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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Alabama students still impacted by teenís deathcomment (0)

April 6, 2006

By Amanda Oliver


What will you do with your turn on earth?”
   
The question lingers in the ears of students seated on bleachers and folding chairs. They listen intently as they are challenged to rethink who they are. Their eyes are drawn to a cross heavy with key chains and notes, bracelets and ID badges — a scene lit first in red and then held in a warm yellow glow.
   
The memory of a joyful spirit implores a reaction — a chain reaction, one begun by the legacy of Colorado’s Columbine High School martyr Rachel Scott.
   
Students, faculty and parents had the opportunity to be inspired by Scott’s story anew when Rachel’s Redemption Tour moved through Alabama March 2–17. The tour featured Scott’s mother, Beth Nimmo, and presentations by Life Choices Presents, a ministry begun by her uncle and aunt, John and Debbie Phillips.
   
The first tour of its kind — organized by First Priority of America — it included 19 school assemblies, nine parent rallies and stops at several state Baptist churches. And in the process, it gave 24,000 Alabama teens the opportunity to hear a message of “real truth producing real hope.” It’s a counteraction to a culture that chooses to feed the flesh rather than help the heart, John Phillips said.
   
In 1996, the Phillips began a ministry geared toward high school students. Teaching teens about their own life experiences and instilling self-worth and hope in a generation that was struggling, their ministry gained momentum and renewed purpose after the Columbine school shooting on April 20, 1999.
   
The Phillips’ niece was counted among 13 people killed in this tragedy. John Phillips vowed that Scott’s death would not be in vain. He and his wife dedicated their lives to full-time ministry, creating Life Choices. The ministry tackles important life issues such as self-worth, self-respect, broken relationships, sexual promiscuity/abstinence, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, goals and life planning. 
   
In the past six years, the ministry has held more than 550 programs, reaching 500,000 students in 30 states. 
   
One thing Life Choices incorporates into its presentations is a symbolic reminder of the positive decisions Scott made in her life — a cross bearing her photograph. At one point during the program, students are invited to place items on the cross symbolizing areas in their life they have struggled with but are now ready to be delivered from.
   
John Phillips believes that through the Life Choices program, he and his wife are reaching the hearts of students. Evidence of that belief is found in the response of students from across the country on the ministry’s Web site: “Thank you for coming to my school. Today I heard everything I’ve been waiting to hear.”
   
For students in Alabama, the experience was just as life changing and empowering, according to student responses.
   
Mandy Pate, a Hueytown High School student, placed her ID badge on Scott’s cross, along with a note signifying a decision she made during an assembly. She said her life was changed personally because she didn’t talk a lot before and now she felt she could open up more to other students.
   
The program could help people change their outlook, Pate said. “They may think there’s hope.”
 
Life Choices is unique in comparison to other programs that come into public schools because it is able to share faith in the middle of the day in mandatory school assemblies. “No other faith-based school assembly program that we know of shares the gospel during the day,” John Phillips said. “We are able to present the gospel in a nonproselytizing way.
   
“There was revival on a gym floor at school,” John Phillips said of the program at Bagley Junior High School in Dora March 10. He later told Nimmo, “Your little girl helped make national history today.”
   
Eternal history, as well, it seems. After John Phillips and a member of his staff prayed with a Bagley Junior High student — a proclaimed atheist who had lost all hope in life — to receive Christ, the three lifted their heads to find at least 70 students holding hands in a circle around the auditorium.
  
One by one, student after student began to pray over the PA system, publicly confessing personal sins, sins of the school as a community and the effects of the separation of church and state in the school system. The young man who had turned his life around that day asked to speak. After being passed the microphone, he told his fellow students of his past and apologized for the pain he had caused others in the school. Prayer continued in the gymnasium for an hour or more before the students disbanded.
   
“Do we need better gun laws?”
“Do we need more money in our schools?”
   
“No,” was the unified answer to both questions Debbie Phillips posed to students, inquiring what would make schools better — more safe for teens. “It’s heart trouble,” she said. “No one is more important than you are.”
   
In a video presentation, Rachel’s brother Craig Scott said, “Rachel was just a normal girl willing to be used by God to start a chain reaction of love.”
   
For more information, visit www.lifechoicespresents.org.
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