Parkway youth see 50 decisions on mission
By Shea Vailes
ST. LOUIS—When Christians sign up for mission trips, it’s usually because they want to change other peoples’ lives. Many times, it ends up changing them. For the youth at Parkway Baptist Church in St. Louis, this defines their summer mission experience.
Jasper Rains, minister of students at Parkway Baptist, had been to Mission Raleigh (N.C.) several times before, but this was the first time he had taken the Parkway youth group. He believed they were ready to spread the Gospel and grow in their spiritual lives as well.
On July 11, Rains and a group of 21 students and seven adults left St. Louis for Raleigh to spend a week ministering to children and families in the inner-city. A total of 49 children and one adult accepted Christ that week.
Mission Raleigh, a ministry of the North American Mission Board, exists to take the church to where people live by serving the residents of multi-housing communities through kids clubs, adult Bible studies, youth groups and food distribution ministries. By meeting the needs of the residents and then building relationships with them, Mission Raleigh is able to share the love of Christ and ultimately establish apartment churches for ongoing discipleship and fellowship.
Each summer, Mission Raleigh welcomes youth groups to come and minister within these multi-housing communities. The youth group at Parkway Baptist spent the week working in several different housing complexes. The mornings and afternoons were filled with kids clubs, and in the evenings the group worked with youth groups, held a block party and assisted in other evening ministries as needed. In order to reach more children, the Parkway youth split into two groups and worked at two different complexes in the morning. In the afternoon, the two groups united for one kids club in order to effectively minister to the 70-plus children that showed up each day.
“We were really busy,” Rains explained. “Before we left [St. Louis] we put together a plan. Kids were assigned to different kids club activities such as Bible story, craft time, puppets and music. Then there were groups that were not assigned to an activity. There were intentional groups to minister to two or three kids at a time. When our youth were not in charge of any activities, they were ministering to kids.”
This one-on-one time with the children proved to be the most meaningful. Besides building relationships during the kids club, the Parkway youth got extra time with the children by picking them up at their apartments and walking them home after the club.
“Mission Raleigh is great at follow-up and wanting us to love on the kids,” Rains said. “Our kids were able to share their testimonies [when they walked the children home]; leading kids to Christ came from building relationships with them.
“We never gave a formal altar call. The salvations came from one-on-one times with the kids.”
As lives were being changed in inner-city Raleigh, God was busy working in the hearts of the Parkway youth group.
“Our youth were exposed to God’s grace,” Rains said. “Seeing the physically and spiritually dark homes that the children lived in opened their eyes to the grace that God has given us.”
The spiritual transformation was especially evident in two of Parkway’s high school students.
“While we were there [one of our male high-school students] realized God was calling him into the ministry,” Rains said. “He had been living his life for football, but he chose to quit football this year and move to St. Louis to continue growing in our youth group. He told us ‘my purpose in life isn’t football.’
“Another guy in our youth group was also called to move back to St. Louis. God was drawing him to leave behind stuff that was holding him back.”
That week the whole youth group worked toward leaving the things behind that held them from God’s plan.
“They have an amazing heart for God,” Rains said. “Their hearts were in the right place when we got there; there was a great unity at Mission Raleigh… that’s what we were striving for.”
The life-change experienced in Parkway Baptist’s youth grew from the chance to live out faith in simple, yet incredible ways at Mission Raleigh.
“This mission organization is an amazing place to take kids on a trip,” Rains explained. “It only costs $25 per kid, but it is worth so much more than that. What an incredible spiritual return.”