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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Get the Word Out!

Sharing Christ is easier than you think

April 10, 2011

Leaf through your Bible, and you can’t miss the everyday people driving many of the stories God placed there. God could have sent His Word exclusively in the form of deep theology. Instead, through much of Scripture He let women and men and even boys and girls live out the stories that bring to life His truth.

God wants to communicate His love to hurting people in the same way today. Assemblies of God students in middle and high schools across the United States are stepping up to God’s calling. They’re pointing friends and classmates to the Savior. You can too.


Shayla Riefstahl
North East, Pa.


Talking to friends — it’s a simple thing, really. But 16-year-old Shayla Riefstahl began making those conversations a priority this school year.

“I started talking to them and seeing what they thought of Jesus and what they thought being a Christian was,” says Shayla, a junior at North East (Pa.) High School. “Then I started talking to other people in classes, and it just went on like that.”

Intentionally bringing up these seemingly taboo topics was intimidating at first.

“My biggest fear was talking to people and them rejecting me,” she says. “But then when I started, I knew I couldn’t make them do it, and it was their choice. So I shouldn’t be afraid of being rejected.”

Since being commissioned as a campus missionary last fall at Advance, the Pennsylvania-Delaware Assemblies of God District youth convention, Shayla has seen four of her friends accept Christ as their Savior. Three more, she says, now attend North East Assembly of God with Shayla on a regular basis.

She, along with three other students who were also commissioned as campus missionaries at Advance, began meeting for prayer last fall every morning before school. Their prayer group has now grown from four to 16.

Intentionally sharing her belief about Christ as a commissioned campus missionary has impacted not only her friends’ lives but also her own.

“Everything has changed this school year — my relationships with God, my family, with other people,” she says. “I’m happier, and I can’t wait to get up and go and do something for Christ.”

For Christian students who haven’t yet made the decision to be more intentional in sharing their beliefs, Shayla has a few words of encouragement.

“Just be yourself around people and don’t be afraid to talk to them about Christ. One day you’ll be rewarded for whatever you do.”

— Jennifer McClure


Hannah Burns
Kansas City, Mo.


From her earliest years, Hannah Burns’ parents told her she could be or do anything she put her mind to.

In fifth grade, she became interested in medicine and the study of the human body.

“To this day I marvel at God’s greatest creation, human beings,” Hannah says, “and how every organ with its billions of tiny cells has a place and a purpose.”

But a new dream was sparked that summer at a kids camp after watching a missions video. Then in junior high, Hannah had the opportunity to go on a missions trip to Mexico with her youth group from Sheffield Family Life Center (AG) in Kansas City, Mo.

“That first experience in Mexico forever changed my life,” Hannah says. “The people we met there were physically poor and hurting, but more importantly, spiritually in need of Jesus.

“My experience on the trip changed the way I looked at the world. Once I saw the kind of conditions people were living in, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to do something.”

James 2:20 began to come alive for her: “Faith without works is dead” (NKJV). But at the same time, having the newfound desire for missions while still wanting to pursue medicine caused some confusion for Hannah.

“Why would the God who created me and placed these desires and dreams inside of me make me choose? So I began to pray. I knew that if I focused on asking God to lead me, He would give me the clear direction I was to follow.”

As she prayed, her prayers began to change.

“I asked that God would help me to see, hear and feel as He does. I went so far as to ask to love like He does, to show compassion as He does.”

Through Hannah’s prayers, God was shaping her dreams.

“I began to realize that He placed both passions in my life.”

Hannah realized she could care for people through medical missions by “displaying the love of Christ with a stethoscope and a willing spirit, going wherever He leads me.”

Now a nursing student with plans of becoming a medical missionary, Hannah encourages others to live their dreams.

“If you’re struggling to know what your calling is, many times it’s not far from our very own dreams, talents, passions and interests.”

Adapted with permission from an On Course magazine winter issue online feature.


Phillip Graham
Norman, Okla.


Phillip Graham is an eighth-grader enrolled at Irving Middle School in Norman, Okla. He attends Bethesda Assembly of God in Oklahoma City with his sisters, his stay-at-home mom and his dad, an electronics engineer at Tinker Air Force Base.

During fourth grade, Phillip asked Jesus to be his Savior.

“While dealing with life’s difficulties, my relationship with Jesus is an everlasting relief,” says Phillip, 14. “The troubles of life can be tuned down so nothing’s ever too overwhelming. By reading God’s Word, remembering His promises and singing His praises, I am able to relax, even in tough times.”

Because of his faith, Phillip says he is able to talk with Christian friends and help bear their burdens. He has repeatedly evangelized non-Christian friends after much prayer, but so far his efforts have been rebuffed.

“I have bought three Bibles for close friends whom I trust and have talked to many more about my faith,” Phillip says. “Sadly, none of them has come to Christ. The important thing to remember is to be determined, and if God gives me another non-Christian to witness to, I’ll talk about my faith with them as well.”

Every Wednesday evening, Phillip attends Royal Rangers at his church. The Bible study program offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping. Just being outdoors, he says, helps him connect with God.

In addition to admiring the handiwork of God while hiking, Phillip says he experiences the Lord’s protection. For example, once on a 10-mile hike on rocky terrain and 40-degree angle slopes, Phillip sprained his ankle on a rock.

“Walking seven miles on an injured ankle, I can’t count how many short prayers I prayed for strength and guidance,” Phillip says. “God definitely answers prayer.”

Without Phillip saying anything about his discomfort, a friend offered to carry his 25-pound backpack the last couple of miles of the hike.

“God helped me overcome just when I was thinking about giving up,” Phillip says. “Without God coming to my rescue through that now-close friend of mine, I wouldn’t have had the strength I needed to carry on. I can’t very well imagine life without Jesus.”

— John W. Kennedy


Hayley Gustafson
Spring Lake, Minn.


At the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, National Youth Ministries challenged middle and high school students across the nation to visibly carry their Bibles every day, everywhere they went, for one month. Whether just to church, school or even football games, 16-year-old Hayley Gustafson stepped up to the challenge.

“I brought it everywhere,” Hayley says. “People would ask me why I was carrying a Bible, which started up a lot of different conversations. It was an awesome experience.”

This is Hayley’s second year as a campus missionary at Spring Lake Park (Minn.) High School. She leads Youth Alive club meetings before school every Wednesday and after school on Fridays.

Being a campus missionary, Hayley says, is very humbling, but there are some things to keep in mind.

“You have to be very aware of your actions and your words,” she says. “If you’re saying you’re a Christian but you’re not living it out, then people will notice that and say it’s not genuine.”

Last fall Hayley invited three of her friends to a youth outreach event at her church, Emmanuel Christian Center (AG) in Minneapolis. That night, all three accepted Christ as their Savior. Wanting to follow up with them on their decisions, she gave them each a Book of Hope — a contemporary rendering of Scripture that tells the life of Christ and the plan of salvation.

“I gave the Book of Hope so they could relate [the Bible] more easily to their lives,” she says.

Nearing the end of her junior year, Hayley realizes the importance of being intentional about sharing Christ with friends and classmates while a student.

“You’re not going to be in high school or middle school forever,” she says. “This is the absolute best environment you may ever have to be a witness and to share Christ’s love with people. You may have hard times, but God will always be right beside you.”

— Jennifer McClure


Trevor Pursel
Dallas, Ore.


Seventh-grader Trevor Pursel enjoys a lot of the activities of a typical 12-year-old boy in suburban Oregon: basketball, baseball, football, video games, fishing and camping.

He also is a member of the Junior National Young Leaders Conference, which offers high-achieving middle school students the opportunity to make a positive impact upon their communities. As part of the leadership program, Trevor has visited historic sites in Seattle, Boston and Washington, D.C.

But what may have influenced Trevor as much as any of these opportunities was his trip to a Youth Alive camp last summer. Subsequently, Trevor has distributed the Book of Hope to various classmates this school year in Dallas. But he ran out before one friend received a copy, and after school the curious classmate asked what the book was all about.

“I had read the book through several times, so I explained what was in it,” Trevor recalls. “He asked how to be saved. Right there I led in prayer.”

Trevor, who accepted Jesus as Savior at age 4, also led his younger brother, Connor, to the Lord three years ago as he read his then 5-year-old brother a Bible story.

Church, especially the youth group at Valley Life Center (AG) in Dallas, is an important part of Trevor’s life.

“I go to all the events I can — youth convention, camp, Fine Arts,” Trevor says.

Trevor says his faith has helped him especially deal with the deaths of four relatives in a two-year period: his grandfather, grandmother and two uncles who died unexpectedly of heart attacks while in their early 50s.

“I know I will see them again in heaven,” Trevor says.

— John W. Kennedy

Brooke and Heather Edwards
Panama City, Fla.


Sisters Brooke and Heather Edwards turned their ability for outreach ministry into jobs. Both work at First Assembly of God in Panama City, Fla., helping with the many weekly services.

Brooke, 23, works with the church’s youth ministries, including the Wednesday night service and the Friday night outreach to unchurched youth (The Refuge). She also does administrative work for Fountain of Life Assembly of God, a nearby district-affiliated church in Fountain.

Heather, 26, splits her time between her roles as youth pastor assistant and working with the program Bridges of Hope, which includes a food pantry and thrift store. Bridges of Hope also sponsors other programs, including one called Kid Care, an after-school program for helping kids with their homework.

Working with unchurched youth can sometimes be rough, says Heather, but it’s worth it in the end.

In middle school, Brooke and her sister discovered their heart for reaching others by helping out with children’s church.

“We grew up knowing that we just loved being a part of ministry,” Brooke says. “It wasn’t a responsibility. We realized what we have been given and that there needs to be someone who would do the same for the next generation.”

Heather advises other young people to get started in ministry as soon as possible.

“It’s not just for people who want to pursue further ministry; it’s really for everybody,” she says. “Grow up in it so that when you get older, you don’t question your heart for ministry. Stick with it even when you have bad days. It’s really not for other people in the end. It’s for God.”

— Emily Tharp

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