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Union students launch ministry for small town students

JACKSON, Tenn.June 23, 2006 – When three college students recognized the absence of organized mission opportunities in small towns, they didn’t gripe about it. Instead, they decided to host their own missions conference.

In July 2005, after lots of prayer and many nights spent talking on the phone, the three decided to begin Sculpture Ministries and created a slogan, “being shaped to shape your world.”

The ministry’s aim is to bring missions conferences to small towns every year.

“So many times you have to go to a big city and travel outside of your hometown to do mission work and to go to a conference like that,” said Josh Clarke, one of the ministry’s founders. “What we want to do is change the mindset and tell teenagers that they can do mission work and they be comfortable just right where they are. You don’t have to go anywhere to do God’s work.”

Clarke is a senior Christian studies major at Union University. Stephen Lynch, a junior business management major at Union, and Caroline Hamilton, a senior foreign language and biology major at Lambuth University, co-founded the organization with Clarke.

Their first conference will be held Aug. 4-5 at the Hardin County High School auditorium in Savannah, Tenn. Mission projects such as putting teddy bears in ambulances, doing construction projects and serving in the community will be offered.

The founders said they felt led to help others find mission opportunities and had been to various missions conferences in the past. God convicted them to positively influence younger students, they said.

“We were looking around at the people from our high school in our small town and noticed that our teens were being plagued by a world that was telling them that it was okay to live a life for themselves,” Clarke said.

Their original goal was to host 50 middle and high schoolers at their first missions conference. Now they think the turnout could be much higher. But they said that the success of their organization does not depend on numbers.

Support from family and other Christians encircled them, and the founders learned many lessons throughout the past year.

“Opportunity does not end at the point where you can’t see anymore,” Lynch said.

They chose Savannah for the location because it’s Clarke’s and Hamilton’s hometown. Next summer, they may host the conference in Marion, Ark., where Lynch is from.

Ten churches have agreed to act as sponsor churches. They will sponsor a mission project, provide a meal for the team and financially support Sculpture Ministries. Lynch said the most exciting part of working with the new organization was “seeing how this vision has really become a reality that we still don’t understand, that we still can’t really hold onto yet, and that’s okay. Just seeing how as we pray that God had a plan from the start and that he’s revealing it a little bit at a time.”

The founders said that they plan to do something perhaps after college with this organization, too. They also said that they were willing to follow God’s call and consider Sculpture Ministries one of their biggest passions.

Even so, the team members found that their leadership styles were different. God blended their various talents together to create a stronger partnership among the three, they said. Clarke said that he looks at the big picture, that Lynch is detailed and that Hamilton is creative.

“I’m really excited about it because it’s something new for me,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been to hundreds of youth events but have never been in on the planning side. It’s neat to learn the inner workings of it. It’s going to be something new and different for Savannah.”

The theme of this year’s conference is “CPR: Check Your Vitals,” with a focus on changing, praying and reaching. Reid Ward from Legacy Leadership Ministries of Alabama will be speaking, and the John Sherrill Band will lead worship. In addition, Freshman 15 will play the opening night concert.

A registration form and more information are available at Sculpture Ministries’ Web site, www.sculptureministries.com.

By Katie Beth Kelley (’08)

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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