Thursday, April 16, 2009
The Westmoreland County Youth Network is turning 10 Years Old this summer!
10 years ago I got a phone call from a guy in Latrobe, Pennyslvania telling me that there was going to be a Billy Graham Crusade in Latrobe (Celebration '99) and he asked if I could serve as the student ministry chairman. I had been with Teens For Christ full time for 3 years by that time and Pete Malik and I were busy helping churches in Fayette County work together to reach teenagers for Christ. Working with the great Celebration '99 people in Westmoreland County turned out to be very similar to what I was already doing - working with youth pastors and Christian Clubs in local high schools - but on a much larger scale! The first Celebration '99 meeting I attended was at Cornerstone Ministries. The first three youth pastors I met were Dan Knight (Latrobe First Church of God), Todd Nevue (Calvary Assembly Ministries), and Paul Peternel (Jeannette Assembly). Months of planning went by and in May we had David Nasser and Al Densen (yeah, remember him?) come to do school assemblies to help build up excitement. On April 20th, all of us were shocked at the news of the Columbine shootings and given a powerful reminder of why we were doing all of this. The actual outreach event, with Billy Graham associate Ralph Bell, took place in June of '99. The student day outreach featured a concert by Third Day, inflatable games, and thousands of pizzas! 300+ students came forward at the invitation and were followed up on by local youth pastors. Later that summer all the youth pastors who were involved in Celebration '99 got together and decided that they wanted to keep on working together. And so, the Westmoreland County Youth Network was born. For the past 10 years, we have continued helping youth pastors get to know each other, build friendships, and work together on all kinds of youth ministry events and outreaches. We've worked with hundreds of students in local schools helping them reach their friends for Christ (some of those students, like Dave Grimm and Tom Shrum, are youth pastors now!). So many students, and even many youth pastors have come and gone since that time, but working in Westmoreland County has been a great privilege and a lot of fun. I've met so many of my best friends over this past ten years and I met my wife there too (which made Sharon Poole very happy!). She was working at Majesty Christian store in the fall of 2001 and I walked in one day looking for a book and I found her. Over and over again, I have become more and more convinced that God does great and mighty things when His people work together. My thanks to all of those I've had the privilege of serving and serving with these past ten years.