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Youth pastor's AngelFire game catches fire with kids

Youth pastor's AngelFire game catches fire with kids

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Youth pastor's AngelFire game catches fire with kids

June 10, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0309}

NOTE:  This article was produced by United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., and distributed May 26 to its subscribers.

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy E. Johnson**

LAKELAND — They face off, jaws squared, eyes trained on their opponents.
It's a battle between good and evil, and who wins depends on the power of the cards and the skill of the players.

"It's a good game. Everybody loves to play the game," says Zachary Palmer, 13.

Laughter mingled with a lot of trash-talking fills Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church on Monday and Thursday nights.  Move over, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. In this Lakeland neighborhood, AngelFire is trump.

"The kids have the idea that these angels we created might be real," says David Collinsworth, the church's youth pastor.

Collinsworth designed the card game that pits the armies of good angels Gabriel and Michael against the army of the evil Lucifer. With the roll of the dice, the game begins.  Every character on a card has special powers and fights in one army or the other. The players use strategy to win their opponents' cards.

"Sometimes the good angels win. Sometimes the bad angels win," says 11-year-old Shantirria Thomas.

Says Collinsworth: "If the kids didn't like it, we didn't do it."

The kids like it just fine. AngelFire tournaments draw an average of 35 children on weeknights. Most come from the economically depressed communities surrounding the church.

"I mostly stay at the church and don't go outside that much getting into trouble," Zachary says.

Some of his friends used to get into trouble, but now most of them come to the church, he says.
Many of the children who play AngelFire went to the church initially because of the game. Now, almost all of them are members of the church and attend worship services regularly.

"The game has become the way to catch a kid that might not have been caught any other way," Collinsworth says.

The youth pastor is working with a Michigan marketing company to try to distribute AngelFire nationwide.

A book that accompanies the game explains the theology of angels and their role in the Bible, but Collinsworth chose purposely not to make the game overly theological or preachy. He wanted it to be as mainstream as possible and fun for kids to play.

The angels don't live in heaven. Instead, they reside in the fictitious "Angel City." While the game is Christian-based, God is not a character in the game. The premise is based on the popular theme of "good guys" versus "bad guys."

Many of the children at Wesley Memorial leave the game table with life lessons and stronger faith.

"You've got to watch out for the bad stuff happening in your life," says Montrez Greer, 13.
Palmer agrees. "It helps you know what's bad and what's good. It helps you know you want to go to heaven."


This article relates to Outreach and Discipleship.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Johnson is a Florida-based freelance correspondent for United Methodist Communications.