10,000 youth celebrate new year in Atlantacomment (0)
January 6, 2000
By Jennifer Davis Rash
Shouts and cheers rang out around the world as the year 2000 became a reality time zone by time zone.
But the shouts in seven sites in the United States actually changed lives as thousands of students at YouthLink 2000 shouted a message of commitment to the Lord when the countdown struck one. The 10,000 students who attended the closing session at the Atlanta site were among those speaking their first words of Y2K to the Lord.
And at least 1,492 students entered the new year with new life in Christ. Many were saved just moments before the clock struck midnight.
Also during the conference, students across the nation gave $100,000.39 to missions.
Following the midnight shouts to the Lord, the Atlanta participants joined in singing the praise chorus “Shout to the Lord” before quieting down for a time of prayer.
The mood became calm and still but not for long.
With the “Amen” came a series of fireworks and dropping of balloons. The celebration exploded with party horns, bubbles, confetti, hugs and dancing. Students rocked to the music of Russ Lee and exerted extraordinary energy in their effort to “party like it’s 1999.”
Singing, dancing and screaming until about 2 a.m., students participated in YouthLink 2000 described the event as “awesome”, “no better to way ring in the year 2000” and “one that will be hard to top.”
Concerns of anticipated Y2K glitches and possible terrorism acts kept thousands of people away from the event entirely or caused some to leave early. But the 10,000 of the more than 13,000 Atlanta registrants who stayed did not flinch as the countdown came.
The event went off without major problems, but YouthLink officials took the concerns seriously and were ready for any potential problems.
Terry Gay, floor coordinator for YouthLink 2000, said everyone entering the event was checked six times. “It was very secure.”
Each door had an attendant checking YouthLink badges and police and security offices were placed along the route to the conference area. YouthLink personnel were also at the top and bottom of each of the three escalators that took participants to the event. While placed at the escalators to control crowd behavior and mange the crowd flow, they also checked for identification.
Once participants landed on the appropriate floor for the conference, a security check was made with metal detecting devices and by checking bags, purses and cots. Many students and pastors had to give up their pocket knives for the three-day conference, but no major weapons were found.
When entering the seating area, participants went through one final check point.
Along with the security checks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Atlanta Police Department were all on hand for the New Year’s Eve event.
Volunteers patrolled the conference area continuously during the New Year’s Eve event and monitored on those leaving and returning to the area.
Leslie Caldwell, a youth leader at First Baptist, Indian Springs, said the amount of security put her mind at ease.
While the group had planned to stay until Jan. 1 all along, she said the intensity of the security helped the group to feel relaxed and have a good time.
Along with the New Year’s Eve celebration, participants also spent about three hours before the changeover in praise and worship, hearing messages form nationally known speakers David Nasser and Jay Strack and watching videos on missions and Cassie Bernall, one of the Columbine, Colo., students killed in the April 20,
1999, school shooting. The group also participated in a canopy of prayer in which youth leaders stood and prayed over kneeling students.
Nasser, who preached from Exodus 3 and Isaiah 6, encouraged a “collision with God” during YouthLink 2000.
“Some of you will experience nothing more than just another event you went to,” he said. “But some of us will experience something different.”
“Some of you will always remember this night as the night you collided with God, not the change of the millennium,” he said.
“God wants to ruin your life,” Nasser told the group. “If you’ve ever had an encounter with God, He has ruined your life.”
“The gospel is not the fun news; it is the good news,” Nasser said. “If it doesn’t cost you anything, then it is not good.”
Challenging the students to give up those things not pleasing to God, Nasser said, “He wants to ruin your life so He can create a new life in you.”
Some will have to break up with who they are dating; others will have to give up the music they listen to.
God also wants to ruin the ministry of youth leaders, Nasser added.
“You have to get over the hurdle of fun, fun, fun and do things that mean something in the kingdom of God,” he said.
It is painful to be encountered by God, Nasser said. “If you do what pleases you and breaks the heart of God, then you are pleasing your god, but you are your own god.”
When Nasser gave an invitation for salvation, hundreds of students stood and walked forward to be counseled. Hundreds of others stood acknowledging they needed to “get right with God.”
Strack, who was linked to the seven United States sites live from the Holy Land, provided three attributes to the new millennium.
First, it is a time of opportunity, he said. “I’m grateful for those who saw YouthLink 2000 as an opportunity instead of being afraid…being a whiney hiney…and scared of their own shadow,” he noted. Second, it is a time to overcome. “Bargain basement baptisms are over,” he said. “No more making decisions because everyone else is. We cannot live as others live.”
“It is time to stand up for what you believe,” Strack said. “The time is now once and for all. It’s your time.”
Third, it is time to occupy. “The Bible said Jesus will come again, but until He does, we are to occupy the land,” he said. “Live what you say you believe. It is a time to put away the old and put on the new.”