JACKSON, MS (July 31, 2018) – Two teenagers from Texas who were visiting their dad here for several weeks had never heard of CHIC and certainly never expected they would make a decision to follow Christ there.
But a local tragedy and generosity from across the Covenant led to a week that would change their lives at the triennial youth conference attended by 5,000 other students in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The youth, 15-year-old Serena Perkins and 17-year-old Arianna Veasy, had gotten to know JaLise Haney, who volunteers with Common Ground Covenant Church in Jackson, over the past three years. “We have a sort of mentoring relationship,” Haney said.
No senior-high students currently attend her congregation, so Haney had volunteered to serve with the CHIC prayer team. She had never attended the event, and she figured this was a way she could learn more about it. She was set to fly to Knoxville and arrive early along with other members of the prayer team.
But when her friend was murdered, she stayed in Jackson to attend the funeral and play with the worship team. That meant she had to miss her flight and rent a car instead.
“I thought, ‘If I have to rent a car, then maybe I could take these girls,’” Haney said. “I thought it would be a good way for us to spend time together.”
Because the students could not afford the registration fees, Haney called Tim Ciccone, director of youth ministry for the denomination, to see if it might be possible to find funds to pay their registration.
She knew it was a long shot because of the late date. Any potential scholarship money had already been distributed. “I was willing to take a no, but I was unwilling not to ask,” Haney said.
Ciccone put out a plea on Facebook for help. Within minutes, churches had offered to pay the registrations and provided $100 of spending for both teens.
“They had an amazing time,” Haney said. “They were taking notes throughout the whole thing. They wanted to be engaged in the deeper things.”
The teenagers had never seen anything like it, Haney said, adding, “For them to have references to their contemporary culture meant a lot.”
Both students ultimately responded to a call to follow Christ and now want to be baptized, Haney said.