The last night of the New Wilmington Mission Conference, July 30, drew a crowd of hundreds for an evening of song, worship, reflection, storytelling, consecration and commitment.

One reason for the jam-packed evening was the homecoming of nine young adults who spent several weeks in Egypt as part of the conference’s Summer Service program. Celebrating its 50th summer this year, Summer Service sends young adults to different places across the nation and globe to spend time in mission and seeing the work of Christ firsthand.

RuthAnn Mansell was one of two young adults who went on the first Summer Service trip, to Puerto Rico, in 1961.

She spoke of the “ripple effect” of the program, which has grown in its reach and impact, affecting more people every year.

“It has changed (the students’) lives and thus the lives of those around them,” Mansell said.

This year, the Summer Service group went to Egypt. They returned shortly before the beginning of the conference and spent the week debriefing and sharing stories of their experiences with different groups at the event, held on the campus of Westminster College July 24-30.

At the closing worship service the nine young adults addressed the conference as a whole. Each relayed one event, experience or relationship that stood out to them.

Haley McKinney spoke about her realization that being in a foreign country meant she’d have to really rely on God unlike ever before.

“It was 100 percent essential for me to depend on God,” she said.

At a talent camp for youth, she met a young man who asked her how she lived her life after she started living for God. McKinney found she was unable to answer him, so he instead asked her  new friend how he could live his life for God.

“I didn’t know I had the answer until I was asked that question,” she said, adding that she got a taste of what it’s like to live for God and to call on Him every day.

Peter Nelson spoke about the witness of an Egyptian Christian he met. Many young Christians there have small tattoos of crosses on their hands or forearms as a sign of their faith. But Nelson met one teenage girl who didn’t have a tattoo, and he asked her why not. She replied that she didn’t need to wear a cross on her skin and that she worried that if she had one, she might be tempted to sin because she could hide behind the tattoo. Instead, she chose to wear the cross on her heart, showing others what it means to be a Christian through her actions.

“Go and carry your cross into this world,” Nelson said. “Let us love.”

At a sports camp for Muslim kids, Sarah Oberbeck realized that God truly uses gifts in surprising ways. Because they were at a Muslim camp, the Summer Service group wasn’t able to speak directly about Christianity — instead, they taught generic morals. Oberbeck used her background as a cheerleader to teach the girls about being confident and having bold, strong voices. She told them that they now have a gift that they need to share with others in their country. Suddenly, she realized she was preaching the gospel.

“God was using me to talk to these girls in a way I never knew was possible,” she said.

Caleb Eno spoke about seeing signs of hope in a completely foreign land. The majority of Egyptians are Muslim, and seeing mosques everywhere and hearing the call to prayer five times a day made Eno realize that he was in a completely different culture from what he was used to. But when he saw a crumbling mosque, God spoke to him.

“I saw hope,” he said. “In the middle of a country with a mosque on every corner, I saw hope.”

He said he can see the Holy Spirit moving across the Middle East and believes that one day, all people will call out Jesus’ name.

Other Summer Service participants shared stories of special friendships, new ways of seeing, times of fellowship and opportunities for discernment.

After hearing from the Summer Service group, those at the conference were invited to come forward and make public declarations of their commitment to God. Pastors were available to pray with the scores of people who made their way to the front of the auditorium to make or renew their commitments. And as the service ended, worship leaders invited people to stay later into the night and keep singing praises to the Lord.