The prayer thrust was based on "geocaching," a modern-day treasure hunting game in which players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches. Participants follow coordinates, leading them to explore their cities in a unique way.
Connecting with the geocaching craze, Gayla Parker, Woman's Missionary Union executive director for Maryland/Delaware, said, "We thought, 'Why not take that idea and instead of geo-caching, we did "prayer"-caching?"
Following an opening time of Bible study, worship and interaction with missionaries, around 75 teens gathered in teams to find GPS coordinates and other clues that led them from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, throughout the French Quarter and French Market, to the Baptist Friendship House, a community center and a transitional house for homeless women and children.
When the students found a hidden "prayer"-cache, they read a Scripture and learned a specific way to pray for that part of New Orleans, such as human trafficking and exploitation, homelessness and spiritual lostness. Some of the locations also had bottles of water, which the students shared with passers-by while other students prayed.
"We used this as a learning experience for the students to help them learn about some of the problems that come up and what the Scripture has to say about it," Parker said.
Catherine Finch, 16, from Oklahoma, called the effort "eye-opening" because it challenged her to step out more in faith and to pray more for people.
"We got to walk through downtown New Orleans and got to see how God needs to touch people's lives," said Colton Dunbar, 14, from Missouri. "We got to see the bad in the world and what we've got to change."
Among other ministries during the SBC's Youth on Mission program for students in grades 7 through 12, teens also made cookies and prepared health kits for New Orleans' Global Maritime Ministries, prepared lunch and worked with children at the Friendship House and assisted in a block party with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Mission Lab in a neighborhood near the campus.
At the end of their two-day activities, the students wrote down all the ministries they experienced on a "gift" card, which they then offered at the cross of Jesus Christ.
The closing ceremony was meant to leave a lasting impression, Parker said, "to encourage them to continuing serving like they've served here."
Shannon Baker is national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
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