LUMBERTON — The Rev. Ron Barnes made it his mission on Saturday to reach young people growing up in the same environment he did.
“I have been in prison. I’ve fought a lot of battles myself, so what we’re trying to do is let young people know those are the things they need to escape and the way to escape is finding not a change but a different lifestyle and that’s what we’re trying to do provide,” said Barnes, a Robeson County native.
Barnes organized the Illuminate Youth Explosion, held Saturday afternoon at Lumberton High School, to get local youth away from drugs, gangs and violence.
“The one thing I want them to leave with here today is knowing the faith-based community and the Christian life is one of happiness and joy and one where we love them regardless of their situation and what they’re going through and we’re here for them,” Barnes said.
Orlando. Fla.-based comedian Dee Lee, although he typically performs for older crowds, was more than happy to bring that message of joy to members of the Ron Barnes Live Ministry and the Robeson County community.
“A lot of people think that when you give your life to Christ, your life is going to be boring, it’s going to be corny … but now we realize, wow wait a minute, I can get out their and live a full life,” he said.
The event’s location on the high school’s football field lent itself to Lee’s show.
“I touch on life subjects, a lot of people just stay on church … Church is not just within four walls,” he said.
The theme of the performance? Second chances.
“I don’t care if you’re a gang member or a stripper or somebody who is on or used to sell drugs, a life-changing experience can happen,” he said. “Life is not over.”
Volunteers and members of the ministry stressed the event was for everyone.
“It just seems like unity is something we need more now than ever, with gangs and everything else that’s going on. The Bible speaks highly of unity. When people come together they can do anything …,” said Shon Pevia, who is on the Ron Barnes Live Ministry’s board of directors and works as general sales manager at Peterson Toyota, one of the event’s sponsors.
In addition to Lee’s performance, the event included a talent show, music, games and food. Proceeds from a $3 entry fee will go towards the ministry’s food and clothing bank in Lumberton, Five Porches of Bethesda. The food bank has helped feed people as far away as Kentucky.
Members of Divine, a local gospel band, also took to the stage in addition to five talent-show acts.
“A lot of our songs are that youthful-generation that they’re gearing towards, so [Barnes] asked us to be a part, and of course anything that he does, we believe in,” said Hollie Oxendine, whose vocals accompanied Robert Cole, Lee Oxendine, Sequoyah Butler, Victor Oxendine, Jonathan “JohnBoy” Chavis and James “YoGi” Neal.
“If we only have five peoeple and all five of those gave their hearts to the Lord, it would be a success,” Oxendine said.
After two months of hard work to put together the event, Pevia said just having it makes it a success.
“Just being here is a success, letting the community know that we can do this …. Even if just one person smiles today, if one child is out here playing in this area we have set up,” he said.
Dixie Jacobs was certainly smiling despite the 100-degree heat. Jacobs comes from Fairmont every Tuesday to participate in the ministry’s Bible study group.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m quiet,” she said. “I’m talking more today than I’ve ever talked.”