CLINTON — The Lighthouse Christian Church property soon will provide a way for the community to connect with young people.

According to Jim Machen, pastor of Church of the Open Door, his congregation has voted to purchase the property and turn it into a teen center. The church is located at 512 N. 18th St.

Machen attended a youth summit in Los Angeles in January that was led by nationally known religious leaders. It focused on the issues facing teens today and his church has been working at developing a place for teens.

“The Lighthouse Church is closing so we’ve been working on this with them,” he said.

Machen’s congregation voted to purchase the property May 21.

“We want that to be a teen center in the community where we can really connect with young people,” he said.

Machen said he appreciated the articles in the Clinton Herald’s Lost Teen series.

“It kind of stirred my heart when you put the caption ‘Lost Teens’ because right now in our nation we have 1,500 young people a year taking their lives,” he explained. “What’s happening with our young people with drugs and alcohol — the emptiness — teens cutting themselves. It’s very personal to me because my granddaughter gave testimony last Sunday how she was going to destroy her life.”

His granddaughter is 17.

“It hits home,” Machen said. “I work with a lot of families in the community — we been pastoring here for 37 years,” he continued. “I sat with a father at his son’s funeral and he writes down a note on a Village Inn napkin ‘I wish I knew better about drugs while my son was going through rehab.’” But Machen said they didn’t catch it in time and he took his life.

Machen believes many kids today just don’t see hope for the future. “I look at a young people with green hair and yellow hair, the piercing of their body and the clothes that they wear — I don’t feel critical of that. I feel like they’re screaming ‘somebody look at me. If I can’t get positive attention, I’ll get negative.’”

Once the land is purchased, the congregation will develop it and make it teen-friendly.

“We will be starting out there in the next few weeks,” Machen said. They have some great ideas for activities including a paintball fight between the teens and the police department.

“We’ve got 7 acres of open fields. We’re looking at things that would connect in a positive way,” he related.

He would also like to bring in people who would touch the young people’s lives and help them find their identity.

“Let them know they’re loved by God and loved by the people in this community,” Machen said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make love visible.”

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