Lions Park in Walnut Cove will be full of worshipers on Saturday night as people of all ages gather for the annual STOKES STOKED Youth Rally. This “back to school” event kicks off at 5 p.m. and should taper down by 9:30 p.m. Free food (hot dogs with the fixings, chips, desserts, sodas and sno-cones) will be served for the first hour (or until it’s gone); after that, only sno-cones and water will be available until supplies run out.
Performers—primarily youth—will take the stage throughout the night to sing, play instruments, praise dance, testify or do whatever they feel will bring glory to God. The community choir, open to any age, will sing at two different times throughout the evening. One of their songs, “Help Me Lift Jesus,” is the theme of this year’s rally—based on John 12:32: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
“This year’s STOKES STOKED will be very different from past years’ rallies,” noted event organizer Leslie Bray Brewer, pastor/director of Times of Refreshing Ministries in Walnut Cove. “We don’t plan to go by such a strict schedule because we want to rely more on the leading of the Holy Spirit.”
Traditionally this event has been held the weekend before school starts in Stokes County, but due to scheduling issues, the 2017 rally had to be moved to September 23.
Brewer thinks that might be a Godsend. “People are so busy and stressed out the weekend before school starts,” she said. “Having it later means that things have settled down a bit, plus we can get word to the kids through the school systems.”
Already, nearly 40 churches from across Stokes County and beyond have expressed interest in this event. Through the donations of private individuals, local businesses and churches, everything at STOKES STOKED is free. HanesBrands Inc. has once again donated hundreds of t-shirts which are being screen-printed with the theme of the rally and will be given out at no charge while they last. Those who attend the rally are simply asked to bring nonperishable goods or school supplies for the East Stokes Outreach Ministries van which will be on hand.
STOKES STOKED will feature some new things this year. Local leaders have been invited to take part in a special youth-led prayer. Around the 6:30 p.m. mark, these government officials (County Commissioners, School Board, Danbury Town Council, King City Council and Walnut Cove Town Board) will come forward to have the young people pray over them for wisdom and discernment as they govern.
Another novelty is that there will be no one keynote speaker, but instead, several people taking the microphone to speak God’s Word or testify. Joan Doncsecz Robinson, whose daughter Hannah died from a drug overdose, will speak to parents and students to caution them about entering into relationships that could lead them down a path of addiction. Hannah was a West Stokes High School alumni and soccer player. Also on hand to provide encouragement about the drug addiction issues will be several ex-addicts who are now living clean lives for Christ.
To lead into the final altar call at the event, local churches will combine to present a powerful mini-drama. Special prayer will also be made over the school children as they pledge to stand strong for Christ throughout the 2017-18 school year.
As in the past, Walnut Cove Volunteer Fire and Rescue will be on hand in case of possible emergencies, and several port-a-jons will be available. Churches and youth organizations are encouraged to bring their literature to place on an information table.
STOKES STOKED originated in 2008 from the heart of the late Anita Burroughs Mabe. Mabe, the director of Burroughs Funeral Home at the time, had two children at South Stokes High School and wanted to host a Christian rally that would inspire youth to reach out to God and avoid negative peer pressure in the school environment. Local churches teamed up with her to sponsor the event at Lions Park, and a few hundred people attended.
In 2009, weather forced the rally indoors to London Gym which hindered attendance somewhat, but Anita and company pressed on. Her goal was to make this an annual event. However, in June 2010, Anita passed away at age 46 from cancer, and the rally lapsed.
In 2014, Brewer felt compelled to pick up the baton and carry on with STOKES STOKED. Once again, local churches bound together to put on the event which attracted about 500 people. The 2015 rally was comparable in size, but the 2016 event was hindered somewhat by strong storms and rain that swept into the area just before 5 p.m.
“I believe this year’s rally will be the best ever,” Brewer said. “I’ve heard from more people from even farther away who are interested in attending and performing. Anita would fuss at me if she thought I was trying to give her any glory, but I am so glad she followed God’s leading to start STOKES STOKED. I think she’d be pleased with how it’s going.”
If you would like to perform or volunteer to help with the event, please contact Brewer via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message on the Facebook page entitled “Stokes Stoked 2017: Help Me Lift Jesus!”