In the relatively short time her Girls in Action group has been meeting, leader Sarah Young has seen eight girls begin to follow Jesus, five of whom have been baptized as members of the sponsoring church, Dakota Baptist.
Each Tuesday night, Young spends about an hour picking up the 15 to 30 girls, an hour leading the GA session, and 45 minutes taking the girls home while her husband Paul, pastor of Dakota Baptist, takes care of their 2-year-old daughter. Sarah leads GA on Tuesday nights so she can help with other activities at church on Wednesday nights.
It may be a time-consuming venture for the Young family, but the fruit of their sacrifice is evident in the lives of the GAs. Many of the girls have become missionaries in their homes and neighborhoods.
One girl's mother received Jesus as her Lord and Savior and was baptized following her daughter's example. Another girl's behavior was transformed when she received Jesus, and she now wants to become a vocational missionary. Several other girls want to learn more each week about the Bible, prayer and God's plan for their lives.
As teenagers Paul and Sarah Young traveled to Dakota Baptist Church in Fort Totten from their hometown of Orlando on summer mission trips. The Youngs had no idea they would later marry, accept a pastoral call to Dakota Baptist, and live in the parsonage they helped build for the Fort Totten church.
But the couple knew they were called to missions from the start. So when the pastor of Dakota Baptist retired and the church called to ask Paul to become their pastor, the Youngs were excited to begin serving. Soon after they were settled in their new home, Sarah began leading a small group of GAs.
The group began in 2006 with about six or seven girls each week. Using a combination of GA materials produced by Woman's Missionary Union and child evangelism materials, Young taught the girls about faithful Christian witnesses such as Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Ann Judson and Jim Elliot.
When the group outgrew their small classroom, they began meeting in the church's sanctuary, and meetings took on a more definite format. The girls recited the GA pledge, prayed, played a game, participated in lessons and activities, and ate a snack. Now the group has grown, averaging about 17 girls from first through eighth grade.
This year Young plans to make crafts and cards to send to an International Mission Board worker who is a Native American from North Carolina and serves among native peoples in Argentina. Young also plans to incorporate elements of the Fit 4 God's Mission children's curriculum, new from WMU this fall, into the group's regimen. She will share a Bible story during each session, and if there's time, the group will end each meeting with games or playtime on the church's playground.
Young views Girls in Action as an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with children who have a variety of difficult circumstances.
"We have fun learning together what the Bible says about following Christ and obedience to His will," Young said.
During GA sessions, Young emphasizes that God answers prayer and has a plan for the girls' lives. She teaches the girls "how important it is to obey God, even when it's difficult, and about giving our all to share the Good News of Jesus."
"I have hope that this generation of girls will be lights for Jesus in this dark place, just as Annie, Lottie, Amy, Mary, Ann and Jim were in the places where they served the Lord."
Melissa Hall is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala.
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