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Pathfinders makes #039;walking flashlight#039; of youth

When 16-year-old Michelle Kelly went to Crestview, Fla., last year to participate in Pathfinders, she was exited to take an active roll in sharing her religious convictions with others.

"You always hear about others sharing their beliefs, but when you do it, it's a different experience," she said.

Kelly traveled to Florida with her youth group from Park Memorial Methodist Church to participate in Pathfinders, which is a conference and a mission all rolled into one.

The mission is sponsored by Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association and held in conjunction with evangelist Scott Dawson's Hope For You Festivals.

"My youth come back and their lives are changed," said Randy Bruner, youth minister at Park Memorial.

The youth travel door to door and share the gospel of Jesus Christ and pray those they meet.

"They literally become walking flashlights when they share the gospel," said Bruner.

"It's contagious and it doesn't go away."

He said his youth came back from Florida more excited than ever about their religion.

"It took kids from being casual Christians to being contagious Christians," he said.

Kelly said her involvement with Pathfinders helped strengthen her own relationship with Christ.

"Being around so many others who strive to share their own relationship helps it grow more inside of you," she said.

She couldn't be more excited that Pathfinders and the festival is in Troy next week, but admits she is a little anxious about how the two will be received.

"There's always that fear of rejection," she said.

Bruner is determined Pathfinders will be a success.

"You just can't be the same after you see that light," he said.

"He (Christ) is in the life changing business."

He said when Pathfinders was in Florida last year, two percent of the town "came to know Jesus Christ."

He is certain Troy will have that kind of success as well.

"An event like this is an answer to a prayer," he said.

"Troy won't be the same.

It can't be the same."

Though Pathfinders is used to compliment the festival and is not quite part of the festival.

The festival is held nightly and open to people of all ages.

Pathfinders targets the youth and takes place during the day.

In the morning, there is a worship rally followed by a brief training session about what to say and how to answer questions.

Bruner said once a church has signed up for the mission, the Scott Dawson Evangelical Association sends a book with five weeks worth of lessons.

The lessons teach youth how to talk to people, where to find answers in the Bible and the all-around approach for their door to door visits.

"You learn that you have to open the conversation," Kelly said.

"Ask them what church they go to.

If they don't go to a church, that's a good opportunity to tell them about Jesus Christ."