Ignite conference draws youth to Biola

Biola hosts Ignite, a youth evangelism conference. Hundreds of junior high and high school students attend.

Harmony Wheeler, Writer

Adam Reed, high school junior, skipped his homecoming to attend the Ignite 2009 conference, hosted by Biola Youth in Sutherland Auditorium, Saturday.

“God is more important than homecoming,” said Reed, who found out about the conference through MySpace. “I want to be on fire for God, not afraid to preach the gospel, to preach love to everyone. That’s what Jesus did.”

Students came with groups, some with high school Bible clubs and others with small groups or church leadership teams to receive evangelical and outreach training. The conference centered on the story of Nehemiah, who saw the sins of the people surrounding him, wept in response, prayed, gathered resources, and rebuilt a wall. Students stayed in teams all day to pray and study scripture as a small community. Expectations and excitement grew as junior high and high school students waited for the conference to begin.

“The purpose of this event is to scream as loud as you can,” Biola employee Mike Brimmage said with a laugh as a group of screaming students walked past him.

After a short introductory session, they broke up into large groups to discuss ministry and strategize. Brimmage said Ignite trains teams of students to follow in Nehemiah’s footsteps and impact communities for God. During group times, teams had the opportunity to strategize and begin acting in response to issues and people that surround them.

The conference provided an opportunity for students to experience the Biola campus. André Stevens, director of undergraduate admissions, said the programs offered on campus by Biola Youth and other organizations may make a student consider Biola as a potential college or affirm a students’ choice to attend. Joshua Pardy, senior admissions counselor, agreed.

“The visitors, whether they are [cognizant] of it or not, are evaluating the setting that these things are being taught in.” Pardy said. “These students typically are great fits for Biola — students who are desiring to grow in the Lord and could ideally make a rather natural transition to Biola.”

Brimmage agreed, but was quick to remind that ministry remains the first priority of events like Ignite. Biola mainly represents itself as a resource for ministry.

Freshman Miracle Hercules of Norwalk High School said working in groups makes it easier to open up to others.

High school senior Anthony Astrada of Henry J. Kaiser High School had a variety of reasons for attending Saturday’s sessions.

“The teams give me the chance to hear others’ opinions, learn different ministry techniques, and get social skills,” said Astrado, who said he came to get “a whooping by God.”.

Students listed various reasons for learning about ministry — storing up treasures, serving God instead of self, living and growing in faith despite persecution, learning to approach people and start conversations about Christ — all reasons amounted to one purpose.

“Ministry is the church’s job,” said youth leader Koty Maywhort. “Christ commissioned his disciples, and He empowers us to disciple and to go.”

Some Biola students said they think it’s good that Biola offers itself as a resource to help kids get to know God better.

“They’re impacting the youth generation, the leaders of tomorrow,” said sophomore Erik Alair. “It puts the idea in their heads that there are dedicated Christian higher education colleges out there to look up to.”

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