On June 30, the day before the four-day UFO Festival, the youth gathered to label bottles of drinking water to distribute free of charge to share the love of Christ with visitors to Roswell and with the local community
"Thirsty?" the label asked, quoting John 4:14, where Jesus says, "But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life" (NLT).
The label also carried a website, ThirstyRoswell.com, explaining about the living water only Jesus can give.
But city officials asked the teens to stop the distribution after the outreach began in what may be the community's hottest summer in recorded history.
That understandably sparked concern that the young people's right of free speech was being curtailed, so a number of them began expressing their concerns with Roswell city officials, Vance Purkey, associate pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, told the Baptist New Mexican newsjournal.
Leaders of the youth groups, meanwhile, directed the students to share God's love in a way that would be less objectionable by simply asking people if they could pray for them.
"Our youth did a wonderful job of this," Purkey said. "They encountered some opposition with people telling them to get away from them, but they also had a lot of people ask them to pray, which they did, right there on the street.
"They had some great conversations with people asking about prayer, and even how to pray, and even one discussion with a about the Trinity," Purkey continued.
"This may have been even more effective than passing out bottles of cold water," he noted.
By the end of the UFO Festival's first day, city officials granted the students permission to resume distributing the water, yet setting some restrictions that made it somewhat challenging, Purkey said.
The teens still were able to distribute nearly 3,000 bottles of water during the UFO Festival, Chip Boardman, director of Bethel's youth department, told the Baptist New Mexican.
"The leaders of ThirstyRoswell have been able to meet with the Roswell mayor and express our concerns as well as hear his concerns," Boardman said. "This was a very productive meeting, and we have a joint plan for next year's event."
The youth groups have decided to hold joint activities every month, known as Roswell Unite 4 Christ, and Roswell's mayor and its superintendent of schools were invited to "hang out" with the youths at the first one, a back-to-school "blow-out" held Aug. 10.
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
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