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Small town youths minister to inner city people

November 07, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Growing up in a small town, Michael Black thought inner city people would be kind of closed off ... distant.

But the 17-year-old was surprised to find just the opposite was true when he journeyed to Philadelphia recently for four days at the Urban Hope Youth Training Center.

"They were hungry to hear about God and Christianity," said Black, one of three young men from Hagerstown's Grace Brethren Church who participated in the Oct. 21-25 youth project.

Black and his brother, Adrian, 15, both Clear Spring High School students; and Matt Goetz, 15, a student at Greencastle-Antrim High School, made the trip.

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They were accompanied by Dean Pryor, Grace's associate minister to youth, and his wife, Kristin.

"We learned of the opportunity in August at the National Youth Conference in Johnstown, Pa.," Pryor said. "These three boys expressed an interest."

They stayed at Third Grace Brethren Church which had been given over to youth several years ago. Since then, the church ministry has been exclusively to the young and the street people.

Michael said he felt the Lord calling him to minister to people in the inner city.

Matt admitted that at first, he just wanted to get out of everyday things and experience something different.

"It was different alright but even though there was violence and drugs, that wasn't everybody," Matt said. "They hung on every word you said, especially the little kids."

Adrian also beamed when he recalled the feedback he got from kids. "It was very exciting to minister to these people," he said.

Matt said now that they are home, they plan to write letters to the people they met. And already, another trip with other youth is being planned for the spring.

Change is necessary to keep young people interested in the church, Pryor said. And apparently he's been doing something right since he began his work in July 1997.

"The size of the group has grown from 40 to 60 - on the mailing list,'' Pryor said.

But more importantly, the active core of young people numbers about 30 each week on Wednesday nights.

The Wednesday night programs, dubbed Midweek Madness, feature Bible study, giveaways, games and other activities such as Twister.

And then on Sundays, the numbers continue to be high as the youth gather in the mornings for "Teen WAV," which stands for With A Vision, Pryor said.

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