6-member youth group nurtures prayer for SBC in Salt Lake City

by Art Toalston , posted Friday, March 27, 1998 (20 years ago)

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (BP)-They're just six in number.

Yet, in the heart of Mormon country, these seventh- and eighth-graders and their bivocational youth director are laying a prayer foundation for the churches of Utah and Idaho for this June's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting and Crossover evangelistic thrust in Salt Lake City.

"People need prayer," said Bethany Edwards, a seventh-grade youth group member at First Baptist Church, Brigham City, Utah. By helping others in prayer, "then they help you, they pray for you, too," she said.

That lesson comes from a 25-week project launched by the youth group to stimulate prayer for each of the churches and missions and their communities in the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention as well as the convention's leaders and other spiritual concerns signaled to the youths' attention in preparation for the SBC.

Each week, the group mails out more than 600 postcards with seven days of focused prayer concerns.

The mailing list continues to grow in number and national scope as word spreads, up from an initial mailing of 300 when the project began the first week of January, primarily to the 80 members of First Baptist, Brigham City, and to the churches, missions and other contacts in Utah and Idaho.

Bethany Edwards, acknowledging the rigors of life as a Baptist in Utah, said, "Almost all my friends are Mormon, and they'll be talking about baptizing for the dead, but I don't let it bother me."

The youth group has received numerous notes of appreciation from people on the weekly prayer calendar, she said, "and it makes me feel good."

The project sprang from discussion among the youth about how they could be involved in the SBC activities this June in Salt Lake City, recounted Mac Edwards, bivocational director of youth and music at First Baptist the past four years and Bethany's uncle. Mac was reared in the Brigham City church and moved back to town after earning master of religious education and communication degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas in the 1980s.

Although the youth group had taken part in such missions activities as the SBC's Week of Prayer for North American Missions, "they felt they were too young and too far away to have a direct impact in Salt Lake," said Edwards, who owns a screen printing shop.

"That's when the Lord led us to pray for the churches in our two-state convention."

Now, he said, "They're finding that the prayer project is actually more rewarding than waiting until the convention. It's proved that they can do something and it can make a difference."

And they're enthusiastic about venturing into other initiatives, such as a teen-oriented "Frontliners" witnessing thrust in Salt Lake City in early June led by evangelist Kelly Green in cooperation with the North American Mission Board.

The youth also remain enthusiastic for the SBC annual meeting, Edwards said, "for the simple reason that for once in their lives there will be a whole lot of Baptists around."

Information about the prayer project, called "Lift Up Utah!" and "Interceeding for Idaho!" may be requested by writing to the Youth Ministry, First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 265, Brigham City, UT 84302-0265.

Mac Edwards is the son of Frank and Roberta Edwards, former SBC missionaries to Nigeria who later served many years in pastoring Utah churches. His mother, who first went to Nigeria as a single medical missionary, was known as Bobbie Jo Cox.

The Brigham City youth group began its prayer project by mailing a survey to the churches and missions in the Utah-Idaho convention seeking five key prayer needs for their congregation and five for their community.

The daily prayer requests were then fashioned from the surveys that were returned and from information provided by leaders of the convention, directors of the various Baptist associations and others.

Each week, the youth group attaches mailing labels to the postcards, with a different member saying a brief prayer over the stack each week.

An example of the daily prayer request is April 2's, focusing on Calvary Baptist Church, Ogden, Utah.

"Bro. Willie Martin is a self-taught bivocational minister who is leading his congregation to reach local urban neighborhoods. This church is a blending of two ethnic churches that were struggling to meet the needs of people in their area. God has continued to bless them by removing racial barriers and bringing new people into the small congregation."

For March 31, focusing on First Baptist Church, Tooele, Utah: "Until recently, the major industry in Tooele (pronounced 'too-wil-la') was the government's ammunitions and weapons storage facility. With federal cutbacks, FBC and the town could have dried up and been history. But, in the past few months, new engineering, tooling and manufacturing companies have moved into the abandoned buildings. FBC has great potential for growth again!"

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