Date: June 12, 2005
Speaker: Raleigh Gresham
|Listen to Raleigh's message (45 min)|
|MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE|
|Fellowship Bible Church youths including Meredith Sloan, 12, above, have made Colorado Springs their mission “trip” this week. The group has stretched its comfort zone, spreading its message through community service and packs of bubble gum.|
|MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE|
|Meredith Sloan, 12, left, and Carrie Ragland, 18, of Fellowship Bible Church work to pull weeds Thursday at a home in the Falcon Mobile Home Park in Colorado Springs. The youths are taking part in a weeklong citywide mission “trip” with their church.|
A local youth group visited Colorado Springs businesses this week, intent on showing Jesus’ love through packs of bubble gum.
They’ve learned that evangelism, even with a low-key message and free stuff, is not always welcome.
Most merchants accepted the gum from the Fellowship Bible Church junior high school students with a smile and a word of thanks. But a few, the children said, asked them to leave. At least one merchant called the North Nevada church to complain.
The children, most ages 11 to 13, say that was the most difficult part of their mission “trip” to their hometown. Some can’t pronounce the word proselytize, and they were mystified when their gum was rejected.
“It’s kind of frustrating,” said Lexi Pudder, 16, a highschool volunteer helping with the program. “We’re doing this because we love God, and God loves them, and we’re just trying to show them that.”
The 34 middle school and junior high students from Fellowship Bible Church are wrapping up their five-day mission “trip” today. Summertime mission trips are common for many church youth groups; junior high or high school students travel to Mexico or poor parts of the United States to build a house, feed the hungry and engage in lowkey evangelism.
Missions to a church’s home city are unusual. This was the second year Fellowship Bible junior high students have focused on their hometown.
The event was intended to take the children out of their comfort zone: They slept in huge canvas tents in sight of their church, swore off candy, video games and showers and spent their days doing a host of what they called “cool, unexpected things.”
They cleaned yards for the elderly, painted fences, handed out free drinks at Cottonwood Creek Park.
They also gave gum to merchants across Colorado Springs, along with cards identifying the youth group and the church. Each card included a map to the church and its telephone number, along with the mission’s motto: “Taking Jesus to the Streets of Colorado Springs.”
Often, the children would tell the merchants the gum was their way of showing Jesus’ love.
For some, the card and message represented unwanted evangelism.
“It was very discouraging at first,” said Josh Billings, Fellowship Bible Church’s junior high pastor. He said the children would ask: “Why are we doing this if people don’t like it?”
Billings said the giveaway wasn’t intended to make the children feel good. It was designed to illustrate God’s love.
“It’s important for them to know that there are people out there that have to be touched by the spirit before they can have any impact,” he said.
Some merchants who were visited by the children said they thought the free-gum concept was a little weird.
“They’re probably doing this for some very wealthy church,” said Mike Douglas of Velez Native Arts near Acacia Park downtown, who talked with the children Tuesday. “They’re probably not getting paid.”
But he added the children were “very nice,” and he accepted the gum. Most merchants were pleased with the giveaway.
“We thought it was free gum, and we were very happy about it,” said Fran Johnson of The Book Broker downtown.
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