Teen's gift of witnessing leads classmates to Christ

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (BP)--That Andrew Whaley is no ordinary teenager is obvious from the moment this 14-year- old speaks. Even his mother, Patsy, is quick to point out, "He's always spoken with authority, totally confident and never shy."

Andrew grew up in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., as the only child of Paul and Patsy Whaley. When Andrew was 10 years old, his pastor, Morris Anderson, led him to the Lord in his study at the First Baptist Church, Pigeon Forge, where Andrew's parents have been faithful members for many years.

"He had some questions that you normally wouldn't associate with a very young person," Anderson remembers.

Andrew's young life began to change dramatically as he grew spiritually. "I developed a steady prayer life, and when I was 11, I began having a personal Bible study each night before I went to bed."

Upon hearing his pastor and youth director urge believers to share their faith, Andrew remembers, "I prayed about it and realized this was something I needed to start doing." While witnessing to his friends on a one-to-one basis was rewarding, he says he was eager to have a larger audience.

About a year later, two of his friends suggested they start a Bible study in their middle school. Andrew agreed to be "the preacher," and the principal and teachers at Pigeon Forge Middle School were supportive of their efforts, allowing the Bible study to be held in the school's theater from 7:45-8:10 each Tuesday morning.

However, Andrew was disappointed with the results. "We just had a few people each week, and nobody was getting saved," he says. "The theater could seat 300 people; there were 600 people in our school, and I knew we were doing what God wanted us to do."

This discouragement drove Andrew to prayer. "I started praying, asking the Lord if I was doing something wrong or if we needed to change the format." He excitedly describes what happened next: "That very next week 50 people came to the Bible study and 30 people came forward to receive Christ!" Attendance continued to climb with several people being saved each week. One week, they had a record attendance of 175 middle schoolers, ages 10-14.

The format was the same each week: There was no singing, no special music of any kind -- Andrew simply shared the Scriptures the Lord had laid on his heart during his personal quiet time. He was seldom shy or nervous about being in front of his peers. "I knew the Lord had given me a gift of witnessing," he says. During the two years he led the Bible study, 127 people came to know the Lord.

When Andrew entered Gatlinburg Pittman High School in Pigeon Forge this fall, school officials allowed him to start a similar Bible study in one of the school's large athletic rooms. Although attendance has been small, Andrew is positive about the future, "I expect it to grow," he says assuredly.

Andrew gives an invitation at the end of every service. "I ask everyone to bow their heads and anyone who wishes to make a decision is asked to stand. Those seated are dismissed, and those standing are counseled about their decision." The Gideons supply Bibles for the group and local churches supply materials for new converts who are encouraged to become affiliated with local churches.

It would be natural to assume that Andrew's future plans included full-time Christian service. However, this isn't the case. Andrew says he's never felt God was leading him into the ministry. Instead, he plans to enter the Naval Academy after graduating from high school, and he describes his witnessing as simply being obedient to God's commands.

Anderson, Andrew's former pastor who recently accepted the pastorate of the Central Baptist Church, Winchester, Ky., emphasizes Andrew's commitment. "He lives for Jesus. I've never seen anyone more committed, more sincere or more enthusiastic about winning souls to Jesus than he is."

Referring to 1 John 2:3-6, Andrew notes, "If I say I'm a Christian and refuse to live by his commandments, then I'm lying to myself and to God. I need to go out and witness to other people, because if I don't, they might go to hell."

Although Andrew is involved in several of his school's sports activities and receives high marks academically, he says his enjoyment in life comes from one thing: "I enjoy seeing people come to know Jesus. It's the next best thing to getting saved yourself."

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