Two young students turn their lives over to Christ while away at camp. Their
enthusiasm over their newfound relationship with their Savior prompts them to
run from the church bus to their mothers waiting car to share the good news.
The youth pastor, Brian Bloy, stands nearby, wanting to hear the joyous
declaration. To his disappointment, the girls are greeted with a glum assurance
that they already were Christians and that they already had been baptized.
Brian was moved by this and other events to begin a
new churchWest Ridge Church in Hiram, Georgiathat would reach the family as a
whole, allow students to develop fuller relationships with Jesus and help their
mothers and fathers do the same.
Brian worked as a youth minister full-time for nine yearssix as student
ministries pastor at a large church in Virginia. He had become a Christian
while he was in middle school and credits his youth minister with instilling in
him the desire to share his faith.
"The world is searching to fill a void. I struggle
with overcoming fears just like everyone else, but I hold on to the fact that
people are searching for answers somewhere," Brian said.
To overcome the fear and doubt, he asks the Holy Spirit to empower him.
"I am always amazed at how God provides the words to say. I start
remembering scripture I learned in my youth," Brian said.
West Ridge emphasizes lifestyle evangelism and takes many steps to share
Christ in a community that boasts the sixth fastest growing county in the
United States although 82 percent of the population is unchurched.
"Most people in the neighborhoods dont go to church, so there is a big
emphasis on how you actall the time," Brian said. "Their eyes are on you."
West Ridge members canvass their neighborhoods with free light bulbs wrapped
in a gospel tract, hand out free newspapers and give free car washes. "We talk
a lot about people seeing Christ in your lifethats the greatest evangelism tool
Since 1997 more than 400 people have trusted Christ through the ministries
of West Ridge. Many of those have been parents that were reached by the youth
involved in the churchs programs.
"Our program focuses on preschool through youth," Brian said. "A lot of kids
bring their parents in. Parents are coming to Christ."
For example, the Extreme Cafe has provided venues to reach students who in
turn are reaching their families. Extreme Cafe is a Sunday night service held
in a local restaurant. Between 160 and 200 kids come each week. They hear a
different band each time.
"About half do not go to church, and our youth pastor is a pastor to them.
Some of those kids make the transition to church on Sunday and are bringing
their parents with them," said Brian.
Can you pray for a teenager? Can you make
a telephone call to someone who is sick? Can you bake a loaf of bread for a
newcomer? Eighty-eight-year-old Mary Harriet Dill can, and those are just a few
of her latest projects.
"Her middle name is missions. She does everything," says Rhonda Pevato,
secretary for First Baptist Church in Dover, Tennessee.
Marys age gives her the perspective of time when she sees the effect she has
had on lives across six decades of prayer and teaching. What encourages her
most is seeing changed lives.
"To see kids I taught go on to do great things for
the Lord is humbling. Some of my dearest children are now school teachers."
Even today there are two men she taught who plan to attend seminary because
they have committed their lives to full-time ministry. A girl she taught plans
to be a medical missionary. Another young woman is developing her skills in
sign language to minister to the deaf.
The people who know Mary best call her a saint. Kay Brigham, a long-time friend
says, "She has promoted missions and has been a leader and motivator in our
church for years. She has been a leader in prayer and was a founding member of
our Womans Missionary Union."
Her friends also recognize that traveling the world isnt a requirement for
"Ive never been away from my own county. Ive spent all my years serving the
Lord in one small town, but Ive tried my best to do what Christ would want me
to do in my life," said Mary.
Myrtis Owens, a missionary who spent 36 years in Tanzania, says Marys
prayerful concern has had an impact on countless lives.
"Mary never forgot us. My daughter is a missionary now, and Mary continues
to look after her needs and prays for her diligently. She is thoughtful that
way, you see. So many people have gone into full-time Christian work because of
her influence," says Myrtis.
Mary loves young people and enjoys reflecting on the many students she has
seen come to Christ through the years. She often saw those results after
praying for the students by name, sometimes for years. "In every class I taught
I shared the plan of salvation and prayed for the children to commit their
lives to Christ."
The churchs prayer ministry, which Mary developed, pairs each student with a
woman in a mission group. The adults pray for the young people and encourage
them in their decisions for the Lord.
"I want to encourage everyone to allow God to have first place in their
lives. We dont want Christ just to be our Savior, but we want Him to be our
Lord. Every day of our life, we should ask God to be the Lord of our lives. We
should live for Him one day at a time."
For Mary, one more day means making telephone calls, baking bread, preparing
meals for the homebound, praying and encouraging all those around her to be
involved in meeting the needs in other peoples lives.
Sylna Rego moved to the United States from Brazil 31
years ago and believes God used her heritage to prepare her for multicultural
ministries and social work.
Beyond her desire to find multicultural evangelism opportunities, God has
given her the gifts for it. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish and some French. Her
familys move to Florida showed her that God was offering the opportunity to
pursue her desire and use those gifts.
"God prepares you, provides for you and protects you. Hes proven it to me,"
After the move, she became the director of a small,
private agency. The connections she made at the county health department and
other government agencies have proven beneficial in projects such as the Living
Water Care Center. It has also prepared her for the ethnic diversity in her
"I didnt realize God was preparing me. When I found out that the Gulf Stream
Baptist Association was hiring, it was perfect."
Gulf Stream includes 150 churches with 14 language groups. More than half
are ethnic churches. The association runs more than 30 programs from chaplaincy
to English education.
Sylna says her cultural heritage also affects her style of evangelism and
how she trains church members from Baptist congregations across Florida. Her
diverse background and multi-linguistic ability allow her to communicate in
almost any setting. They also allow her to bring understanding and empathy to
people who encounter the same diversity daily in the people they meet. Bringing
that sensitivity into evangelism expands the opportunities for Christians to
share their faith.
"I know God uses whoever and whatever way He wants with various methods and
approaches. I am very much a believer in one-to-one relationships," Sylna
Sylna stresses to the church members she trains not to invite prospects to
church on their first visit in a home.
"I tell Christians that they are the church, and they should want to serve.
Find out what people need. Then when you go back to meet their needs, theyll
probably want to come to church theneven without an invitation," Sylna
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