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Spring break will be a labor of love

If a teenager approaches your car at a traffic light this week and offers to wash your windshield for free, don't be alarmed. Consider yourself blessed by a random act of kindness.

Nearly 200 teens will spend their week of vacation performing good deeds around Citrus County.

Called Spring Break Blitz, the idea was conceived by a group of youth pastors who want to combine church unity with outreach ministry. The week's goal is to inspire people to fill churches around the county to overflowing on Easter Sunday.

To do that, the teens will swarm the county and spread good cheer.

"We're mobilizing an army of young people to give the teens a sense of purpose during spring break other than just sand and surf," said event coordinator Ottis Barnett, youth pastor of Calvary Christian Center in Inverness.

"The teens will be reaching out to people of all ages in their own cities and neighborhoods with the love of God. Everything they do will be free. No strings attached," he said.

The event starts at noon Monday with a prayer rally at the Historic Courthouse in Inverness and in neighborhoods around the county.

On Tuesday, the teens will give away free bottles of Coke and fresh water at red lights and on street corners.

Wednesday will find the teens washing cars for free at various gas stations and parking lots. A pamphlet about the project suggests this explanation for the incredulous: "God's love is free and so is this car wash."

Windshield washing tops the activities for Thursday. The teens will approach vehicles at stop signs and lights with this phrase: "I just wanted to show you the love of God in a practical way. Do you mind if I wash your windshield?"

On Friday, the blitz will involve knocking on doors to distribute fliers about church services and a Blitz Bash to be held from 3 to 9 p.m. at First United Methodist Church on County Road 581 in Inverness.

There will be events beginning at 3 p.m. using huge inflatable games. There will be an obstacle course that is about 36 feet by 19 feet with a giant slide and other inflatable games like Power Basketball. Also included will be spin art, face painting, balloon animals and prizes.

From 6 to 7 p.m., hot dogs and hamburgers and snow cones will be served. The evening will end with a concert at 7 p.m. followed by a simple gospel message. "It's all free," Barnett said.

Between 150 and 200 teens have committed to help with the weeklong event, he said.

"We'll have four teams. Three will be doing the main event each day and one will be targeting different neighborhoods. All during the week we will have a park ministry at the local parks. It will be creative ways of spreading the gospel. We're expecting to reach thousands of people. It's gonna be fantastic!"

On Tuesday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m. there will be Sidewalk Sunday School in four area parks and on the sidewalks where the teens will have mime presentations, puppet shows and face painting.

The park schedule is: Heron Woods, Tuesday; Whispering Pines, Wednesday; Holden Park, Thursday; and Beverly Hills Park, Friday. For more information, call 726-2522 or 637-5100.

"We want to see houses of worship all over the county filled to overflowing on Easter Sunday morning," he said. "Each day during every event we will be passing out fliers to encourage people to attend a worship service of their choice on Easter."