One middle school student’s journey toward Christ began long before Believe, the annual conference for middle school students hosted by Christ In Youth Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
Middle School Ministry small group leader Melissa Wheatley met the sixth-grade girl a few months ago at a Sunday morning service.
“She was very reserved, very quiet,” Wheatley said. “After our small group time, I’m walking out of The Block, and I see her with her mom, so I dart over. We start talking, and you could see the hurt in the mom’s eyes. She just needed someone. She is a single mom and desperate for hope. I was like, ‘Just keep sending her to church,’ and she kept coming. When this girl came to Believe, it was completely God working in 27 hours. He transformed her heart. This was huge for this particular girl to stand up and receive Christ. I was completely speechless.”
More than 625 students and 175 leaders from Southeast Christian Church attended Believe, which included high-energy worship, speakers, interactive sessions, games, food and fun. Highlights included rapper YB, juggler Josh Horton and speaker Heather Flies.
“At one point we all got out of our seats and kneeled,” Wheatley added. “When I looked up and down the rows to scan the room, I saw hundreds of kids praying. It was breathtaking.”
The theme for Believe was about how God’s heart is to connect with His children through prayer.
The illustration middle school students were given for how to pray was TACOS, an acronym standing for “thanksgiving,” “affirmation,” “confession,” “others” and “self.”
While seventh-grader Austin Miller loved playing nine-square with his friends, he also enjoyed his small group.
“We talked about how God loves us and created everything,” said Miller, who attends Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus. “He is the God of the entire universe and the galaxies are the breadth of His hand. It’s amazing to think about how big and powerful He must be.”
Seventh-grader Deuce Wilson, who attends the Blankenbaker Campus, also went for the first time.
“I learned that no matter how I pray, it’s always going to reach God,” Wilson said. “And no matter what I pray about, He’s always going to hear it and acknowledge it. You don’t have to say anything special for Him to hear you.”
Wilson said Believe was much needed because it’s not always easy being in middle school.
“I’ve had a lot of stress this past year, so I think getting out of the house and being around people that I know and love, my friends, really refreshed me and opened up my heart,” Wilson added.
A little sleep
Volunteer Landon Miller, a junior in high school, had the opportunity to lead eight middle school students.
“A lot of them had questions about how to pray, whether you had to sit down and close your eyes or if you’re allowed to just say a prayer,” he said. “The thing that surprised me most was just the little things that hadn’t been taught or explained to them—like prayer is just time with you and God. It doesn’t have to be you sitting down.”
While growing closer to God is clearly a benefit at Believe, these overnight trips give students the opportunity to stay up late.
That usually consists of hotel rooms filled with laughter, pillow fights and snacks.
In the early morning hours, Miller ran into a student reading his Bible.
“You probably know you don’t get much sleep from these kinds of trips,” added Miller. “But I was up at like 3 a.m. because our students were playing around and screaming. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so around 4 a.m., I got up and walked down the hallway to get a drink. There was this kid named James reading his Bible. We sat there and talked about it for a bit. It was a good moment that I’ll remember forever.”