understand the plight of the refugee, and how they can help. Attenders also heard the stories of Christians who have lived with persecution (see boxes).

Alina Aisina – Central Asia

Aisina was born in a gospel-sensitive country in Central Asia to a Christian mother and an abusive, atheist father.
Aisina, her sister, and her mom eventually fled their city because their lives were threatened for what they believed. Aisina grew up with a lot of fear, she said, “Not knowing what tomorrow was going to bring and being afraid for my life.”
After receiving a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child, however, Aisina described the change in her life. While her physical life didn’t change, she said, her attitude did because she knew she wasn’t alone. She felt a loving Father looking after her by using strangers from another country to demonstrate Christ’s love for her through the shoebox.

After the simulated war broke out, the students, grouped in “families” of five, were instructed to find refuge in a neighboring country. They could only travel with limited items, however, and had to leave the rest of their belongings behind.

When the girls reached their temporary shelter, a setup of makeshift tents representing a refugee camp, they were given minimal supplies. Current and former missionaries dressed as border guards spoke only the language of the countries they served, to represent the foreign atmosphere to which refugees must adapt.

In the end, the family had to make the decision either to return home to their war-torn country, navigating elements such as land mines, or to apply for citizenship in the new country in hopes of building a new life.

Rockie Naser – Jordan

Naser’s devout Muslim family lived in Jordan for several years before moving to Chicago. By the time Naser was 22, her father had arranged for her to return to Jordan and marry her first cousin. When she refused, she was estranged from her family. Her father even threatened her life when he discovered she’d become a Christian.

Naser fled the city where she lived and joined the U.S. military to help ensure her protection. She now serves as a women’s ministry director at First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

The crisis is real
Prior to the simulation, International Mission Board missionary Christopher Mauger showed a brief aerial video clip documenting the plight of the Rohingya Muslims as they fled from Myanmar, formerly called Burma.

Mauger, who serves in Southeast Asia, described the situation as “desperate” and “unbelievable,” and as a crisis that “needs prayer.” “If they have to go down [to Bangladesh] for refuge, it’s really bad,” he said. “There’s nothing there.”

Mauger explained how “hundreds of thousands” of Rohingya Muslims have been exiting the country as a result of persecution from Myanmar’s government, which is Buddhist.

“For those who have a place to live, they are living in camps with plastic for roofing,” Mauger said. “They are crowded in small areas, food is scarce, and they don’t have any hygienic necessities.”

Mauger described how easy it is to get distracted with a situation like this by blaming the evil in this world. But by changing their perspective, he said, Christians can help. “We can tell these people about God,” he said, “by giving and supporting the Christian organizations that are helping in that area.”

Wendy – China

Wendy lives in China, where she partnered with Ronny and Beverly Carroll while they served as missionaries with the International Mission Board. The Carrollslive in Illinois, and Wendy visited Springfield to speak about the ministry she coordinates to help people long oppressed because of their beliefs.
During the Chinese Revolution in the 1960s, Wendy said, all forms of religion were repressed. While many Chinese Christians fled, others, including a man named Su, were imprisoned. After Su’s release 20 years later, Wendy’s ministry found him and helped him rediscover Christ. This was Su’s first encounter with a Christian in more than two decades.

Becki McNeely, a leader from Lakeland Baptist Church, said AWSOM “opened the students’ eyes to an increased awareness of the state of refugees.”

Several students echoed McNeely. One young woman described how it “must be hard to live in a persecuted country” after hearing the accounts of the speakers. Several more expressed their increased awareness of the refugee crises and were “saddened” at its reality.

Carmen Halsey, director of women’s ministry and missions, said IBSA is securing resources to inform churches about refugee issues. She added that she hoped the experience helped students to be able to “feel the psychological anguish caused by separation and flight” and to “see what forces people into refugee situations,” as well as adopting a more welcoming attitude towards refugees in their own country.

Go to vimeo.com/IBSA to view video from this year’s AWSOM conference.

-Andrew Woodrow

Missions mobilization

 

Missions Spectacular

Missions Spectacular mowing ministry project

Mission trips are excellent opportunities for evangelism. In fact, sharing Jesus is the primary reason 22,000 Illinois Baptists personally engage in missions each year.

Supported in part by the Mission Illinois Offering, IBSA’s Church Resource Team equips missions leaders in Illinois churches to lead mission trips and to engage their churches in Acts 1:8 mission strategy. From just next door to the other side of the world, IBSA churches share Christ with many people and people groups. Missions Spectacular, Children’s Ministry Day, ChicaGO Week for Students, and GO Weeks on international mission fields are just a few ways IBSA helps mobilize Christ-followers for missions.    

And with 1,600 trained volunteers, Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief brings aid after natural disasters, while chaplains witness to suffering people.

Pray for Dwayne Doyle and Carmen Halsey who lead missions mobilization, and the teams who equip and send thousands of Illinois Baptists each year.

Give to the Offering. If your church promotes and receives a Mission Illinois Offering, we encourage you to give that way. If not, you can also give here — www.IBSA.org/GiveToMIO.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Watch “Students on Mission at ChicaGo Week.”

Exterior of a building with Education engraved in stone

I hadn’t intended college to be a particularly eye-opening experience. I was excited about my newfound freedom and interesting classes and those deep friendships everyone always talked about, but I was going someplace where I thought all those things would happen in the context of familiarity. My Southern Baptist college had felt like home during my first on-campus visit—that was what drew me there in the first place.

But at the start of my second semester, I sat with my Bible on the roof of the gymnasium (where the serious scholars went to study all night), wondering whether the loneliness and uncertainty I felt meant I had made the wrong decision in coming to a place six hours from home. Those good college things—the classes and the friends and the football games and the freedom—had all happened. But instead of feeling fulfilled, I was left with a bigger question, one that I now know most people that age, particularly younger Christians, probably face at one time or another: Who am I going to be?

I met people my own age who pushed me to a deeper investigation of what it means to be a Christian, no matter what job I would eventually choose.

A few years later when I graduated, I was glad I had been at that small college six hours from home as I tried to answer that big question. Because it was there that I found people with the knowledge, experience, and empathy to help young people navigate that tricky territory between the familiar and the future. Here are three things I still value about my Christian college experience:

1. A deeper faith identity. Raised in a minister’s home, I thought I had Christianity figured out (and, at 18, probably most everything else too). That’s why it was surprising, then convicting, to find other people my age who knew much more and felt much more about the call of Jesus on their lives than I did. And these weren’t just the kids that had committed to career ministry or missions—these were everyday students studying to be dentists, attorneys, and counselors. But they seemed to understand that the responsibility of a Christian to be, well, a Christian, extended far beyond one’s future vocation. They lived their faith in a way I wanted to, and their example pushed me to a deeper investigation of what it meant to be actually be a believer in Christ, no matter what job I would eventually choose.

2. Challenging, trustworthy professors. My first class on my first day of college was Old Testament Survey, taught by a young professor who would present four or five different theories about a difficult text and then say something like: “That’s what some people think. Here’s what I think.” Usually, his opinion was similar to one that he had presented. But by giving us the breadth of knowledge on a particular topic, he showed us young Bible scholars that it’s OK to wrestle with Scripture. At the same time, his daily, trustworthy counsel through the Bible gave us an anchor to come back to amid the multiple interpretations offered by the outside world.

3. Unrequired opportunities. Like many high school youth group kids, I started going to church because my parents drove me there, and I kept going because I had always gone. But in college, I didn’t have to be anywhere. Tuesday night Bible study wasn’t a necessity; neither was a Saturday mission project in our neighboring city. Learning to commit to things that weren’t required drove me to deeper discipline about how I spent my energy and time. The ministry activities that are most valuable, I learned in college, are the ones that root themselves in your mind and heart so that you are compelled to take part, even if no one would miss you if you weren’t there.

After I graduated, I moved to the Midwest to attend graduate school at a large state university. It was certainly different than where I had been. And that’s one more reason I’m grateful for my college experience: The foundation that God, through wise professors and leaders, had begun to lay for me carried me through the challenges of a truly unfamiliar place. And has continued to do so, all these years later.

– Meredith Flynn

Pray Praying Hope Help Spirituality Religion Concept

How to help students ask—and answer—big questions about the future

Jeff Reep works to help students make the right decisions for their futures, even if the process takes a while.

“It’s always better to get it right than to get it fast,” the director of career services tells students at Cedarville University, a Christian school in Ohio. Indeed, many collegians report not getting it right on their first attempt. Reep points to a statistic from leadership expert Tim Elmore that found 40% of college graduates wish they had chosen a different major.

It’s easy to see how it happens to so many people, Reep said. Well-meaning people at church or in the community start asking a student in high school where they’re planning to go to college and what they’ve chosen as a major. The response—business, education, etc.—often isn’t based on how God is leading, or how the student is wired. Instead, it becomes something that’s easy to repeat. All of a sudden, Reep said, the student is a junior in college who’s never really struggled with what they’ll do with their degree once they’ve earned it.

Am I really surrendered to God? Is my treasure, satisfaction, and identity in him?

That trajectory puts students on the fast track to joining the majority of Americans who aren’t happy in their work, Reep said. The number of satisfied workers inproved slightly over the last decade, according to the Conference Board’s annual job satisfaction survey. Still, just over half of the population say they don’t like their job.

“So many times, people look at a lifestyle and don’t consider a life work,” Reep said. A young person might aspire to live in a certain neighborhood or achieve a certain level of prestige, for example, but they don’t consider what kind of work is actually required of a particular vocation.

At Cedarville, Reep’s team helps students in three basic areas: exploration, which includes counseling about careers, internships, and majors; navigational skills, or developing resumés, cover letters, and other tools needed in a job search; and networking opportunities with faculty and employers who can help them as they investigate their options. Everything Reep’s team does is designed to help students answer big questions: Who am I? And where does God want me to be?

When he talks with students, Reep tells them he knows what God wants them to do, which is a pretty major assertion that he doesn’t take lightly. But there are three things he says he feels sure the Lord is calling them to do as they think about the future. The three steps can be helpful to pastors and church leaders as they help students in their congregations navigate the same issues:

1. Pray about it. And pray specifically, Reep advises. Ask God to put people on your mind who you should talk to about a potential career direction. Who can help you as you’re thinking through these things, or who can refer you to someone else who can help?

2. Ask for advice. Proverbs 11:14 says there is safety in a multitude of counselors. Reep urges students to heed Scripture’s encouragement to seek out wise advisors. And not just for job or internship opportunities. People are honored when you ask for career advice based on their experience, he said. And they may be able to point students to opportunities they haven’t yet considered.

3. Delight yourself in the Lord. The counsel of Psalm 37:4 is especially comforting for students seeking God’s will for their future. If a student can say they’re delighting in the Lord, that he’s their treasure, their satisfaction, and their identity, Reep said, then the next question is: What do you desire to do?

“If there is something that you desire to do, put it out there,” he advises. “And then start moving toward it.” And stay open to how God might continue to shape that desire.

The differences between “vocation” and “career” and “calling” can be confusing for students trying to make sense of their options. But Reep says every Christian is in full-time ministry. “Whether it is [as] a pharmacist or at a state university or on the mission field. And God is the one that provides for each of those people.” Calling goes back to “am I really, totally surrendered to him, am I a living sacrifice for him, is my treasure, satisfaction, and identity in him,” Reep said. “Then, out of that, what I do is my service, my calling.”

-Meredith Flynn

Mission Illinois Offering Devotion Day 4

MIO-box-smallLily Ohl grew up thinking Chicago is a scary place. But the 17-year-old from Sherman found during ChicaGO Week that many people were open to hearing the Gospel. Each summer, teens travel to the city and assist church planters in reaching their communities. They learn firsthand how new churches are started and get practice sharing Christ. “It’s a big city, but people are willing to listen and you can really change a life,” said Ohl.

Showing students the value of planting new churches is just one way IBSA is leading efforts to reach America’s third largest city, where less than 10% of people are affiliated with an evangelical church.

Pray for the salvation of Chicago, and IBSA’s Chicagoland church planting team: Tim Bailey, Dennis Conner, Jorge Melendez, and John Yi.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at missionillinois.org.

Watch Lily Ohl’s story, “Students on mission in Chicago.”

Sign-ups are now open for two popular missions initiatives for Illinois students.

CMD 2016CMD registration open now

Children’s Ministry Day for kids in grades 1-6 is Saturday, March 12. Leaders can register their groups for a project at http://www.IBSA.org/kids. This year, volunteers can choose from 14 sites: Bourbonnais, Bridgeport, Carbondale, Carlinville, Carrier Mills, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Decatur, Hamel (on March 19), Mt. Vernon, Peoria, Quincy, Rockford and Springfield.

Several hands-on projects are planned at each location. Projects will close once the maximum number of registrants is reached. The cost per participant is $15, which includes a T-shirt, lunch, and some ministry supplies.

Children’s Ministry Day begins at 9:30 a.m. with orientation, and concludes at 3:30 p.m. following a celebration service at each site. Register at IBSA.org.

GO Team deadline March 1

GO TeamsFor older students, IBSA’s GO Teams are accepting applicants for four international summer mission trips. In 2016, GO Teams will travel to Italy, Haiti, Jamaica and Guatemala.

“We believe that one of the best ways to help students develop a missionary heart is to give them an opportunity to leave their comfort zone and put their feet on the international mission field,” said IBSA’s Rex Alexander. “GO Teams give students that opportunity.

“We see God begin to create a passion for the lost and a heart for the nations that will stay with them throughout their lives.”

In Guatemala, students will work with deaf children, teens and adults, doing Vacation Bible School-type activities in schools for those with special needs. VBS is also the focus of the Haiti and Jamaica trips, where students will work alongside local churches.

The project in Trieste, Italy, is a new GO Team opportunity for 2016. The team will partner with a local congregation for a school painting project and kids camp, and also will prayer walk the community and work to build relationships on behalf of the church.

The GO Team application and information about each project are available at www.IBSA.org/students. The application deadline is March 1. For details about all upcoming missions opportunities, contact IBSA’s Church Resources Team at (217) 391-3138 or go to www.IBSA.org/missions.

 

Students at Youth Encounter 2014 huddle for prayer after a main session of the annual evangelism conference. Photo by Brooke Kicklighter

Students at Youth Encounter 2014 huddle for prayer after a main session of the annual evangelism conference. Photo by Brooke Kicklighter

HEARTLAND | Youth Encounter, the annual evangelism conference for junior high and high school students sponsored by the Illinois Baptist State Association, has a new look in 2015. Instead of one location, it’s in three. And the traditional post-Christmas date has been moved to October 11.

Changing patterns in youth culture and a decreasing number of attenders in recent years necessitated a re-launch of the Youth Encounter strategy, said Mark Emerson, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Resources Team. Noting the event’s rich heritage among Illinois Baptists, he said, “We are working to allow more students to have access to this event, while at the same time renewing its evangelistic purpose.

“Youth Encounter is more than just a concert; it is an event where pastors and student leaders can bring lost students to hear the gospel presented with the opportunity to respond to Christ. Not only are we praying that more churches will be involved with Youth Encounter this year, we are praying that hundreds of students will give their lives to Jesus.”

YE 2015 will take place in three cities: Country Club Hills in Chicagoland, Decatur and Mt. Vernon. The conferences share a purpose—inspiring students toward deeper devotion to Christ—but will welcome different speakers and musical guests:

North | Hillcrest Baptist, Country Club Hills
Hip-hop artist and St. Louis native FLAME will return to Youth Encounter after making his YE debut in 2014. Joining him at the Chicagoland site are singer/songwriter V.Rose and performance artist Marc Eckel. IBSA pastors from the area will lead in teaching at the northern location.

Central | Tabernacle Baptist, Decatur
Evangelist Clayton King is the featured speaker in Central Illinois. Bands Seventh Time Down and Remedy Drive will lead students in worship, along with artist Andy Raines.

South | Another YE returning guest, 321 Improv, will bring their comedy act to the southern location, joined by worship artists Jordan and Jessa Anderson, Shuree Rivera and The Great Romance. Evangelist and Liberty University Senior Vice President David Nasser is the guest speaker.

Each YE conference is 3-10 p.m., with dinner included. Until October 9, the cost is $25 per participant for churches affiliated with IBSA, and $30 for all others. Cost is $30 at the door.

For more information about Youth Encounter or to register, go to www.IBSA.org/YE2015.