By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
PINEVILLE, La. (LBM) – The format was different for this year’s Youth Evangelism Celebration but the message to proclaim the Gospel in the students’ schools and communities remained unchanged for the more than 1,100, collectively, who gathered for three one-night regional events in November.
Originally, the largest annual gathering of Louisiana Baptists – typically counting 6,000 attendees — was scheduled to convene at the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria, Nov. 22-23. But, novel coronavirus pandemic attendance restrictions caused planners to restructure the event into a regional format called “YEC: Limited Edition.”
Importantly, the three gatherings combined resulted in 69 students making some type of faith decision: 16 statements of belief, 44 acts of repentance to restore fellowship with Christ and nine commitments to vocational ministry.
“It was a blessing to even have the opportunity to do this,” Louisiana Baptist Youth Ministry Strategist Brandon Lewis told the Baptist Message. “I want to express to (Louisiana Baptist Executive Director) Dr. Steve Horn and the (Louisiana Baptist) administrative council my appreciation for even trying this and making a way for it to happen. In the end, it was everything we wanted it to be, and more.”
First Baptist Church, Haughton, Nov. 8, Louisiana College, Nov. 11 and First Baptist Church, Lafayette, Nov. 15, served as hosts for the seventh through 12th graders and adult leaders who attended.
Eddie Briery, pastor of The Church at Red River, Shreveport, was the main speaker at First Baptist Haughton; Jon Harper, an evangelist from Willis, Texas, shared the Gospel at Louisiana College, and Shane Pruitt, national Next Gen evangelism director for the North American Mission Board, closed out the final YEC: Limited Edition at First Baptist Lafayette.
Nick Parish, interim worship leader for Grawood Baptist Church, Keithville, provided music at all three regional events.
Lewis said that in view of the COVID-19 health emergency organizers had taken precautions to ensure the safety all who attended. He said participants were required to wear masks and group leaders took temperatures of each participant prior to arrival at the three venues. Additionally, church groups were seated together and distanced from each other.
Lewis said he has not received any reports of participants becoming ill after attending the events.
“Even with the logistic challenges, our youth groups were excited and ready to do something with other youth groups around the state in a larger setting,” Lewis said. “Some even traveled a couple of hours to come and be a part of a truly moving evening.”
Katie Gregory, an eighth grader from Westview Baptist Church, DeRidder, was among the students who made the trip to YEC: Limited Edition at Louisiana College. She reaffirmed her relationship with Christ at the conclusion of the evening.
“I came home, opened my Bible and started getting deeper into God’s Word,” she said. “And that hasn’t stopped. I now want to follow Him and share about him wherever I go. Having that faith in a crazy time like now when so many are scared is so comforting.”
Lewis announced the lineup planned for the 2021 YEC: Clayton King, an evangelist from Anderson, South Carolina, the 2017 YEC speaker, will share Gospel messages; worship will be led by the Jason Lovins Band; 321 Improv will offer comedic performances; and, Dove Award-winning artist Crowder will conduct a concert.
“In a season where it seems everything was affected by the pandemic or the storms, we are thankful to have been able to put together YEC: Limited Edition,” Lewis said. “We are celebrating every decision that was made and each blessing received throughout the events. Thank you to a fantastic team that came together to make it happen. It is truly an honor to serve Louisiana Baptists and be a part of youth ministry across our state.”