Connections: Mark Dean
Sparking Students' Fervor for Missions
Mark Dean has served as district youth director for the Minnesota District Council of the Assemblies of God for the past 23 years. In recognition of Speed the Light Day, Pentecostal Evangel Editorial Assistant Emily Tharp recently spoke with Dean about what the youth is his district are doing for Speed the Light.
evangel: Tell us about the Minnesota District’s Speed the Light efforts.
DEAN: In 1995, we turned a corner. We wanted to support about $400,000 in missionary needs, and about $90,000 to $100,000 was coming in each year. We were really in a desperate place. Although we were receiving help for the most urgent needs from friends in other districts, we believed God could provide for Minnesota missionaries using Minnesota students.
We shared that vision with a few youth pastors, and over the next few years we saw giving grow from $100,000 per year to over $300,000. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen stability in giving, ranging from $300,000 to $400,000 per year in the first seven years — and more growth in the past three years.
evangel: Why is it important that youth get involved with Speed the Light?
DEAN: By getting involved, they can come to an understanding of God’s heart in giving. He started everything with the giving of His Son, and the whole plan of missions is His idea. The concept of Speed the Light is not restricted to providing for our missionaries. The program also allows our students to gain a heart for missions, as well as a growing heart of compassion. We’re excited to see students come to that understanding.
evangel: What is one story about STL giving that stands out in your mind?
DEAN: There was a young man named Andrew who had a rough start in life, including a battle with cancer as a child that came back when he was a teenager. About three years ago, a couple of his friends invited him to a winter retreat, and he found the Lord there. He continued to fight the cancer that spring, but it was a battle he wasn’t going to win.
The Make-A-Wish foundation offered to do something for Andrew and his family, such as a trip. But Andrew asked if he could give the money to STL instead. The foundation granted his wish and let him present a check for $5,000 that August.
I had the privilege of being at his funeral one month later, and what a celebration it was of someone who understood the message of salvation and wanted to pass it along.
evangel: What would you like to see students do with STL in the future?
DEAN: Our desire is that they understand and experience the heart of God to reach the lost, along with continued growth and faithfulness. At the same time, we’re praying for students to be called into ministry. It all happens simultaneously sometimes. When students’ hearts are open to giving, they’re also open to what God is doing in their lives.
I pray that God would give them a dream and a vision as they go forward, whether it be to serve as missionaries themselves or as missions givers. We want to see them catch that missions fervor as students and just continue to grow. I pray that within the growth of STL, God would call students out of Minnesota to the nations.
evangel: Any final thoughts for Speed the Light Day?
DEAN: Speed the Light is one of the most enjoyable ministries we do. It’s exciting to see students catch a vision for missions. In terms of tangible results, STL is very measurable in ministry. We’ve been able to go from asking other districts for help to now helping others. That’s an exciting part of seeing God’s growth in our district.
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