THUMBS UP FOR TEEN FEST - "Build It And They Will Come"

Submitted by Dave Trippett

Fruits of your labor. Something we all seek but rarely see. Happily that was not the case for the approximately 50 adult volunteers assisting at Teen Fest 2004. Months of planning, preparation, and prayer paid off during the first of it's kind gathering at the Calhoun County Park on May 22nd and 23rd.

Teen Fest, in it's infancy, was planned as a non-denominational outreach program designed to meet the social and spiritual needs of teenagers. Sponsored and supported by 20 regional churches, this retreat started as a simple table discussion back in the dead of winter. Little did anyone suspect it would blossom, grow, and take off at breakneck speed to evolve into an event pushed farther and farther by an avalanche of enthusiasm. Representatives of congregations in Calhoun, Roane, and Gilmer counties jumped on board to meet the challenge and meet it they did.

Organized on the "build it and they will come" attitude, only 2 teens had registered for the overnight event late as 10 days prior, and they were from Wirt county. But faith paid off and 72 teenagers ended up signing in on Saturday and the majority of them spent the night. A hot-dog cookout met them as they arrived and out door events such as Basketball, Volleyball, Wiffle Ball, a "Long Drive" competition quickly followed. For those not wanting to challenge the heat of the day, several crafting activities were set up inside the Barn. Quite a few hand painted Garden Stepping Stones were produced by this group and revealed an otherwise unknown wealth of artistic talent living right here among us.

All the food, fun, and games made for a great day already but the purpose of this event was to provide a safe environment for teenagers to worship, learn, and fellowship in and that kicked off mid afternoon. The first of three scheduled bands took to the stage to share their musical gifts with the crowd that at times totaled close to 180. First Diehl, a contemporary Christian rock band from Marietta Ohio jumped right into some phenomenal Praise and Worship songs. During their set, the three member group shared several popular songs and some heartfelt testimony. Being practically in the same age group they were playing for had merit and everyone attending was inspired.

After a short break, the second band took up where the first left off. Krusade played numerous songs capturing enthusiastic support from the entire crowd. The four man, sometimes 5 with a wee one gaining quick fan support, shared a couple of tunes they produced themselves and it became obvious why this Marietta based group has been in the recording studio.

During the lulls in music, the Life Force Dance and Drama Team captivated the audience with several dramatic skits. Depicting events and roadblocks encountered by all teenagers, this inspirational group of young adults poured out their all in an effort to make everyone realize the one true answer to the strife of life is acceptance and salvation giving freely by our Redeemer. Several members of this group have be raising funds and will be taking their ministry away from homes in Calhoun and Roane Counties to the Czech Republic this summer. What Ambassadors they'll make!

After consuming a mountain of pizza and trying to work off the calories that came with it, the final band of the day, One Size, tuned up. When the six member ensemble from Pittsburgh started playing everyone, young and old alike, realized they were truly lucky these musicians made the effort to get here. Serving up a mixture of Praise and Worship, Contemporary Christian rock, and even Southern Gospel, they were met with loud jubilation and the blessings just continued to flow. Their musical talent coupled with awe inspiring testimony moved everyone present. A realization that good things were happening pulsed through audience and they didn't have long to wait to witness what they were.

After a short break everyone assembled upstairs in the barn and Dennis Craig, lead singer of One Size, led a worship service that made all the efforts of the volunteers bear fruit. His direct, charismatic delivery of the Word of God touched hearts and changed lives that Saturday night. People rejoiced, tears flowed, Angels danced, and God smiled as new hearts were handed over to the Saviors care. Troubles were handed over, dilemmas were solved, souls were cleansed and each and every person basked in the warm embrace of the Family of God.

Sunday morning was a continuation of the night before. Dennis led discussion in Sunday school and teens, as well as adults, had their eyes opened and saw things in a new and different light. New solutions to old problems were discovered. Different approaches to solving daily speed bumps became clear. Faith was rejuvenated, doubt was relieved, and new goals were set.

The lively, painfully blunt Craig, continued his message during morning worship. Not saying what teens want to hear but what they need to hear, his testimony is based on experience with the same things they're facing. He laid new challenges in front of them urging more active participation in Church Organization and Witnessing. Time and again he made it clear that they were not "the future of the Church" but the NOW of the Church. He also pointed out that since at least 10% of the Student Body of Calhoun County High School were present that if they all invite one person a month to services the entire school will have been invited in less than a year. Now that's a challenge!

Of course it all had to wind down sometime. But as all the stuff was cleaned up and the tally was done everyone still there, bone tired as they were, was pumped with elation because of what had happened in the last 24 hours. 10 teens handed their lives over to Christ, 20 had rededicated themselves, and on an exit survey/evaluation form handed out 97% of those teenagers indicated they would come back and do it again. So when asked if all the efforts were worth it only one answer can possibly be given …"You Betcha" ! Stay tuned for Teen Fest 2005.