CADIZ— “I’ll tell you what. They love us children, I bet you,” Shawn Davis, an eighth grader from Trigg County schools said of “The Way,” a Cadiz youth center that is making a large-scale difference in its small community.
Each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday after school, the ministry, located behind Trigg County schools in Cadiz, plays Christian music, feeds kids (sixth grade to seniors) an evening meal or snack, and provides a safe space to hang out.
Many of the children participate in various activities such as guitar lessons, sewing lessons, piano lessons, and Tae Kwon Do. On average, over 100 students attend each evening.
In addition, The Way houses the only skate park in the county, something that county officials are appreciative of because it keeps kids off the street. The gym is open for basketball, dodgeball and other sports. Volunteers from all walks of life and denominations come together to invest in the kids.
The Way’s founder and chairman of the board, Carl Heckman, a member of Cadiz Baptist Church, explains that although The Way is a community effort, it is 70-80 percent operated by and funded by Baptists.
They couldn’t do what they do without the support of the more than 30 partner churches. Even the Mennonites in the area donated labor as they built their new building in March 2017.
“Our litmus test here is John 14:6. ‘Jesus is the Way,’” he explained. “Regardless of the denomination, we asked every person working here if they’ve received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
Jesus as “The Way” is important, because every afternoon, for about 10 minutes, the students stop what they’re doing and listen to a devotion. The devotion is one of Shawn Davis’ favorite parts. In fact, he recently gave one of the devotions.
Davis, who has been coming to The Way since 2015 and goes to Refuge Church of Cadiz, spoke on the Bible and why it is important. He said he prepared his devotion for two to three months.
“I have this thing about how people don’t read the Bible and what the Bible is,” he explained. “It’s God’s word to tell you how life’s supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be doing. The Bible is more like his personal message to you. It’s like a letter and it’s like an instruction manual.”
Davis, whose family has been helped personally by the ministry, enjoys coming alongside his older brother Sam. He’s a member of The Way’s student council and took a Tae Kwon Do class, guitar lessons, and a cooking class.
He continued, “So many kids got saved here and know God from this place because of the devotions and everything. All these churches in Trigg county combine to help this place. There’s probably about 30 churches that come.”
“They care about this place,” he added of the volunteers.
And they do care, said Peggy P’Pool, a member of Rocky Ridge Baptist Church and volunteer at The Way since 2011-2012.
She spends three out of four nights a week investing in the children, preparing their meals, and joking around with them. “Most people tell me that as old as I am, I should be out at the senior citizens home. But it’s a lot more fun being here with these young people,” she quipped
P’Pool explained that this ministry is so vital because “it is the only place that some of these young people can find out about the Bible, God, religion, and love. Certainly not at school, probably not at home, and definitely not on the street. This is a place where we can share God’s love with them.”
Heckman echoed that sentiment, explaining that everything The Way does is to show kids the love of Christ and draw them to Him.
In addition, they’ve started implementing Friday night classes on topics that are important, law enforcement, True Love Waits, suicide prevention, and more.
After a student makes a profession of faith, The Way purchases a study Bible for them and then passes their information on to a selection of cooperating churches, with the hopes that they will make a connection and begin the discipleship process. Being church centric is an important aspect of the ministry there.
“We work very hard to get these students in church. This ministry is not a church. This ministry is a conduit. Our goal is to reach out into the community, get kids to come here, show them Christ’s love in us, share the gospel, bring them to Christ, and try to get them plugged into a church,” he shared.
Heckman hopes to see other communities band together and replicate the ministry because of the vast need. “If you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you know that our churches are not reaching kids,” he said. “This is a mechanism for communities to work together for Christ to reach these kids and try to get them plugged into churches. That’s the goal.”
For more information on The Way, how a church or an individual can get involved and support the ministry of The Way, or ideas on how to start a ministry like this in other counties, visit www.thewayforteens.org or email Heckman at email@example.com. (WR)