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Empowerment Days

Youth Alive missionaries equip students in PenFlorida District.

As the first ever Youth Alive missionaries in the Peninsular Florida District, Joe and Natalie Barnoske are fulfilling a calling to empower students to reach their campuses with the gospel.

When the Barnoskes began as full-time Youth Alive U.S. missionaries in May, they felt God had given them a vision to start a conference aimed at providing resources for campus missionaries. In an effort to get as much of the district involved as possible, the Barnoskes decided to hold six separate one-day events, each in a different region of their district, on Saturdays throughout the semester.

By the time the school year began, the Barnoskes saw their vision become a reality. The interactive events, called Empowerment Days, included instruction, question-and-answer panels, and dream sessions, in which campus missionaries had the opportunity to network and share their campus goals.

Each event concluded with students being commissioned to return to their schools and share Christ.

“The goal of the events was to prepare students to reach students,” Joe says, “and in order to do that effectively, we knew we would design the events around an encounter with the Holy Spirit and an emphasis on Acts 1:8.”

Not knowing what to expect, the Barnoskes believed God for 100 students at each of the six events. In the end, the Empowerment Days drew just under 1,000 campus missionaries. Nearly 200 students committed to become campus missionaries for the first time.

Two months before being fully funded as Youth Alive U.S. missionaries, the Barnoskes had already begun planning for what would become Empowerment Day. When a friend asked them what they were giving students as a resource, Natalie had an idea to create a new evangelism and discipleship resource. This resource, called EmpowerME Challenge, became part of the power packs distributed to each student who attended an Empowerment Day.

Designed to accompany the Fire Bible provided by Light for the Lost and Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge that each campus missionary receives, the EmpowerME Challenge includes daily practical insights from the Book of Acts, along with creative ideas for students to reach out to their peers.

“We wanted this resource to encourage students to dream big,” Natalie says, “and God really confirmed the importance of this message when we were approached about publishing EmpowerME Challenge.”

Accompanying the Barnoskes’ passion for awakening creativity in students is their desire to form relationships with youth leaders and campus missionaries across Florida.

This emphasis on teamwork benefited Lacey Larson, one of three high school seniors who traveled with the Barnoskes to Empowerment Days. Lacey says that in addition to her desire to spend more time reading and meditating on Scripture, the student-to-student interaction was especially meaningful.

“We wanted to show students that they aren’t alone,” Lacey says. “We weren’t just sacrificing a Saturday; we were committing to a Holy Spirit-empowered lifestyle.”

According to the Barnoskes, the number of PenFlorida campus missionaries is now over 1,600, and dozens of Youth Alive clubs have started across the district.

Austin Jacobs

Austin Jacobs is the Assemblies of God World Missions Unreached People Groups specialist. A research enthusiast, avid reader, and marathon runner, Austin holds a master of arts in Religious Studies from Missouri State University and completed his thesis on memorial responses to the Boston Marathon bombing. He and his wife, Hillary, serve in various ministry roles at Solid Rock Church in Springfield, Missouri.