By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
LAFAYETTE – Sometimes moments happen in one’s life that immediately change a person’s daily routine.
Though they could seem insignificant at the time, those moments could change the direction of and significantly alter one’s life forever.
“Our prayer is God pulls you out of your routine and He changes your direction,” Wes Hamilton told nearly 7,000 students during last week’s Youth Evangelism Celebration.
Citing Nehemiah 1, Hamilton challenged the youth to be like the biblical character. Living a comfortable life, Nehemiah chose to forsake the familiar to obey God and oversee the rebuilding of the walls in Jerusalem.
Hamilton challenged the students to act like Nehemiah, who was a cupbearer to the king and refused to let his comfort get in the way of obedience to God.
“Some of you are in your Jerusalem,” Hamilton said. “Your life is being lived in the rubble of your past and you keep working to try to put it back together. But it never works and you find yourself still in disgrace.
“What does that mean? You need someone to come from the king. You need someone to leave a place of beauty and security and safety. And that’s what Jesus does for us.”
Hamilton said that Nehemiah could have forgotten about the people beyond the walls of the palace where he lived. However, he chose to look beyond his own life and high standard of living and be with those of less affluence and wealth.
He encouraged students to do just as Nehemiah and ask how they can impact their world for Christ.
“We don’t live in palaces, we don’t serve earthly kings,” Hamilton said. “With our standard of living, we have more comfort than most of the other people in the world. We sometimes forget that.
“In our own wealth and security we forget there are people beyond our borders that are struggling just to live,” he said. “We forget to ask the question because we don’t want to know the answer. If we ask the question then we are responsible for the answer. My hope for you, I hope this weekend ruins you for an ordinary life.”
Hamilton added while cultural and language barriers may exist with other people around the world, or even in the same city, that the connection the students share with those people is they all were created by God.
“Your human and they’re human,” Hamilton said. “That’s all the connection you need.
“… God is calling you to live sent in whatever he has called you to do,” he continued. “Sometimes God is going to call you in the opposite direction of what the world asks you.”
Live Sent was the theme for the 2014 Youth Evangelism Celebration at the Cajundome. Due to planned renovations to the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria, where the event has traditionally been held, YEC relocated to the Cajundome.
Hamilton, who is pastor of Hulen Street Church in Fort Worth, Texas, was the main speaker during the two-day conference, which is the largest annual gathering of Louisiana Baptists. In addition to Hamilton’s messages, the event featured illusionist Jared Hall, worship led by Finding Favour, testimonies by Louisiana Baptist students and a concert by musical group For King and Country.
YEC also included a prayer focus, which coincides with a year-long emphasis of prayer by Louisiana Baptist Convention President Steve Horn, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and other leaders and pastors in denominational life around the state and nation. In his prayer, Stuart Sasser, student minister at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, prayed for God to capture the youth’s attention and move them to live out their vision and purpose, to live out with purpose and an urgency with eternity on their minds yet serving their generation as if there is no tomorrow and that this generation seek God’s will with a reckless abandoning of the chains which held previous generations back.
“We don’t want to come in here and have a good time,” Sasser prayed. “We want to leave changed.”
By the end of YEC, 233 students made decisions for Christ. Of those, 67 accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, 111 made re-commitments to Christ and 13 indicated a call to Christian ministry.
Two youth from First Baptist Church in Ville Platte were among those who accepted Christ as their personal Savior during YEC.
Abby Soileau called the event one of the greatest moments of her life.
“The tears shed and the friends gained are worth millions,” she said. “I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have spent my weekend any other way than accepting the Christ.”
Fellow youth group member Sadie LaCross echoed the thought.
“I’ve learned so much through accepting Christ in my life, and learning the word of God,” LaCross said. “This was by far the most heartwarming experience of my life and I would not trade it for anything.”
Last week was the second YEC for Alex Corkern of Palestine Baptist Church in Bogalusa, who said he enjoyed the fellowship with other students from around the state.
“YEC is a wonderful time of year for youth all across the state to come together and worship the Lord as one body,” he said. “It is a great experience that allows you to bond with your youth family as well as Jesus Christ.”
Jolee Beauchamp of First Baptist Church in St. Francisville, who was attending a fifth YEC, was amazed that so many teenagers would give up their Thanksgiving break to gather together to worship Christ.
“It is amazing to feel God’s prescence with so many teens in one place,” Beauchamp said. “We love the bands, who make scripture come to life. They deliver good messages with verses.
“This is my fifth YEC and I come each year to continue to keep the fire burning for God,” Beauchamp continued. “It’s an added bonus to youth groups.”
Among those attending YEC from Magnolia Baptist Church in Saline was Jase Fair, who learned “not to be afraid to share my faith.”
Fair’s student pastor, Michael Butler, said what Fair learned is why he enjoys attending YEC every year.
“YEC is more than a conference or retreat; it’s a time for students to get engaged and excited to share the Gospel and possibly place their faith in Jesus for the first time,” Butler said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing students worship through song and studying the Word and leaving completely focused on spreading the Gospel.”
April Sharp, a youth leader at Pisgah Baptist Church in Forest Hall, said her youth group enjoyed Hall’s illusions and Hamilton’s messages.
“Each year it gets better and better,” Sharp said. “Finding Favour was remarkable. Every time they came to worship on stage you just felt the holy spirit fill the dome.”
Kaleb Willis, a member of Elwood Baptist Church in Forest Hall, said even though this was his fourth time to attend YEC, he returns each year because of the variety of speakers and musical acts.
“Every time we come we learn something different,” Willis said. “You meet new people and get to hear the Word. The fellowship is one of the highlights for me.”
Cordell Collins, a senior from Trinity Baptist Church in Natchitoches, said that even though this is his last YEC as a student, he hopes to return for more after his high school graduation.
“YEC has always been a highlight of my year,” Collins said. “I look forward to hanging out with my friends and learning more about God. Every year YEC gets better and better. I can always look forward to great speakers, performers and musicians. I hope once I graduate high school I still have chances to attend future YEC events.”