With all of the talk about wars, conflicts, starvation, inadequate health care and apathy in America, a high school youth conference proved that high school students care about these issues in the world and want to do something about it. The conference was sponsored by the Evangelical Covenant Church and was held on the campus of the University of Tennessee. The conference is simply called CHIC, or Covenant High In Christ. The 2006 conference theme of No Ordinary Day was lived out by the students in a way they never expected when they arrived in Knoxville, TN. I was one of the older "teens" in attendance.
At the beginning of the week, the students were presented with a need in the Sudan of teens their age in real life situations. Covenant World Relief director Rev. Jim Sundholm spoke of his personal experiences with the teens of Bentiu, Sudan. Teens in the Sudan said that the two biggest concerns they had were their families having enough food to eat and being able to get an education.
For the need of food in the area, organizers of the conference contacted Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org), a ministry focused on providing food for the malnourished around the world. FMSC teamed up with CHIC2006 to give students an opportunity to show the world in word and deed that they care. Over 3,500 hours of free time were donated by teens, their counselors, pastors and youth leaders. This is the time the students had free to enjoy the activities around the campus of the University of Tennessee or travel off-campus to entertainment excursions, such as water parks and model NASCAR racing. Taking a pass on these activities in order to put their faith into action were the three students from my home church and approximately 1,700 others. The students spent a hot afternoon in the bottom floor of the Thompson-Boling Arena packaging food for the students and their families in the Sudan. Packages of food sealed in air-tight bags contained rice, dried vegetables, soy and a chicken powder enhanced with vitamins and nutritional aids. Over the course of the four days, volunteers packaged enough food to provide close to 590,000 meals. To put that in terms we can grasp, that would be enough food to feed everyone in my hometown of 1,600 people for a year.
To meet the second need of these teens in the Sudan, CHIC attendees collected in excess of $100,000 in order to build a school in the village of Bentiu. That is an average of $20 per student. Imagine teenagers being willing to part with that amount of money for a self-less purpose. The building of the school will be a major project of the church in the coming year.
The response of the students was remarkable and as I type this I am still amazed at the way God worked through the lives of students to reach out and touch teenagers half way around the world. If the students who stepped up to help out are an indication of the future leaders of our world, the issues discussed in the first paragraph will become a memory in their lifetime.
May it be so.