- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

At her high school in Cleveland, Megan Fleskes sometimes feels isolated as a Christian trying to remain true to her faith amid the pressures and temptations facing today's teens.

This week, Megan found out she's not alone.

The 16-year-old Ohio native and 20,000 other teen-agers like her converged on the District of Columbia this week for DC/LA 2000 Youth Evangelism SuperConference.

"I heard about it and wanted to check it out," said Megan. "At my school, I didn't see a lot of students struggling with issues such as partying. Here, I can share my thoughts with others who feel the same way."

The students, who came from 50 states and 12 foreign nations to attend the event at the D.C. Convention Center, did much more than share thoughts.

They clapped. They danced. They sang. They hugged. They cried. They shared. And they trained to be leaders in their faith.

"It's pretty cool to unite like this," said Alicia Wonnell, 17. "I am learning how to give back."

The goal of the 15th triennial Christian conference, sponsored by national Youth for Christ/USA, is to encourage students to take a stand for their faith, to abstain, and to positively influence others to do the same. They also are encouraged to share their faith with others by talking about Christianity and its tenets with their peers.

"There are a number of great youth events in the country, but there is only one DC/LA," said Jim Burns, president of the National Institute of Youth Ministry.

"It is the finest programming in youth ministry because it's focused on helping students learn to share their faith," he said.

By Sunday, these junior and senior high school students will have spent five days learning to "stand up for what they believe," said Cari Allen, a conference organizer.

They will have been entertained by an all-star lineup of Christian performers such as Out of Eden and Jaci Velasquez, and heard speakers on topics such as "Get Connected" and "Talk with God." They also will have been immersed in leadership training seminars and evangelical sessions.

And they will have paraded to the Mall, an event planned for today, that seemed to excite the teens.

"I have never been here before," Ohioan Sara Heysek, 16, said of the District. "It's cool seeing the monuments and the city."

An estimated 92,000 students have attended the conferences since 1992. Last month, 8,000 students went to the companion event in Los Angeles.

"The mega-conferences are mega-life changers, pure and simple," said Harold Smith, executive editor for Campus Life, a magazine for students. "You simply can't sit under the name of Christ and witness the evangelistic fervor of thousands of teens and not experience a transformation."

Megan agreed.

"DC/LA 2000 gave me a chance to talk about my fears and problems with others who have similar issues," she said. "I also learned how to go home and share my faith with my community."

"Besides," she added, "coming here is fun."

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