This summer, 240 youth and leaders from ten different groups converged on the Rosedale International Center (RIC). They came to spend a week completing Rosedale International (RI)’s City Challenge program. For a total of five weeks in June and July, this current of high school students filled the building and rushed out into the broader Columbus metropolis, buoyed by their love for Jesus, their energy, and their excitement to serve.
The mission of City Challenge is twofold: impact the neighborhood, and impact the individual. Through times of worship and teaching, neighborhood prayer walks, service projects, work with local nonprofits, and a city-wide prayer challenge, youth “discover what they are willing to give to follow Jesus” and serve as His hands and feet in the city.
This summer, the Monday-evening street outreach called “brown bagging” seemed to have a particular impact on the City Challengers. This first outreach sent the youth directly into Columbus carrying two sack meals apiece—one for themselves, and one for a homeless member of the community.
“This was the first time in the week where [students] were asked to talk to a stranger, producing situations where they had to step out of their comfort zone and share the love of Jesus with someone,” explains Phil, RI Short-Term Programs Facilitator. “Every week when groups returned to talk about their experience, we would hear, ‘I never knew how impactful I could be if I stopped to really see the people I was walking by, and to recognize their desire for someone to listen.'”
Rochelle, RI Administrative Intern, also brought up brown bagging as an example of God’s movement in the City Challengers. When her group ran out of meals designated for others, they didn’t hesitate to sacrifice. “They started giving out their personal meals, knowing they wouldn’t get anything else to eat for the rest of the day. They didn’t once complain—they just kept searching for others who needed it more.”
“Prayer is impactful, can be done anywhere, and is born out of a relationship with Jesus.”
As they willingly stepped out of their comfort zones to follow Him, God worked in and through each individual City Challenger. “One student shared that he has always struggled to pray,” Rochelle remembers. “He never knows what to say. But when he prayed for the people he met while brown bagging, he was suddenly filled with words to say. He was so excited that he was able to pray for others. He kept sharing that experience with us all week! It meant so much to him that when he was praying for others, God gave him the words to say.”
“Prayer seemed to be where students experienced the most growth and fruitfulness throughout the week,” observes Phil. “Students learned that prayer is impactful, can be done anywhere, and is born out of a relationship with Jesus.”
Watching God move in His young followers during City Challenge is exciting—but it is only the beginning. The moments spent in worship and prayer, the practices of fellowship and accountability, and the sacrifice of outreach are all seeds planted and tended. As youth groups return home, Rosedale International hopes that they will take what they’ve learned and reproduce it as fruit in their own communities.