MOUNT VERNON – Huddled near trash can fires in an effort to stay warm on a cold December night, the youth at Covenant Baptist Church here demonstrated their love and God’s love for people in a most unusual way.
This was the second year the youth group displayed what they call “Compassion City” in a grassy lot located in front of Summer Fresh Supermarket in Mount Vernon.
“The idea is to simulate a homeless community with the intent of drawing awareness for the needy,” said Derick Barnes, youth pastor at Covenant.
Using flattened cardboard boxes to put at least a little barrier between them and the cold ground, the group stayed overnight with just sleeping bags for shelter.
While modeling what it would be like to have nothing, the youth group also accepted donations from the community that will go to those less fortunate.
“We are collecting money, food, coats, blankets, gloves, hats, and heaters that we will then give out to try to meet the needs of the people,” said Derick’s son, Tyler Barnes, 17. “We had one girl come forward at church and donate $750, which will go a long way toward feeding the people for Christmas.”
A Compassion Dinner was held Dec. 12 at Covenant Baptist to give out what was collected. Christmas music from a children’s choir was sung and food for Christmas dinner was handed out to some needy families.
“Everything we receive in donation stays right here to feed the people in our community,” Derick Barnes said. “And, if we happen to have some left over, the rest will go into our food pantry, which is available to those in need year-round.”
Barnes said Compassion City and the Compassion Dinner combine to make up a great ministry and outreach event for their church. Not only does it allow the church to do what it’s designed to do, but it does it during the Christmas season, an oftentimes lonely season for those who don’t know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
Barnes said Compassion City is also a terrific hands-on ministry experience for the members of his youth group.
“We want to develop a servant’s heart in our youth and teach them to love and to give,” Barnes said. “And, what better time to learn this than Christmas time?”
KAYLA RINKER/contributing writer