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Jesus Camp: Despise Not Thy Youth

By Paul Strand
CBN News

CBN.comMissouri - Jesus Camp took its viewers inside conferences and camps where adults are teaching children to live radical lives dedicated to hearing from God and then obeying His voice.

But secular critics claimed one scene showed the kids worshipping a model of President Bush and that the Jesus Camp founder was molding them into little jihadists for Jesus, ready to kill for their faith like Islamic terrorists do.

Pastor Carol Koch's church kids played a prominent role in the documentary, and she points out they weren't worshipping Bush, but praying for him, as they would for any American president.

"It's all about honoring that scripture that tells them to pray for those who are in authority," said Koch.

And Becky Fischer, founder of Jesus Camp, says she was teaching the kids to do spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons, not against flesh and blood enemies.

She said, "People are not our enemies. We fight against powers and principalities and rulers of darkness in high places. So it's a spiritual battle that we're in."

But what both women think believers will see through the cloud of controversy is that God wants to, and is, moving in a radical new way among children -- that He's expecting churches to stop treating kids like second-class Christians -- that they can hear from God and do great deeds for Him just like older believers.

For instance we found hundreds of children in churches both large and small here in the "Show Me" state of Missouri who are ready to show the world God's using them as much as any adult.

Lenny and Tracy LaGuardia have led thousands of kids into deeper walks with God through their work at the International House of Prayer outside Kansas City.

"God is always speaking and children, I think, listen to that voice," said Tracy.

Lenny said, "We now have children who are being moved by God in such a way in healing the sick, and hearing His voice and praying for their nations and praying for their cities."

Mike Bickle is the LaGuardia's pastor.

"The Spirit can heal or give impressions or give wisdom regardless of what the age of the vessel is," said Bickle.

Koch feels it's God's calling on her life to make kids' prayer groups easy for churches of any size. She's written manuals and guidebooks on the subject.

For very few bucks, she's set up simple prayer stations that make it easy for her young charges to focus in on the nations. There's a globe and other reminders of foreign lands; the unsaved because there's a "soul-tree" where they can hang names of the lost they're praying for and then replace those names with fruit when they get saved; and healing because there's a first aid kit, Band-Aids, and oil to anoint the sick.

By now, the children have seen enough answered prayers, miracles, and healings to already have a steady faith that God is listening to them and working through them.

"I've seen people who've been scrunched over and then they've been prayed for, and they just stand up and they're like, 'Hey, I can stand straight!'" said Trevor Burge.

"They had a tumor. We prayed for them. They went home and went to the doctor, and the tumor was totally gone," said Samuel Jackson Hood.

Donna Edwards is the choir teacher of the IHOP kids, but post-polio syndrome forced her to walk on crutches for several years until the kids prayed over her for 45 minutes one night.

Edwards said, "I was able to totally lay down my crutches."

"Thirty kids were marching around her, praying," Caleb Thill said. "We didn't want Donna to suffer," added Jerrod Demers.

Jackson Bohlender suffered from so many food allergies, he was really crippled in what he could eat. But after a solid year of the IHOP kids praying for him faithfully, he visited his doctor for new tests. He said, "About half my food allergies -- the big ones -- were non-existent. I could eat everything."

Dalton Burge of Christ Triumphant Church went up to pray for two visitors suffering with abscessed teeth, who thought it was kind of cute, but "then they started feeling their mouths, and both of them had gotten healed," Koch said.

CBN News visited families involved in an extremely active children's program at New Life Center just outside St. Louis, and they've seen wonders, too. A few weeks ago, a kitchen accident seriously burned Shelley Hunt's finger and caused painful blistering. Her kids prayed for her.

"Instantly, the redness went away, the pain went away, and it was just like the skin had never, ever been burned.in front of my kids' eyes," she said. Eric Hunt said, "I grew up in a Pentecostal home and always knew that God was real and that God did great things, but now I'm seeing them in my own family." Fischer says children are yearning for this kind of active relationship with the Lord. She said, "They're looking for extreme encounters with God."

"I've just seen God move so many times, it just shows you there is a God and He is real," Hood said.

Lenny LaGuardia says Christian parents need to expect that for their children. "I would say to parents, look beyond the external to the eternal," Lenny said. Don't just see them as children. See their destinies in hand."

All the adults we talked to say it's important to have lots of variety to keep the kids interested. And while teaching them to pray and listen to God is crucial, even more important is they teach the kids lots of ways to worship their Lord and show Him the love they've come to feel.

And these things aren't just happening in America. At a sports stadium in Honduras, thousands of children recently came to worship and dance and sing before their God. But most of all, they came to pray and proclaim His will for their land.

One boy said, "I proclaim that the hand of our God is on our nation Honduras! Amen!"

Koch believes if just 10 churches in every state activate programs like these that get children so close to the Lord; it'll set off a major renewal across the land.

"In 10 years or less, we will have a generation of children which will be the key that's going to change our nation," Koch said.

But Fischer warns without this turn to a radical walk with Jesus, the future could be lost.

"Seventy percent of the kids who are raised in Christian churches vacate the church when they become teenagers and young adults, and they never set foot in church again." Fischer explained. "We've got to do something different if we're going to save this next generation."

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