Cody Hensley said working alongside students to build a deck for a homeowner in Birmingham was a meaningful experience.
But even more meaningful was hammering alongside those teenagers while talking about Jesus.
“One of my students came to know the Lord last night,” said Hensley, who serves as pastor to students and families at Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville.
It was toward the end of the YMLink on Mission event held in Birmingham June 7-11, and God had been at work in the student’s heart all week through conversations during the day while they worked on projects and during worship times at night.
“That was a cool thing for us to have an opportunity to sweat next to each other and talk about Jesus at the same time,” Hensley said. “His exact comment was, ‘I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but I realized tonight if I’m going to do this Jesus thing, it requires a lot more commitment than what a lot of people say.’ He said he wanted to follow Jesus. It was a cool moment.”
Around 100 students and leaders representing nine churches from all over the state participated in the event. Partnering with Birmingham Metro Baptist Association’s Metro Changers, they served three Birmingham homeowners and one church with building and repair projects during the day.
At night, students gathered at Westwood Baptist Church, Forestdale, for worship led by the Ryan John Band from First Baptist Church of Opelika and Ismael Pruitt from Highland Park Baptist Church, Muscle Shoals.
A number of students professed new faith in Christ or new missions callings.
State Missionary Scooter Kellum, youth ministry strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said that’s the vision for YMLink on Mission.
“We want to call out the called and create a pipeline for missionaries,” he said. “We’re trying to start them earlier and get them used to serving on the mission field. And we want to serve Alabama while we do it.”
Justin Caton, student pastor at Thorsby First Baptist Church and project coordinator for the week, said he was called into ministry during a week very similar to this one.
“This week is very different than any other week students are going to do,” he said. “Missions is different from going to a camp, conference or retreat. It takes everything — it takes a toll physically and mentally. You’re just truly dependent on the Spirit to help get you through the week and working doing what God has called you to do.”
Seeing students ripping roofs off houses is “an unbelievable scene,” Caton said. “These students see something bigger than what’s going on in our town and community, a world out there that needs Jesus. It sets that fire so it will blaze back home, and they start realizing they can love their neighbor at home.”
Kellum said this year is serving as launch year for YMLink on Mission. The SBOM piloted it a couple of years ago, but then last year’s event got canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So this year represented the official start.
YMLink on Mission is a low-cost option for youth groups — it’s $100 per student, thanks to funding through the Cooperative Program and the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering.
Next year, YMLink on Mission will be in two cities during two separate weeks:
- Huntsville — May 31-June 4 (in partnership with Rocket City Missions)
- Birmingham — June 13-18 (in partnership with Birmingham Metro Baptist Association)
“Students from across our state can go out and penetrate a city and an area,” Kellum said. “It’s doing the work of the gospel.”
This article was written by Grace Thornton.