Trumbull County Teens are Having a Blast!

by LeAnn Corn

One retired teacher's faith is “BLAST"-ing teens into Christian service in schools throughout Trumbull County. With everything from basketball practice to the Internet filling up young people's lives, Tom Razum of Southington is trying to make sure these teens find room for God and for each other as Christian brothers and sisters.

At age 62 Razum is not the typical youth worker. But his faith has led him to impact hundreds of young lives. Last fall he started Bible Leaders Alive and Serving Together (BLAST) with the vision of bringing Christian teens together in the "Family of God," which happens to be the BLAST theme song. So far, student Bible club leaders from 21 public and private junior and senior high schools and a joint vocational school have decided to stand up for their faith by rallying through BLAST.

BLAST meets on the first and second Tuesdays of each month during the academic year, with the first meeting being a Bible study and the other a more social gathering, such as roller skating or attending a sporting event. Bible studies are currently being held at 6 p.m. at the Champion Presbyterian Church, 4997 Mahoning NW (U.S. 45), Warren. The group includes students who are involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) as well as independent Bible and prayer groups. BLAST participants also come from many different denominational backgrounds, and as they share their individual experiences Razum is seeing the vision God has given him take shape. Razum became a Christian just seven years ago. But after 30-plus years of teaching physical education and drivers' education at Champion and Southington schools, he knew God was calling him to help youth reach their spiritual potential. "My dad taught me to always be good, but I never learned to focus on the Lord until the past few years," Razum said. "I went to church with my wife Beverly all those years as a formality." Razum said his goal as a young man was to play baseball with the Cleveland Indians. He had played baseball since grade school and later became a top batter at Youngstown State. But his dream of playing pro-ball fell by the wayside over the years, and Razum turned his concentration to teaching. "I know now that baseball was my idol back then," Razum said. "I was putting Jesus on the end of the bench. But I think the Lord was preparing me for the work I'm doing now. He wants kids to learn, like I learned, that He doesn't force you to serve Him. He allows you to make your own choices."

At a revival one night in 1992 at Delightful Evangelical Congregational Church in Southington, Razum began to waver during the altar call. "My wife gave me a little nudge, and I stepped out into the aisle and went up to the altar," he said. "And my life has never been the same since ... my salvation was a dramatic thing. I didn't hear bells and whistles or anything like that, but I made a commitment to the Lord that night to stay in the Word and to tell everyone about Him. I said, 'Lord, I want to be on YOUR team!'"

Razum and his wife later joined that same church where they began serving faithfully and really listening to what the Holy Spirit was saying to them. As Razum turned his heart over to the Lord, he began to hear God's call toward youth ministry. Since he was already familiar with public schools, it was logical to start there. An opportunity
opened up shortly thereafter to work with a high school Bible club. "Although I was so new in the faith, I made a commitment to read the Bible every day and to serve faithfully," Razum said. "I still fall short ... but I want to serve with all my heart. And I can see God working through that commitment to touch these kids' lives." After about five years of leading that first Bible club, Razum decided to get a junior high club going with the help of his high school leaders. He believed high schoolers who took an interest in the younger students' lives would have a greater impact when sharing their faith. With this type of outreach, teens were coming to know personal relationships with Jesus Christ and had other Christian teens to lean on. "I started seeing what was happening in these two clubs, and I started wondering what kids from other schools were doing for the Lord," Razum said. "So I started searching out other Bible clubs, other Christian teens who would be interested in starting a Bible outreach in their own schools." The first major project of this early group of teens was to sponsor a benefit concert to collect household and baby items for a crisis pregnancy center two years ago. But there was still no official organization.

BLAST became official last fall when Razum just started calling every Christian teen he knew. The group met for an informal game of miniature golf and fellowship afterward at a fast-food restaurant. "I prayed for God to give me something to tell these kids that night - to express the vision I had for BLAST," Razum said. "And He gave me
the words 'three strands strong.'" Razum recalled these words from studying Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: If one falls, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one can be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (NIV)
This passage is the Biblical foundation for BLAST. If one club in BLAST falters in any way or is attacked spiritually, the Christian brothers and sisters from other clubs will be there to offer support and encouragement, Razum explained. In one such instance, a Bible club from Badger High School is battling to be fully represented in their school yearbook from which the club has been previously blocked due to its religious affiliation. Bible club members at Mathews High School have received threats on their lives because of their profession of faith, and another school's Bible group has been told they may not meet on school grounds anymore. Other Bible clubs have faced similar situations, and BLAST has been there to hold them up. In the process of offering prayers and encouragement to each other, BLAST members from all the schools involved are learning about their own rights and where to turn when faced with a brick wall. They have started asking, "Hey, if other Bible clubs are allowed to hang up posters in public school halls or sponsor schoolwide assemblies, why can't we do that at our school?" The results are Christian teens being enabled to impact their classmates for the Lord in more ways than they ever thought possible as well as becoming stronger in the faith themselves. Amanda Rasey, 17, a junior at Chalker High School in Southington and the president of the FCA there, spoke at one BLAST Bible study meeting on "Guides to a Healthy Bible Group." She encouraged the others to be united, read their Bibles every day and plan their strategy. Perseverance and prayer are keys to unity and success in witnessing to others, she noted. "But the main focus of the group should be the truth, not your opinions or plans, but belief in the Bible, the truth," she said.

BLAST teens also encourage each other to be prayer warriors, and prayer is an important part of each gathering. These young people are having a far-reaching impact on their families, their schools and their communities as they lay everything in their hearts on the altar before the Lord.

"With all the clubs standing together in this way, we are stronger than even a two-strand cord," Razum said. "We claim the strength of a three-strand cord ... because we have the strength of Jesus Christ holding us together." Razum hopes Christian adult group leaders will benefit from the BLAST concept and choose to unite as part of the Family of God to make that same far-reaching impact on their own communities. BLAST events for March will include a special teen speaker on the 2nd during the regular Bible study and tentatively a bowling outing on the 16th. For more information about BLAST, contact Razum at 330-395-1468. C