I am proud to be a Baptist. Always have been. But never more so than in Singapore July 17-21, as we worshiped with, sang for and heard deeply challenging sermons from leaders from 64 countries during the Baptist Youth World Conference, sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance.
The New America Singers (California Southern Baptists’ student choir) were invited to perform, representing Baptists of the US – an amazing and humbling privilege. My son Chris wrote three original songs based on the theme of this year’s conference, “REACH,” reflecting the main focus of doing what is necessary to reach our world for Christ. We sang one of the songs with an International Mass Choir, which I was asked to train and lead.
Nearly 300 singers from all over the world, in costume, showed up, so Chris helped me direct since the choir stretched nearly 100 yards across five stages. Kimmy and Garrett Kuramoto (two of our Singers in Huntington Beach) taught us choreography via Skype (it was 1-3 a.m. California time for them!), and the Singers taught it to the mass choir. What a blessing, as young Baptist leaders from all over the world poured out their fire and commitment for evangelism in front of thousands of their fellow Baptists.
As exciting as it was, Singapore meant more than just an amazing opportunity to sing for a worldwide audience. As we worshiped together and were challenged by outstanding speakers, our hearts were touched and most (if not all) of our own Singers made life-changing commitments to a life of service to Christ.
We were challenged in daily seminars ranging from human trafficking to youth work to solid marriages, and blessed by daily “family groups” – age groupings of about 25, with people from many different countries. Since many delegates come from countries suffering from extreme persecution or civil war, we began to grasp what it is like to serve Jesus and reach our communities when it can lead to imprisonment or worse. When we become personal friends with fellow Baptists who have that kind of zeal and opposition, it causes us to radically re-think our commitment to being servant leaders.
We also joined with hundreds of other delegates to package food for refugees in Myanmar and Cambodia – 187,500 meals in only four hours. Just one of the ways we spent our “free and sightseeing” time on Saturday afternoon.
Every Baptist should attempt to attend a World Conference once in their lifetime. You can’t come home the same, and it will certainly make you proud to be a Baptist, as you get a glimpse of what the Lord is doing to positively change the world through Baptist Christians. But as spiritually life-changing, and as spiritually, culturally and educationally stretching as Singapore was, this was not our primary ministry this summer. That lay inside China and in Hong Kong.
The Lord is doing amazing things in China today. Our small part involved singing for churches (both legal, i.e., government sponsored, and illegal – yes, the communists know they are there, so there is danger of persecution, but the Lord is using these “house churches” to rapidly evangelize the country) and ministering (singing, teaching English, playing basketball, making friends) in factories.
Our ministry there is vital. Twenty-year-olds in China have a suicide rate of nearly 700 per day. The young factory workers feel trapped, lonely and stressed. Christian owners invite us to entertain and share the hope Jesus brings. We introduce them to a Father who loves them and offers a life worth living, and a church family that can be their support system. Some owners provide a church and a pastor right there in the factory, which helps provide follow-up.
There is a reason we keep being invited back to Hong Kong, an amazing city of 6 million frantically busy souls. While the communists are in charge, we still have freedom to sing for school assemblies. Our program is entertaining, but we clearly share how Jesus can change lives and make life worth living. The Lord has blessed as thousands of students have prayed with us to receive Jesus in the last few years.
We are also free to work with homeless and other poor people, handing out tons of food and other supplies after our evangelistic programs. We are free to sing to thousands on the busy streets in designated public performance areas, and hand out thousands of gospel tracts. Hundreds of people crowd around to watch us sing and hear the message – and, yes, they do read the tracts and stay around to talk. Each year, several of our Singers have the privilege of personally leading people to Jesus right there on the busy streets of Hong Kong.
This was a good year. The Lord blessed as 1,114 people registered first-time decisions for Christ, as we sang for more than 35,000 people. We had an outstanding team of very talented young people who represented California, the US and the Lord in a way I know pleased Him and Christians across Asia and around the world.
These students love Jesus and each other, and that love spills out to the people in the audience … and the Lord uses that love to challenge and change lives.
Please continue to pray for the thousands who may have made decisions, as we were not permitted to give altar calls in many government schools and, in most cases, inside China.
Special thanks to friends in California churches who pray for and support our future young leaders, as they develop a heart for His work.
(Campbell is director of the New America Singers. For more information about the group contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 951-369-9616.)