By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
April 29, 2004
While women like Britney Spears and Janet Jackson lead the fight for an “anything goes” mentality, many parents battle to keep their teens from being part of statistics this viewpoint generates.
More than 16,500 babies born in Alabama in 1996 were to girls 15–19 years old, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
But parents hope to curb these and other statistics through a ministry named Beyond the Eye (BTE), which focuses on teaching the truth of the Bible to girls grade 6 through college.
With a realistic approach to depression, fashion trends, sex, eating disorders, gossip and self-esteem, BTE holds one-day conferences, taught by college-age girls under the mentorship of its founder Leslie Gary.
Along with break-out seminars, the conference has a praise and worship time, a fashion show and skits. Each girl attending receives a gift bag with a T-shirt, Scripture cards and memory verse outline.
The ministry of BTE started with a Bible study Gary facilitated several years ago for college girls from her church, CrossPoint Community Church in Gadsden.
As the group grew, the concept for the ministry began to form. It held its first conference under the guidance of Breakaway Ministries, a Gadsden-based organization that organizes yearly retreats for students. A dozen BTE conferences later, Gary is juggling teaching responsibilities at Piedmont Elementary School and overseeing the ministry.
Because discipleship was a vital part of the Bible study, it is with the ministry as well. “Our job as women is to seek after Christ and become more like Him. Character will determine true beauty‚” she said.
With discipleship, memorizing Scripture is a vital key to the Christian life. Gary first learned the skill of memorizing Scripture from her father as he made his children quote a verse before each left for school.
No Scripture verse meant the tardy bell. In her adult life she developed a true love for Scripture and seeks to pass on this passion to help fend off temptations from the world.
“Girls are looking for attention and if they don’t get it at home, they are going to go to something or someone looking for it,” she said. She said craving love and attention can lead to wrong choices in dating, friends and fashion.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the conference — a fashion show and skit about the do’s and don’ts of girls’ clothing — is also the main reason boys are not allowed.
“Girls need a setting that they can be themselves and get a clear view of what a godly girl should be,” Gary said.
The skit is important because girls today are bombarded with images and fashion trends that give the wrong message to boys, she noted. “Girls can still be pretty and attractive without showing guys what only their future husband should see. I am thinking about adding a do’s and don’ts about fashion.”
Learning to dress appropriately is something Nikki McClellan, 21, had to learn from Gary. McClellan, a nursing student at Gadsden State Community College, leads the “Getting Past Your Past” seminar because she thinks it is important for girls to know God’s Word. Raised in a non-Christian home and engaging in hurtful activities, she speaks from her own experience and her heart.
“Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were my life for five years‚” she said. That changed when she met Gary three years ago, and a discipleship lasting two years helped her to change her attitude and heal her spirit.
“God took the desires away,” McClellan said. “It is fun for me to wake up every morning and know that I am accepted by God. I am complete.”
The 17 college girls who lead the seminars are a close group that share with, encourage and teach each other as well as conference attenders.
The bond of friendship is important to Gadsden native, Randi Lipscomb, as she leads the “Friendship & Accountability” workshop.
The 20-year-old attends Auburn University where she pursues a degree in elementary education. She began to study the Bible with Gary in grade 7.
“Coming from a completely different background than Nikki, I was raised in church but I lacked passion for Christ.”
She is now able to teach girls why Christian friends are important. “So many times the reason we fall is that we are not being held accountable by anyone. Friendships are an investment.”
Lipscomb said she is grateful to her parents for providing a solid, Christian home but now Bible study time is the “most amazing encounter with God. I know who I am and teaching girls their identity in Christ is what Beyond the Eye is all about.”
Gary also speaks at church services, Sunday School classes and women’s conferences.
Recently Adrian Rogers invited her to speak to the young women at Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn. Gary said the opportunity was amazing and reminds her that the main goal is to teach young women to have a hunger and thirst to get to know Christ intimately.
“God’s Word is our sword to fight with, our convector and our lamp to guide us,” she said. “We hope to show that to girls.”
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