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“Sleepless in Huntsville” Teens Get Firsthand Homeless Experience

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Most Labor Day weekend plans include trips to the lake, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers or just hanging out with family and friends. However, that's not for everyone this year. A group of teens in the Tennessee Valley have given up their free day to hang with the homeless. It's an initiative at the Downtown Rescue Mission called "Sleepless in Huntsville," and it's changing the way Christian teens see our community.

"The kids aren't hearing the message, even within the church," said Brad Ringer with Pure for God Ministries. "Kids are so busy and life is so busy that they don't have time to sit down quietly and evaluate what's really important."

Teens from across North Alabama and Southern Tennessee are coming together for worship this evening at the Downtown Rescue Mission in Huntsville. "We're here tonight just to bring in awareness to our youth about what its like to be homeless," said Jodi Gallo with Big Cove Presbyterian Church. "Hopefully they'll be thankful for what they do have and give them an opportunity to do what Jesus would do."

Items on the agenda include: worship bands, engaging speakers, and hearing from those who are seeking refuge at the Rescue Mission. "We have people in our culture that people just ignore, and Christians are the ones that are supposed to notice them but often don't," said Ringer. "So we're challenging the young people to have the heart of Christ toward people who are often neglected by society."

Organizers said the main goal of "Sleepless in Huntsville" is to teach the youth to have a heart for the homeless. But it also make them aware that it can happen to anyone. "Some of the stories you hear here at the Rescue Mission are not people you'd think would be here," said Ringer. "They are people in situations where they had a good family or a good opportunity in life but something interfered, something intervened."

Gallo said she's glad her youth group is experiencing the event. "It builds a heart for Jesus," she said.  "It builds a heart, teaches them to be a disciple, go out and be a disciple and go out and love each other and love others no matter what."

While they are at the Downtown Rescue Mission, the teens will have an opportunity to eat the meals that are served there. They also have the option of spending the night at the Mission. All participants were asked to raise money for the event. The money will help feed, clothe, and shelter the homeless men, women and children the Downtown Rescue Mission helps.