Making Friday better than good

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Whether it was a simulated journey in Christ's footsteps or the exuberance of 3,000 young people attending a Pentecostal youth convention, Good Friday was a day to focus more than usual on faith.

A hundred or so local Christians gathered in downtown Cape Girardeau to commemorate Good Friday with the annual cross walk, an adaptation of the route Jesus took before being crucified.

Friday evening at the Show Me Center, Pentecostal teenagers from all over the state gathered in the main auditorium following three days of singing and praising and listening to special speakers.

The worship forms were different at the Show Me Center and on the streets of Cape Girardeau, but the intent was the same.

Taking turns carrying a wooden cross Friday afternoon, the people who walked the walk sang hymns along the way like "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." The group stopped at several stations along the two-mile march in the downtown area to pray and read Scripture about Christ's death and resurrection.

Fourteen-year-old Tyler King was one of the two people to first carry the cross.

"It's meaningful to me," he said. "People should know Jesus."

The stops included the Red House, the clock at Themis and Main streets, the Broadway gate at the Mississippi River, media plaza near the offices of the newspaper, radio and television stations, and the Common Pleas Courthouse among others. The event was sponsored by the Downtown Council of Churches.

Jeff Baker of Cape Girardeau said he was there because of his faith.

"Today is a chance to show people that I'm not ashamed," he said. "It matters to me and I want people to know I mean what I say."

Willis Ayieko, a Southeast Missouri State University student from Kenya, said he felt compelled to participate.

"It's a most significant day," he said. "I wanted to be a part of it."

Tyler's father, Blane King, said he hopes that people who saw the group downtown get the message.

"We want to show the city there are churches out there that care," he said.

Missouri Pentecostals set aside the week leading up to Easter for their youth convention not only because of its religious significance, but it's a time when young people have time off from school and can gather together.

"It's a time for youth to be ministered to," said Chrystal Lesch of Delta, a youth leader. "It gets more on the kids' level."

Said Kendra Causey, 17, of Advance, Mo., "I have the thrill of serving the Lord and doing better."

The theme of the convention was "Change a life; change the world."

"There are world changers here tonight," shouted Chris Thornton of Lebanon, Mo., youth president for the state United Pentecostal Church. "I have an announcement: Jesus Christ is in the house. Miracles, signs and wonders are going to happen."

It took little effort for Thornton to get the packed auditorium to its feet singing. The music rocked, small groups of young people gathered in clusters to sing together, and many throughout the auditorium moved their feet to the spirit of the music.

Karrah Tanner, 17, and her sister Whitney, 14, of New Madrid, Mo., came because of the worship and the music. Like other young people, they come every year and look forward to coming back.

"I learn stuff to take back to my friends," Whitney said. "They need to hear it too."


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