Twenty members of Hampstead Youth for Christ left Carroll County yesterday for an interdenominational conference in Washington.
They will join about 20,500 other teens, all members of the international organization based in Denver, who are descending on the nation's capital from all points of the globe.
The youths, 11 to 18, will attend seminars and services during the four-day conference, which has been held every three years since 1985.
This year, for the first time, the event will take place simultaneously in Los Angeles.
"The conference trains youth to share their faith with their peers," said David Schultz, chairman of the Carroll group.
He said Carroll group was founded in Hampstead nearly 50 years ago by his father, Earl W. Schultz, who now leads World Outreach Youth for Christ.
"They learn to share their faith without pushing it," he said. "Faith can make a difference in our lives. The organization helps the children become a living example of a Christ-like life."
His 13-year-old daughter, Bethany, said she is looking forward to her hotel stay, the concerts and other convention events, which she is joining for the first time. She has not lost sight of the reason behind the "all the fun" away from home.
"I want to learn a lot about what God wants me to do for the world and what I need to do to spread his word," said Bethany.
Members of Hampstead Youth for Christ, many of whom are members of Grace Bible Church in Manchester, raised the money for their trip through bake sales and car washes.
Counselors, about one to every four youths, will help the participants meet the demands of a full schedule, which includes classes, lectures and gospel singing. Some events will be televised nationally.
The conference opened last night and will conclude with a worship service Sunday.
"Many things pull children in different directions these days," said Mr. Schultz. "The conference stresses the good things they can become involved in."
During the conference, participants will be asked to sign the "True Love Waits" pledge of sexual abstinence until marriage.
Mr. Schultz said the signing is part of a national campaign. Students will take the pledge on the Capitol Mall Saturday.
"We hope to deliver 1 million signatures to the Capitol steps Saturday," said his wife, Dawn Schultz.