Meet Mark the Rapper...

Jesse Frame, Director of Programming

Last fall, we had the great privilege of leading a Youth Ministry Leadership Training with a network of ministry leaders in an Asian country with security concerns.

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An outgoing young man named Mark was a new intern with the host ministry. He was also our driver for the week. The first time he picked us up, he asked, “Do you like rap music?” I said yes. Then he asked, “Can you rap?” I said no! So Mark gave us a demonstration of his rapping skills in English and Chinese. I could tell that Mark was the type of guy who just goes for it.

During the training week, Mark shared his heart for reaching his peers--college students. Our training programs lead participants through a process for creating an action plan. Each person leaves the training knowing exactly what their next steps for implementation are for the next week and the next year. Mark’s was clear: he was going to gather a group of college students, find out what they are passionate about, create a plan, and lead them to serve their city.

About 2 weeks after getting home I received a text message with a picture and some of my favorite words: “Mark has started his action plan!”

I’m eagerly waiting to hear what great things they accomplish.

Why youth empowerment strengthens the body of Christ...

Dale Puckett, Director of Operations

Every generation has stereotypes, good or bad, including my own Generation X.  However, I feel we have to be very careful with labels the Church places on youth today.  When we buy into these stereotypes we begin to treat a population of people differently and begin to alienate and/or marginalize them.

Often times, the world desires to use young people for their own personal gain. They seek to exploit, exclude, or entertain them, in hopes young people will generate more power, political gain, or wealth...sometimes all three. It's a strategy to dominate the world.

If the church isn't careful, we can fall right in line with these thoughts. The church may not think its exploiting or excluding youth, but when we treat them as if they cannot contribute to the Body, then we are doing just that.  And when they have the "freedom" to walk away, they will. And unfortunately, statistics are showing this to be a reality.

The area of entertaining young people in the church might be more of a touchy subject and difficult to talk about. However, the church is not in a place to battle against the entertainment industry. Financially it's not a reality and honestly, we shouldn't turn Jesus into something young people should be entertained by.  In John 6 the crowds left Jesus when He taught some very hard things. In fact Jesus asked the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?"  Their response, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

So where do we land? I believe (as well as YouthHOPE and its partners) youth should be EMPOWERED. Empowerment is about positioning young people to be able to lead well, to make an impact on their culture, and to fulfill God's plan for their lives. When the Church empowers young people it strengthens the body of Christ.

People are more important than programs...

Dale Puckett, Director of Operations

“People are more important than programs” is one of the 6 foundational youth ministry principles we have taught thousands of youth workers around the world. At YouthHOPE, we believe that not just in word, but in deed and we do our best to model that in how we interact with our partners. This flows from our core value of “relationships”.

However, we don’t just believe that building relationships are a means to an end, but one of our desired outcomes. We are concerned about and care for our partners and co-workers around the world. For this reason we maintain regular communication with them. We pray for them and their needs daily each morning in our office before working. One of the highlights of our trips are spending time with them, sharing meals with them and encouraging them. And we have seen how God blesses that investment in relationships.

We currently have more than 10 partnerships that have been ongoing for more than three years. We have also seen how our partners have then come alongside us and mobilize with us to be a blessing to new places and new partners. In the last year, we have launched several new partnerships and some of them are too sensitive to mention the name of the countries or the partners. Even under the pressure of trying to stay off the radar, we have been so blessed by these new relationships.

Lastly, we value our relationship with you our supporters, donors and prayer partners. We couldn’t do it without you. We are so grateful that you have been faithful and generous with your time and resources. Because of our relationship, we can rejoice together that tens of thousands of young people have to the chance to know Jesus and experience the life in abundance that he came to give.

Understanding the Church in Persecuted Parts of the World

Jesse Frame, Director of Programming

Understanding the church in persecuted parts of the world can be difficult. Filtering through terminology, politics, other religions, and even fake news floating around Facebook can be daunting. For missionaries, words like “underground” can create some interest in the work they’re doing. As a ministry team, YouthHOPE has always tried to present the truth of who we are working with, to tell their stories, and to share what God is doing around the world without exaggeration or misleading information. We are still learning a lot about about the church in South Asia. It is different from region to region even within the same country.

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Here is what we do know: we traveled illegally into a country where the church does not have the freedoms we have here at home. We worked with some amazing leaders who care about their country, their cities and villages, and about youth. They face obstacles which we are only beginning to understand. They have an inspirational faith. For 3 days, 25 ministry leaders -- young and old, volunteer and full time, men and women -- came together to be trained in our Youth Ministry Leadership program. They left encouraged, uplifted, connected, and passionate about their calling to reach the youth of their country. The training is great, but for those who are working against the grain, I believe sometimes the fellowship is better.