On any given weekend somewhere in the world Teen Mania, headquartered in the East Texas community of Garden Valley, is touching the lives of thousands of young people. It's one of the largest Christian youth movements in the country. But big stadium events and mission trips around the globe wasn't always the vision of founder Ron Luce.
Seventeen years ago, Ron and his wife Katy took out in their small Chevy Hatchback to share the gospel with a new generation. It wasn't always easy. "I'm calling them up, hey you don't know me... but I'm Ron Luce and I'd like to come to your church to do a youth rally...Ron who? Teen what?...click," remembers Luce. "A lot of times they forgot or we'd get there and the crowds were just amazing...10-20 kids at a time.. We were packing out living rooms across America. We would take offerings from those kids and that's what we would live on to get to the next place."
In the early days there were always questions. But it was prayer and a dedication to a calling that got them through. "And we only have a couple of hundred dollars in our account and I would go back to the car and tell my wife Katy what's just happened," recalls Luce, "she began to tear up and I began to tear up and we just grabbed hands and began to pray it just doesn't matter if everyone cancels on us it doesn't matter if everybody forgets were coming. God's called us to do and we are either going to do it or die trying. And its those pivotal moments that it doesn't matter how hard it is.. God has called us to do it and we'll take the brunt of it if we have to...and somehow we made it..."
This year at huge stadium rallies called Acquire the Fire, Teen Mania will touch the more than a quarter of a million teenagers. Many of those will become interns in the Leadership Academy at the Garden Valley campus. Thousands of others will attend summer camp or travel on mission projects around the world. All from the son of a single mother of four...a self proclaimed party guy who abandoned drugs and alcohol because of a message that changed his life forever.
"When I was 16 I got totally turned on to Jesus. I mean he changed my life and I finally heard a preacher that I could understand talk about Jesus in just normal language rather than longer theological terms that a younger person cannot understand," says Luce. That is a big message that screams from this ministry. Is that...in fact our whole theme this year is the power of one. God can take one person and use you to make an incredible impact on lives around the world wether its in your high school, whether its in your workplace, our whole ministry is about...we want to get kids empowered to reach their city to reach their school to reach the nations of the world. My heart just bleeds for for teenagers in America and the people are not reached, but never had a chance to be reached. I believe God's heart burns for those people and is waiting for someone to finally take the message to them."