By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional Reporter
WOODWORTH – Giggles bubbled up from the cluster of children gathered around the youth throwing a block party at an Alexandria apartment complex. Jump ropes twirled, little artists colored with chalk on the sidewalk and a rousing game of kickball took place on the nearby field. The day of fun was all part of M-NOW, a ministry opportunity for teens in grades 7-12.
M-NOW, a two-day retreat hosted by the Louisiana Baptists women’s missions and ministry team, stands for Missions Now. The weekend was designed to engage students in mission action and witnessing so that they may discover similar needs in the context of their own communities. About 75 youth, youth leaders and program staff from seven churches across the state participated in M-NOW on Feb. 15-16 at the Tall Timbers Conference Center.
“M-NOW has been an amazing experience,” Rachael Smith, a 16-year-old with First Baptist Church of Tullos, said with a big grin on her face.
“It’s something I will remember forever,” Smith said, adding that coming together with other like-minded youth has made it easier for her to share her faith in a community outreach setting.
Matthew Jambois, a senior with Lakeshore Baptist Church in Monroe, agrees. “Becoming mission-minded can start in your own backyard. It does not have to be overseas or in another country,” Jambois said. He has plans to serve as a camp counselor this summer, and he said M-NOW served as a launchpad into mission work for him.
“M-NOW has helped me grow in my faith and how to use the Gospel in real-life situations,” Jambois said.
Jess Archer, the children and youth mission education strategist for Louisiana Baptists, said the end goal of M-NOW is to help build disciples who adopt a missional lifestyle that glorifies God.
“We want the youth to plug into missions right where they are right now, in whatever context God has for them,” Archer noted.
During the retreat for both the Friday night and Saturday sessions, the Louisiana College Baptist Collegiate Ministry band led worship. J.D. Jones, the former youth pastor from Trinity Heights Baptist Church in Shreveport and now children’s pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Shreveport, addressed the theme “Freedom” through Bible study.
The youth were able to select two breakout sessions Friday night to participate in which included how to find your worth, life on the mission field, waiting on the Lord, preparing for college, how to lead in a world of followers, tough topics for teens and how to plan and what to expect for an overseas mission trip. Saturday, the breakout sessions added were compassion ministry opportunities, sharing your testimony in three minutes and beyond M-NOW – next steps for missions’ discipleship.
On Saturday, the youth teams served in different areas of Alexandria and Pineville, and had the opportunity to share their faith. At the block party, youth played games and completed crafts with neighborhood children. In addition, a salvation message was presented. One group of youth helped with food preparations at Manna House, a ministry which serves an average of 240 people hot meals daily.
Many of the people who go to Manna House are either homeless or living on meager earnings.
Another group assisted Main Street Baptist Mission in Pineville by prayer walking, sharing their faith and visiting folks in the community.
Helping sort items at a women’s shelter an cleaning vans for a local church’s van ministry were also ministry opportunities in which the youth participated. One group of youth even helped paint cabins at Tall Timbers.
Jayden Austin, a junior from First Baptist Church in Boyce, said the opportunity to serve in a community outreach helped to bond her youth group together more.
The five youth that came together to M-NOW will be going on a mission trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico in April.
Samantha Maw, an eighth-grader with First Baptist Lafayette, worked with the youth who helped paint the cabins at Tall Timbers.
“It’s great to be able to give back. M-NOW has been fun,” Maw said.
Lee Marsh, the youth pastor at Hessmer First Baptist Church, and his youth served at Hope House, a women’s shelter.
They helped sort items in the clothes pantry and food pantry for the 35 residents in the shelter.
“It’s been a blessing for our youth to ‘give back.’ Helping a little can make a big difference to someone,” Marsh said.
In closing, Jones challenged the youth to take the “momentum” of the weekend of serving others through Christ with them. “Have it be a benchmark. Decide ‘I’ll be on mission every single day.”