Hundreds of young people experienced Extreme Makeover, Heart Edition, during Momentum, the annual event formerly known as Brethren National Youth Conference. The conference was held July 21 through 26 in Hattiesburg, Miss. on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.
Speakers throughout the week challenged the audience, which included more than 2,000 students, volunteers, and guests, to live their lives for Jesus.
“Jesus Christ today is looking for teenagers whose love for Him compels them,” said Dan Gregory, pastor of Community of Hope, a Grace Brethren church in Columbia City, Ind. He encouraged those in Reed Green Coliseum, where the main sessions were held, to live lives “upside down” for Christ.
Other speakers during the week included Francis Chan, teaching pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, Calif.; Shawn McBride, senior pastor of New Life Community Church, Bowie, Md. and faculty member at Washington Bible College; David Nasser, a self-described Iranian terrorist for God from Birmingham, Ala.; Josh Finklea, a student ministries pastor in Quincy, Ill.; and Jeff Bogue, pastor of the North Campus of Grace Church, a Grace Brethren church in Akron, Ohio.
In addition, each afternoon more than 500 conference participants headed toward Gulfport and Pearlington, each more than an hour’s drive from campus, to assist with hurricane relief.
At Gulfport, teams of students and adults did five painting projects (interior and exterior) and helped with yard clean-up, debris removal, window replacement, and other tasks at another five sites. In Pearlington, a community that was nearly obliterated by Hurricane Katrina, teams of students helped construct 11 new homes and two home additions, and did dry walling, painting, plumbing, and general clean-up at another 21 locations.
Convoy of Hope, a trans-denominational aid organization, partnered with Momentum to provide truckloads of food and water that were distributed in both communities.
In addition, 1,402 students and adults left campus on Wednesday to participate in the Blitz, Momentum’s traditional day of completing acts of kindness in the name of Jesus. Volunteers weeded, cleaned, picked up trash, and performed other tasks at 20 locations around the city of Hattiesburg.
“This has been good,” said Andy Parker, arborist for the City of Hattiesburg, as he watched a group of teens from Pennsylvania and Indiana complete weeding in an area of 600 potted trees. “It’s amazing what you can get done with 30 people in an hour and a half,” he said, noting that it would have taken one day for his crew of six men to accomplish the same task.
“It’s all God,” said Christine, a student from Telford, Pa., taking a break from weeding. “That’s the reason we are here.”
Next year, two conferences are scheduled. As with this year, Convoy of Hope will partner with the conference for outreach events, allowing students to participate in distributing food, children’s games, a carnival, and a prayer tent.
Momentum West is scheduled for June 24-29, 2008, in Southern California. A Convoy of Hope outreach is planned for Saturday, June 28, focusing on the homeless.
Momentum East is tentatively scheduled for July 21-27, 2008, in Cedarville, Ohio. This event will also include a Convoy of Hope outreach on Saturday, July 26.