BY JEFF FINLEY
The most important moment of the Free Methodist Youth Conference may have occurred Tuesday evening (July 8) when teens stood up throughout the Lincoln Center auditorium and expressed newfound faith in Jesus Christ.
“The love of God for you is more than I can explain. The love of God over your life will never go away,” speaker Phil Manginelli told the new believers who then joined hundreds of other FMYC 2014 teens in taking Communion. “If you dig in and dive into this Jesus, He will change everything about you.”
The Saturday-Thursday (July 5–10) conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, served as an introduction to the basics of Christianity for some teens. Other teens came to the event as committed Christians, but they may not have known a lot about what the FM part of FMYC really means.
“I’ve been a Free Methodist for four and a half years. Since I came here, I actually did learn more about what Free Methodists do — how they help other countries worldwide,” said Hasna Guasa, a member of the youth group at Praise Christian Fellowship in McAllen, Texas. “When I become older, I can go around the world and help other people as well.”
Taylor Butterfield, a member of the Spring Arbor (Michigan) Free Methodist Church youth group, appreciated that FMYC provided the opportunity to meet other Free Methodists.
“You can connect more to the other people you wouldn’t normally see on a daily basis like churches from New York, Kansas and Illinois,” she said. “It’s cool to meet new people here.”
FMYC 2014 allowed the teens to meet and learn from leading Free Methodists such as Bishops Matthew Thomas and David Kendall, Chief Operating Officer Larry Roberts, International Child Care Ministries Director Linda Adams, Kali Long of the Set Free Movement and Free Methodist World Missions, and Spring Arbor University’s Rick Morgan, the denomination’s former director of youth ministry.
Teens also met admissions representatives of several Free Methodist educational institutions — Central Christian College of Kansas, Greenville College, Roberts Wesleyan College and Spring Arbor University — and two FM livelihood groups — Heavenly Treasures and SEED.
During the Sunday evening gathering, emcee Eugene Parker interviewed Thomas and Kendall by using the format of a late-night talk show. (Bishop David Roller was in Wilmore, Kentucky, for the funeral of his father, Gilbert Roller.)
The interview included plenty of humor while also explaining the important role of a bishop.
“I like to think of bishops as pastors of the whole national family of Free Methodist churches,” Kendall said.
The bishops also were asked to give advice about how teens can overcome the pressures facing them.
“A lot of people trust in Christ to save them for eternity, but they don’t believe the Holy Spirit can save them from all the pressures and temptations,” said Thomas, who added the same Holy Spirit saves people in both situations. “Rely upon the Holy Spirit to allow Him to shape you to be the kind of person that He wants you to be, and, years down the road, you’ll see that God has you in a very different place than the folks who may be putting pressure on you to conform.”
The segment ended with the two bishops competing with Parker in a lip-sync competition that drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
“I think it was pretty cool to have the bishops go up there and show they’re people that have fun too,” said Erick Espinoza, a member of the John Wesley Free Methodist Church youth group in Indianapolis.
At the Tuesday evening service, Roberts reminded teens that the General Conference 2015 mission trips are exactly one year away. He explained the six mission options while also discussing the training that will take place before the trips. He encouraged students to raise money for the mission trips as they had for FMYC.
“I know this is not easy, but I believe with all my heart that God would have you go there, and I believe that He’ll make it possible for you to do it if you’ll make the commitment to do it,” Roberts said.
Go to gc15.org for more information about GC15 and the mission trips.
Adams spoke at the Monday morning service. She shared how her outlook changed after African refugees arrived at the church she pastored in Rochester, New York. She explored scriptures such as Ezekiel 16:49, Jeremiah 22:16, James 1:27, Matthew 18:5 and Isaiah 58:1-10 that discuss the need to help people in poverty.
Adams discussed how International Child Care Ministries feeds, clothes and educates a child for just $30 a month. She noted 93 percent of Free Methodists reside outside the United States, and child sponsors have the opportunity to form partnerships within the global church.
“I’m excited because this is a partnership where you and the rest of the world get to acknowledge that the body of Christ is one,” Adams said. “We did a survey last year and found out that 85 percent of our sponsors pray for their children.”
FMYC leaders have challenged the teens and their youth leaders to sponsor 100 ICCM children during the conference. Ria Khalid of John Wesley FMC was one of the teens who volunteered at the ICCM table to try to make the challenge a reality. Khalid was impressed by her time with Adams.
“She’s a very genuine person. She really cares about these kids, and it’s touching to see that,” Khalid said. “It just makes you want to help out.”
Ruth Herrera, also of Praise Christian Fellowship, said that her youth group was already considering sponsoring an ICCM child before coming to FMYC.
“With Linda giving her presentation, I think it’s a revelation that we should sponsor a child,” she said.
Go to childcareministries.org to learn more about ICCM sponsorship.
Long, 22, spoke Tuesday morning and focused on the importance of fasting, which she described as “empting oneself in order to be available to be filled by God.” She said the goal of fasting should not be losing weight, and a person can fast from things other than food.
“In today’s world, it’s not only food that takes up our time and energy. There are many factors that have us fixating our lives to and slowly drawing away from God,” she said.
Long works with the Set Free Movement and local organizations to stop human trafficking in Greece, where she grew up as the child of Free Methodist missionaries Michael and Maria Long. She is married to Alceau Papanagis who attended FMYC with her.
“I meet women who are trafficked through witchcraft,” Long said. “They confess that they are bound down to what Satan has done over their lives, and the only way I know to approach this is through prayer.”
She said prayer is an essential part of fasting.
Andrew Ulrich, also of the Spring Arbor FMC youth group, said Long’s message resonated with him and other teens. Ulrich said he appreciated the chance to hear Long because his church is a big supporter of the Set Free Movement, and he had volunteered at Spring Arbor’s Free2Run 5k charity event
Go to kalilong.org to learn more about Long’s work.