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GSU students mentor area youth
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College students and youth from area churches come together to study God's word and learn about discipleship. - photo by Special

    College students and teenagers sometimes get a bad rap. Not so with a throng of youth recently at Georgia Southern University.
    More than 80 Georgia Southern students and 145 youths from nine churches, along with student ministers and host home volunteers, came together for the annual DNow weekend, hosted by Baptist Collegiate Ministries on campus.
    “DNow, short for Discipleship Now, provides a chance for college students who are committed to Christ to disciple and pour into youth in the area churches,” said Dr. Jerry Johnson, the senior campus minister for Baptist Collegiate Ministries. “In small group settings, these youth discover that, contrary to stereotypes, you can find committed Christians at the university … sold out, dedicated followers of Christ. This provides a great role model for the young people.”
    Participating churches provide host homes for the students to stay for the weekend, with parents and ministers carpooling and feeding loads of kids.
    Donna Blackburn, a Baptist Collegiate Ministries campus minister, said it takes many college students to carry out the tasks over the weekend. 
    “The students serve as Bible Study leaders and recreation leaders,” she said. “They also prepare meals, help with registration, and serve on set-up and cleanup crews.”
    Marissa Lovins, the DNow coordinator and a college student from Buford, said she loves working with the youth.
    “As the coordinator, I unfortunately was not able to lead a Bible study group this year, which was upsetting for me because I enjoyed my group of girls so much last year,” she said. “It was my job this weekend to be at work behind the scenes and make sure everything was running smoothly.”
    And everything did go smoothly for youth from Statesboro Primitive Baptist, Emit Grove, Friendship, Fletcher Memorial, Eastern Heights, Southbridge, Statesboro First Baptist, and Eastside and Rehoboth Baptist churches from Claxton.
    Music was provided by Southbridge’s worship band during the large group sessions, and Jack Caldwell — a former Georgia Southern student and Baptist Collegiate Ministries member who is now youth minister — spoke during the sessions.
    “It’s always fun to get the kids together to hang out. It’s a tradition my group of kids looks forward to,” said Ellen Perkins, who along with Connie Sherrod has helped with DNow for more than a dozen years. “It’s been great to watch the kids grow up doing this, graduate, and then new kids come in their place. And it’s refreshing to see the college kids over the years, from all walks of life.”
    Emit Grove kids usually enjoy the blessing of staying in two river houses, but recent flooding moved them away from the Ogeechee River to the home of Perkins’ mom, Marguerite Perkins, and the home of Jeanie Jewell.
    Kim Freeman, the student trip and event coordinator at Eastern Heights Baptist, said her youths look forward to DNow every year.
    “They love hanging with their friends, making new friends, digging into the Word, and connecting with their Heavenly Father on a deeper level,” said Freeman, who is also the mother of two teenage participants and a host home volunteer.
    “We had a group of senior guys this year that have never missed a DNow weekend,” she added. “Hats off to the GSU students who give of their time and talents to make this a great weekend.”
    Last year’s coordinator, Casey Wiggins, the daughter of Michael and Kellie Wiggins, participated in DNow weekends during her time as a youth. She said that made her position special because she felt like she was giving back to a ministry that significantly impacted her life as a teenager.
    Wiggins, a graduate of Stilson Elementary and Southeast Bulloch High, remembers that a youth minister shared with her these words of a participant: “It’s really amazing how much God can move such a large amount of people. I’ve learned that God will always be there for me and will always love me, no matter what I’ve done or will do.”
    Trevor Coen, the grandson of First Baptist Church worship minister Bill Coen, co-led a group of middle school boys.
    “We talked to the boys about accountability, discipleship and the process of making one’s faith his own,” Coen said. “We discussed the process of God changing the desires of our hearts and the outward reflection of Christ in our lives as He changes us from the inside out.
    “God taught me a lot through them,” he added, “and if they got half as much out of this weekend as I did, then I will be pleased with that.”
    “God still does miracles,” he said with a chuckle. “Our boys drank two bottles of Mountain Dew Friday night, and then promptly put themselves to bed.”      

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