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More than 46,000 students celebrate via satellite linkcomment (0)

January 6, 2000

By Greg Heyman

More than 1,200 Alabama students found a unique way to spend the end of the 20th Century.

They didn’t use the last days of their Christmas holiday to hand out in the malls. Nor did they tune in to celebrations in Times Square and other national hotspots to bring in the new millennium. Instead, they spent their time at YouthLink 2000 in Atlanta. The three-day event, which drew 46,081 to seven sites around the United States, included speakers, music, missions projects and other activities.


Josh Benson, a member of Heritage Baptist Church, Montgomery, said he chose to come to YouthLink rather than participate in other New Year’s Eve events.


The 16-year-old student said he isn’t concerned with what his peers might think of how he celebrated the new year.


“My theory is just to be different, be your own self,” Benson said. “I don’t like to conform to what other people want me to be. I like to be my own person.”


“I’ll be one of the people that can say that I got a clean beginning for the new millennium,” he added.

Benson was one of the more than 1,200 students from Alabama who attended YouthLink in Atlanta. Total registration for the site was 13,007.


The students crowded into an exhibition hall of the Georgia World Congress Center Dec. 29, following a day of activities that included registration, giveaways and concerts by Christian rock bands. Large video screens carried images of speakers, along with music groups and satellite feeds from other YouthLink venues across the United State.


“We thought this would be the best place we could be when the new year came in,” said Sammy Taylor, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church, Phil Campbell. “God’s people together, worshiping Him.”

“I just couldn’t think of any better place to spend my New Year’s Eve than just praising God with thousand of other youth,” said Taylor’s son, Kyle.


“I’m having a great time,” said Kyle, 17. “From what I’ve seen, I’m fired us already and I’m going to bring it back to Phil Campbell.”


Adam Chandler, 16, of First Baptist, Tanner, dismissed fears about terrorism or problems that might arise from Y2K during the New Year’s weekend.

“We’re here with the Lord and it’s more important than being with friends or anybody else,” Chandler said.

Leslie Caldwell, a youth leader at First Baptist Church, Indian Springs, in Shelby Association, said the 15-member group from her church did not fear Y2K either.


“Our parents were brave and when we got here and the saw the amount of security, we felt at ease,” she said.

David Willis, minister of youth at First, Fairfax, said some of his group was nervous, but he felt safe.

“I decided to take whoever was willing to go,” he said.


Chase Lay, 17, of First Baptist Church, Foley, said, “I was not nervous. It was a great place to be. We should have this every year.”

However, Dale Dodd, youth minister at Eastside Baptist Church, Winfield, decided to participate in the event only through the morning of New Year’s Eve.


“I did not want the responsibility of the kids at midnight and because of concerns of the parents,” he said, adding his wife is eight months pregnant.


Kipp Fault, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Winfield, said, “I feel like God is in control. He will take care of His kids we are praising Him.”

Deborah Harralson, a youth leader at First Baptist Church, Fairfax, in Valley, said YouthLink was “awesome.”

“It was exciting to ring in the new year this way,” she said, noting they had two decisions made during the conference.

Harralson, who came with a group of 15-20, said she was not nervous about spending New Year’s Eve in Atlanta. “God is in control,” she said. “We had a blast.”

Stacee Strength, an 8th grader at First, Fairfax, said, “It was a great way to bring in the new year, surrounded by other Christians, I won’t be able to top it.”

Tyler Peed, a sophomore at First Baptist, Foley, said his favorite part of the event was the satellite links to the other locations.

Peed’s 18-year-old brother, Brandon said, “There was no better way to ring in the new year.”

Fault said he knew God was present at the event. “The Holy Spirit is here,” Fault said. “Through some of the kids’ reactions, we can tell God is stirring in their hearts. God has been moving in our group and we want it to spread.”

Lisa Simmons, an 8th grader from First, Indian Springs, said, “The music was the best.”

“Audio Adrenaline was my favorite. It was definitely the best way to spend New Year’s Eve.”


Katie Chamber, 17, of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, said, “I just wanted to ring in the new year with a bunch of Christians and to be somewhere where I felt safe and loved to celebrate the new millennium.

“I think it s really important to be with Christians at this time, because there’s been so much talk about the end of the world and whatever,” added Chambers.

“But I think it should be a celebration with my brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Entertainers and speakers also commended the students who attended the event.

Smalltown Poets’ lead singer Michael Johnston said how impressive it was that students weren’t intimidated in a world where there is a lot of fear.

“You guys don’t seem to be afraid and that’s cool,” Johnston said between songs.

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