For 33 years, the Summer Missionary Institute for Training and Evangelism (S.M.I.T.E.) has been used by God to gather teenagers and youth workers from throughout the southeast region of the U.S. and equip them to make a difference in their respective churches. My wife was a part of the youth meeting in both Baton Rouge and Natchez for 12 years, and the first time I actually met Sabrina was at a S.M.I.T.E. evening service. For these reasons and many more, we were more than thrilled when Evangelist Jerry Purtell [pictured with our kids], a missionary with Child Evangelism Fellowship and founder of S.M.I.T.E., also a member of my wife’s home church in Baton Rouge and a close family friend, agreed to bring his ideas, resources, and training to Nigeria. He was joined by “missionary-in-training” Stephen Bedwell and Pastor Sonny McGuffee, who brought seven young men with him to do a Bible club and school crusade for us in Abuja over three years ago.
The uniqueness of our Student Missions Institute for Training in Evangelism is that the “campers” [pictured] not only hear preaching, but also receive teaching that prepares them to reach others with the gospel; they then have opportunity to practice what they have been taught. During the 23rd through the 27th of August, we had classes from 8 a.m. to 12 noon on these subjects: conducting Bible clubs, winning children to Christ, teaching a Bible story, showing a missionary story, memorizing Bible verses, leading a group in songs, and using evangelism tools, including the “wordless book”. In the afternoons, every teenager participated in conducting children’s Bible clubs [pictured below] throughout areas around our church with our seminary students as the leaders; the evenings were filled with spirited singing from the youth groups and great preaching from our American visitors. Our ministry was glad to welcome 70 teenagers from 15 churches, and the Bible clubs yielded over 2000 children enrolled and over 1500 people receiving Christ as Saviour!
Independent Baptist churches in Nigeria have need for improvement, namely in the lack of Bible institutes to train their members and missions programs to support ministries outside of their churches; we have attempted to address these needs in our Soul-Winning and Leadership Conferences. In addition, most of our Bible-believing works have never included a youth or teenage ministry in their programs. There is very little focus on raising young people to serve the Lord. I believe that our annual youth meeting can have a major part in developing a new generation of people who will eventually reach their own nation. Many of the young people who attended S.M.I.T.E. believe that God wants them to give their lives to serve Him in the ministry. With the training and resources they received during the week, they can return to their various churches and help their pastors establish effective youth groups that reach others with the Gospel. These programs will inspire their teenagers to eventually come to our Bible college, attend the other seminary in Ogbomoso, or be trained in Bible institutes that pastors are being motivated to develop. As churches also build up missions programs, the young people training for the ministry will be encouraged by the prospect of being supported by their church and others to start ministries throughout Nigeria. We have “a great door and effectual” open for us to influence the movement of independent Baptists!