Whether with friends at home or soon with strangers in the heart of Central America, teens and tweens from Ohio and Virginia are stepping out for Jesus Christ and declaring His Good News.
Seth Stertzbach, a 14-year-old ninth-grader from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, will spend his July in remote villages in Panama telling people about God’s unfailing grace. And a group of seven young students from Fairfax, Va., will travel to Guatemala for a week in August to partner with a veteran church-planting missionary to proclaim the love of Christ.
What these Christian students have in common is that they’ve all been equipped through Dare to Be a Daniel, BGEA’s innovative training program that teaches kids, ages 9 to 14, how to share their faith effectively and make a difference for Jesus, especially in their schools.
Since 2006, more than 26,000 students throughout the U.S. and Canada have completed the youth evangelism curriculum and are now “Team Daniel” members.
From Ohio to Panama
Since he was a young boy, Seth has had a passion to witness to people. But once conversations got started, he would hand them off to his mom, Annette, and let her explain the Gospel. Eventually, Seth wanted to learn how to do that himself.
Four years ago, Annette heard about Dare to Be a Daniel and ordered it online. The two were already having devotions together, and they thought this tool would help Seth share with friends what God was doing in his own life and how they could commit their hearts to Christ. It has made all the difference.
“It not only taught me what to say and what Scriptures to use but also boosted my confidence so I can share boldly,” Seth said. “Dare to Be a Daniel laid the perfect foundation to help me wherever I go.”
This past school year, friends who knew Seth was a Christian approached the teenager about issues and problems they were facing, and Seth had the chance to talk with them about Jesus.
“I’ve built up a trust with them, and they feel they can come to me,” Seth said. “I haven’t had the opportunity lately to lead anybody to the Lord like I’ve had in the past, so I’m praying that they’ll receive Christ as their Savior.”
Seth is in the process of learning as much Spanish as he can. He leaves July 4 for Texas with his youth pastor and Sunday school class leader and two other friends from Lighthouse Christian Fellowship. They will join 25 other people from around the U.S. for missions training with Global Expeditions and then depart for Panama. The group will stay two weeks on the San Blas Islands and one week in the Darien Jungle. Both locations lack electricity and running water.
“Yeah, we’ll be getting back to basics,” Seth said, laughing.
“I just love doing what God has commanded us to do in Matthew 28:19 and that’s to ‘go and make disciples of all nations,'” Seth added. “Sharing my faith is just awesome.”
In Virginia and Guatemala
In Fairfax, Va., the contingent of fifth-, sixth- and eighth-graders is excited about their upcoming missions trip to Guatemala. Seven students from Light Global Mission Church—a Korean-American congregation—have signed up, and a few more are praying about going. They head out July 31 and will be serving alongside a church medical team. They return Aug. 4.
While there, the group will fan out to four or five different villages two to three hours outside Guatemala City. They will assist Mr. and Mrs. Kie Taek Kim in their church-planting outreach.
As much as possible, Spanish will be their primary language to convey the Gospel. So the students have been attending “night school” each Wednesday at church to master songs, drama presentations, Bible verses and even their personal testimonies in Spanish. In each village setting, they will also set up different craft and sporting activities with the aim of making friends with Guatemalan kids their age and sharing their faith one-on-one. An interpreter will be available on-site to help with any deeper conversation about the Gospel.
The seven tweens committed to the Guatemala trip are part of a larger group of 20 who went through the 13-week Dare to Be a Daniel curriculum earlier this year. So far in the five years that the church has offered youth evangelism training, 76 students have taken part. And that has the church’s educational pastor excited about the impact they will make for Jesus.
“I praise the Lord because these children purposed early on to follow and serve God and to stand firm in their commitment to Him, just like Daniel did,” said Kathy Kim, who oversees ministry to children and whose husband, Hyung Min Kim, is also on the church’s pastoral staff.
“Not only has Dare to Be a Daniel made a significant difference in the lives of those 76 students, it’s also touched the lives of the adults who have helped them,” she explained. “It showed them as well how to walk more closely with Jesus and to reach out for Him.”
Kathy is familiar with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on at least two personal fronts. Her mother was among the 1.1 million people who attended Mr. Graham’s 1973 Crusade in Seoul, Korea. And Kathy, along with other family members, served as a counselor during Mr. Graham’s final Crusade in New York City in June 2005.
“It was a real privilege to be used that day in helping lead several people to faith in Christ,” Kathy said of the 2005 Crusade. “And now, it’s an amazing honor to be used of God in helping to train a new generation of faithful followers of Christ.”