When she was 6 years old, Sarah Selvaggi remembers, she wanted to sponsor one of the poor children she would see on television commercials.
Now, at age 15, she will spend her second summer as a missionary for children through the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland where she will teach songs and memory verses, and, she hopes, lead children to Christ.
"I can't look at a child as they go by and know that they might go to hell and there's something I can do about it," Ms. Selvaggi said.
She is one of nearly 40 Maryland teen-agers who went through the organization's annual two-week summer missionary training school that ended Saturday.
During the camp, they learned teaching techniques, counseling, songs, and how to use the their primary teaching tool, the Wordless Book.
The picture book has five colors representing different biblical principles. Missionaries use it to help children understand the concept of salvation.
During the next six weeks the young adults will teach at four different sites, one-hour daily sessions of Five Day Clubs. They hope to reach 1,500 children in Baltimore and 5,000 throughout the state.
"We want to evangelize boys and girls and [help] those who know about Christ to grow," said Pat McAllister, who is in charge of the Baltimore region. "We know that every child will not go to a vacation Bible school, so this is just another way to reach more kids."
The missionaries are paid through donations from sponsoring churches and friends. This year teens from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Anne Arundel, Harford, Frederick, Carroll, Howard, Baltimore, and Prince George's counties are forfeiting full-time summer jobs to teach children about the Bible.
Lonnie Harris, 18, is a five-year veteran of the evangelism program. He said he keeps returning because he is concerned about the lives of young people.
"So many people are out for the children," the Pasadena resident said. "Drug dealers look at children as future buyers. If the children can receive the Lord now, it will shine through."
During the Five Day Club, neighborhood children visit a program hostess, and missionaries spend time singing, reading stories, teaching memory verses and explaining one page of the Wordless Book a day. Each lesson centers around a color.
Gold represents Christ and heaven; black represents sin; red represents Christ's blood; white represents salvation; green represents growth.
The organization hopes that ministering to children will help families become involved in a local church.
Ms. McAllister said the missionaries take daily attendance records, along with other information on those who become converted during the clubs.
She said a copy of the records are forwarded to pastors in local churches that support the program's ministry so the church can keep the participants active in other ministries.
Mr. Harris, who recently graduated from Northeast High School, said participating in the program made him want to become a full-time missionary.