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Youth Take on Gross Food Challenge for Speed the Light

Students at Grace Pointe Assembly of God in Carthage, Missouri, use a food challenge to raise money for missionaries.
Egg head. Sardine lips. Wasabi breath. Chocolate-syrup hair. Mackerel mouth. Snail eater. These were just a few of the “badges of courage” that could have been distributed to the students from Grace Pointe Assembly of God youth group on Sunday.

In an effort to raise money for Speed the Light, the AG youth missions program that provides vehicles and communication tools for missionaries, more than a dozen youth from the Carthage, Missouri, church participated in a four-round gross food challenge. The hour-long event was held following the morning service and was live-streamed via Facebook and Instagram. More than $800 was raised through those attending the event, with the amount raised online yet to be determined.

Pastor Jeremiah Johnson, who came to Carthage in August 2018, says his wife, Rachel, the youth pastor, and their two teenage daughters, Zoe and Gabrielle, came up with the idea — and the rest of the youth group bought in to it.

“Our youth group is passionate about missions and spreading the gospel,” says 16-year-old Zoe Johnson. “I knew that doing these gross challenges would impact missionaries and support them.”

However, as the challenges were “surprises,” the students didn’t fully know what they were getting themselves in to. But throughout the event, students and onlookers were cheering, laughing, and urging participants on, despite frequent wide eyes and groans of apprehension.

It began simply enough in round one with a raw egg/hardboiled egg contest. Only a few of the eggs were hardboiled, the rest raw. Those who drew the hardboiled eggs continued on to the next round until only one person remained. Students discovered if they had drawn a hardboiled egg only after smashing the eggs on their heads!

The second round proved to be a bit more feisty. Drawing a number, a student was given a corresponding paper bag with a mystery food inside. Prior to opening it, students had to say whether they were going to eat the contents or dump the contents on their head. Ketchup, French dressing, barbecue sauce, yogurt, and more found its way into students’ hair while grace seemed to smile on those choosing to eat, with soy sauce being one the stiffest challenges.

“I had to dump salsa and juice on my head,” Zoe says with a laugh. “I also had to eat raw fish and that added to the aroma — someone asked me why I smelled so bad.”

Jeremiah says the reason he and his family were drawn to Grace Pointe Assembly was the heart for missions that the church had demonstrated over the years. He explains that he and his family have been on several short-term missions trips and have even started their own non-profit ministry designed to help spread the gospel around the world.

“The church and our family are a strong fit,” he says. “Just as much as I feel that I’m a pastor, I’m also a missionary, and we’ve connected with a church that has that same heart and spirit.”

When the gross food challenge moved to the third round, it quickly became clear the challenge had gone up a level. Pairs of students were offered trays with food concealed on them, that they could either keep or switch with each other before consuming the contents. One tray was typically a treat — chocolate-covered cherries, peanuts, candy, marshmallows, etc. The other tray was typically far more challenging — minced garlic, canned spinach, escargot, turkey baby food, wasabi peas, and more.

When faced with consuming sardines, a young girl, now with saucer eyes, struggled to even touch the “delicacy.” But as several pledged additional funds for STL for her to eat the fish, she mustered up her courage and downed the creatures, even if with a bit of struggle — understanding her efforts were making a difference for missionaries.

“The funniest thing I watched was someone eating a snail,” says youth group member Gabe Boicu, 17. “You could see how horrified she was when she pulled off the cover and saw a snail in front of her. [But] one thing I learned through this experience is that you can do anything, no matter how ridiculous, to make an impact and reach other people [for Christ].”

In the final round, to the nervous laughter of students and the delight of the audience, a blender was brought out and set on a table along with two cheeseburger kids meals. The meals were unwrapped and placed in the blender, topped by the corresponding soft drinks, and the “puree” button was pressed. Each student was then given a freshly made “kids meal smoothie” to drink. With a number holding their noses, some chugged the contents down while others found the liquid meal a bit more difficult to bypass the gag reflex.

Gabrielle Johnson, 15, who “discovered” she wasn’t a big fan of Spam and had to pour chocolate syrup over her head, claims her hair still smells like chocolate. But, she adds, she was excited to do something that would impact the kingdom of God.

“I’m really grateful for the experience and all those who donated money,” she says. “I’m also really proud of my youth group for being willing to do crazy stuff for Jesus.”

As a former youth pastor, Jeremiah Johnson can readily identify with students’ going outside the box for missions, as he’s personally done other such challenges for missions.

“There’s a physical and spiritual reality here,” he says. “When people are unified, with focus and purpose, they can accomplish so much more than if they’re on their own. The kids embraced the challenge by doing it for something greater than themselves . . . , by doing it together and doing it for Jesus, it allowed them to be willing participants.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.