“We sat there watching the kids,” Charlene recalls, “most around 12 to 16 years old. They were just hanging out, walking back and forth. Most had spiky hair, tattoos all over, huge spikes piercing their ears, and pants hanging down. I thought, There is no place else for them to go, and they probably have never even heard of Jesus Christ.””
Before long, the Sevciks felt God leading them to start a ministry to reach kids–right there in the mall. They explored a few options, and just before Easter 2006, they rented a kiosk in a high-traffic area not far from the food court. They would try it for a month. “We called it ‘God Talk’ and hung up a sign,” Richard explains.
They have been at the kiosk every March and August since.
To entice people to stop, the Sevciks and their volunteers offer free candy and hand out copies of the “Heaven and Hell” [May 2007] issue of Decision magazine. “This year, we will use the ‘U-Turn’ [May 2008] issue, which has another strong message,” Charlene says.
They also show Veggie Tales movies or The Jesus Film, and they hold drawings for gift cards from C28, a local store that sells clothing, jewelry and accessories that reflect a Christian lifestyle.
“The idea is to be there,” Richard says. “We do whatever we can to attract people to stop. Once they stop, then it is very much like street-corner witnessing.”
The couple offers free Bibles to anyone who is interested and points teens to Global Media Outreach Web sites. When a person accepts Christ, the volunteers follow up to make sure he or she is connected with a local church.
In a typical month, they distribute more than 5,000 pieces of information to people as they walk by, and as many as 2,000 people stop to talk. A majority of those who stop are 25 or younger. Between one and two hundred make decisions for Christ in a typical month. “We even had a gentleman in his 80s who got saved,” Richard adds.
Because the kiosk is required to keep retail hours, God Talk is open seven days a week, about 12 hours a day in March and August. “We have to have a lot of volunteers,” Richard points out. “We started with our church–Venture Christian–and we now have a network of six churches from the San José, Calif., area, with up to 300 volunteers.”
The volunteers reap great benefits. “This is one way to get people excited about sharing their faith and to help them get over their fears,” Charlene says. “So many Christians don’t tell their friends or neighbors about Jesus.”
Some volunteers don’t witness regularly because they are afraid they don’t have all the answers, she says. “So it’s less intimidating if they just talk about how they came to Christ. If they can sense where people are coming from, they can share parts of their own story, and tell them Christ can help them with whatever they are going through.”
Young people open up to Charlene and Richard, even though they are in their 60s. Many don’t have parents at home and they hang out at the mall because they don’t know where else to go. “Some share how they are into drugs or sex,” says Charlene, “and we let them know Christ loves them and wants them to turn from their sin.”
Charlene treasures the story of Jay, the leader of a gang in San José, who sold about $500 worth of drugs each day but has turned his life around after accepting Christ at the mall.
God Talk is the Sevciks’ way of meeting young people where they are.
“We want to encourage other churches around the United States to do this,” Richard says. “They can use some of the tips from our Web site. It is such a little thing that anybody could do.”