By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA – Former Muslim Afshin Ziafat knows first-hand the cost of following Christ.
The son of a prominent and devout Muslim physician who moved from Iran to Houston, Texas, at age six, Ziafat was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, during his senior year of high school Ziafat converted to Christianity – a decision which led to his father disowning him.
And just like Ziafat did when he made a decision to choose following Christ over his father’s faith, Christians must be willing to do the same, remembering there is not only a cost but a great reward for becoming a devoted follower of Jesus.
“It may not be the life you have for yourself planned out, but it’s the life you want, it’s the life you need,” Ziafat said. “And I didn’t know that when I first became a Christian. I didn’t know that there was a cost, that God was calling me to lose my life in order to find life.”
Today, Ziafat is lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, and travels around the world to share the gospel in churches, conferences and missions. He shared his story with more than 7,000 students at the 2013 Youth Evangelism Celebration.
“I could be a doctor and have my dad proud of me,” Ziafat said. “But I would miss the life Christ had for me. And I’m telling you that for some of you, my fear is that you will miss it.
“What about you? Who do you say Jesus is?”
Celebrating its 26th year, YEC drew a record attendance of nearly 7,600 and for the second time ever sold out before the doors opened.
Last year’s YEC also sold out, with 7,567 in attendance. That shattered the previous record of 7,050, set back in 2010.
This year’s YEC on Nov. 24th and 25th at Alexandria’s Rapides Parish Coliseum featured high-energy music; illusionist Brock Gill, a Louisiana native who grew up at First Baptist Church DeRidder; David Bowden, an artist who uses poetry and spoken word to accent worship; and an on-stage interview with ‘Duck Dynasty’ daughter Sadie Robertson.
During the interview with Robertson, LBC youth strategist and YEC organizer Kevin Boles asked a series of questions on stage, covering such topics as the importance of faith in her family life, the creation of her new line of modest prom dresses, killing a doe and buck with one shot recently during her first deer hunting experience and how the ‘Duck Dynasty’ show has changed her life.
She also touched on critics who have pressured the family not to incorporate their faith or pray at the end of each show.
“At first they did not want us to pray,” Robertson said. “That’s just something they didn’t want us to do but we said we’re going to do it because that’s the most important part.
“What would ‘Duck Dynasty’ be without faith?” she continued. “It would not be 12 million viewers. It would just be any other reality show.
“So we told them we’re doing it,” she said. “’We’re gonna pray. If y’all don’t like it, y’all don’t have the show.’ But now that we have the number one show, they can’t say anything to stop us because that’s what people are responding to.”
This year’s theme was Continental, based off Matthew 24:14 that commands sharing the gospel to all nations before Christ returns. At the conference, students received an opportunity to learn more about participating in a Louisiana Baptist mission trip to Madrid, Spain, from July 12 to 22, 2014.
The Geaux Students LA trip is designed as an entry level mission trip for students who have little or no overseas missions experience and will include ministering through relational evangelism to North African Muslims in Madrid. More information can be found at www.igoglobal.org, click on trips.
During the conference the students had an opportunity to give back through the Dollar Holler. The students were challenged to give a dollar in one big collection time that went toward the Hub ministry. By the end of the collection, more than $7,100 was given to the Shreveport ministry for the impoverished.
By the end of YEC, 524 students made decisions for Christ. Of those, 181 accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, 311 made re-commitments to Christ and 32 indicated a call to Christian ministry.
Seeing those her age make a decision for Christ was a highlight of YEC for Naomi Robertson, a member of Trinity Baptist in Pineville.
“All these people are in a big community sharing the same thing,” said Robertson, a member of Trinity Baptist in Pineville. “I felt God’s spirit and God at work throughout the couple of days we were here.”
Parker Johnson echoed the thought.
“The atmosphere of this was amazing,” said Johnson, a member at Magnolia Baptist in Saline. “Everyone here gathered for the same reason – to praise God.”