By Stan Friedman
KNOXVILLE, TN (July 20, 2012) – Students at CHIC 2012 have impressed workshop and seminar leaders with their passion to serve the poor and broken next door and around the world.
Throughout the week, activities and seminars have opened the eyes of the teens to issues they had never been aware or didn’t know how respond to. There also have been opportunities to serve, ranging from feeding the homeless in Knoxville to rolling bandages from torn bed sheets that will be used by hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“All week, they would come into our seminar and were just so passionate about serving the world,” said Dave Husby, director of Covenant World Relief. “They want to be part of God’s solution to heal the broken.”
The interest shown by the students belies the any myth that their generation cares only about themselves. “We know that this generation cares about the world and not just their corner of the world,” said Meagan Gillan, executive minister of the Department of Women Ministries.
The department sponsored the bandage rolling, which was a popular destination for students. “The bed sheets that these kids are laying their hands on and which were donated by Covenanters from around the country as well as local hotels, will make a tremendous difference.”
“I wasn’t sure at first whether I wanted to do the bandages because there were so many options,” says Lauren Bourne, who attends Forest Park Covenant Church in Muskegon, Michigan. “Then I realized it was something I could do that would actually save somebody’s life.”
Over the course of the week, the students rolled 1,345 bandages, Gillan said.
Teenagers got a hint of the obstacles faced by students in developing countries. At one of the morning “experiences,” CHIC participants sat on grass that had been watered by organizers beneath the hot sun that raised temperatures to a humid 90 degrees.
Many of the students hesitated before sitting on the grass because they didn’t want to get wet. Then they learned that had they been in India or other parts of the world, they might actually be sitting in mud or dung.
The girls most likely wouldn’t even be attending school, said Bobby Lee, pastor of Converge Covenant Church in Oakland, California. Oftentimes girls are kept home to help with chores. If they ever did get into a school, they might have to miss four to seven days when they got their periods. Getting pregnant would end all hopes of getting an education.
“It was so shocking,” said Andrea Wallace of Rockford, Illinois. “It was tragic.”
Wallace said she will lead a prayer group at her public school this year, and educational opportunities around the world will be one of the issues they focus on.
Teens also learned that similar issues were much closer to home than they knew. One of the stations highlighted the problems faced in many urban schools that are under-resourced. “It seems like another world but it’s only 30 minutes away,” said Madeline Shupe, who attends Hinsdale Covenant Church in Hinsdale, Illinois.
Learning about justice issues has led students to examine their own hearts. Debbie Blue, executive minister of the Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice, led a workshop in which students pulled a tag out of a bucket that indicated what ethnic group they would be part of during the session.
A teen that pulled out a tag that said he was Jewish approached Blue afterward and confessed that he had been anti-Semitic and was ashamed of the thoughts he had held. His worldview had changed.
Throughout the week, students led worship services and served meals at a local homeless ministry. On Thursday, they threw a daylong red-carpet banquet. The teens also worked at a farm that supplies food to the shelter.
The director of the Covenant’s Advocacy for Victims of Abuse ministry (AVA) said she was grateful to see that the number of boys attending her workshop on domestic violence, including date rape, equaled the number of girls.
“One boy told me he came because he wanted to know how to be a better man, a better boyfriend, and a better husband,” said Yvonne DeVaughn, AVA’s national coordinator.
Several students used the opportunity to share their own experiences of abuse. DeVaughn had not planned for that to happen.
One said she had just gotten out of an abusive relationship and another said CHIC was giving her the courage to leave her violent boyfriend. “Their stories just reiterated all the things we have been talking about and helped students see the reality.”
Some of the discussion and video segments also focused on the abuse boys have suffered. A church leader who attended wanted to order one of the videos DeVaughn used and show it at her church.
DeVaughn said some of the participants signed up to be on the AVA email list and were interested in ways they can spread information at their schools and churches about domestic violence.