Aaron Abney, 16, said he has seen what poor choices and God-less living can cost a family. It wasn’t easy when his three young foster siblings were removed from their unsafe home and came to live with his family, but he knows when Jesus joins the picture nothing is impossible. His siblings can have a bright future, and so can his idea of the IceHouse Youth Project – a youth center where teenagers can build healthy relationships, have fun in a safe environment and obtain help and hope through Christ.
"More and more, God is opening hearts of people to come alongside and support with what God has started. It just takes students like Aaron to say yes to the call of God on their lives. That’s what I think is so awesome.
Abney shared his story with his youth group from 831 Mission in McAlester, Oklahoma while attending a Believe conference earlier this year. Joined with his youth leaders, Josh and Kami Timmons, Abney explained why he is a Kingdom worker.
“I have family addicted to drugs and alcohol and I can see how it hurts their lives,” Abney said. “It’s been hard for me to see them like that because that’s not how God intended them to be. I don’t want to see anyone else going through that, so I’m starting a youth project to help teens – who don’t know God – get to know Him on a different level. My main focus is anybody can come to the IceHouse. This may be their only chance to get God in their life.”
Abney said there aren’t many activities and places for teens in McAlester, but the IceHouse will change that. The building originally was an ice house – still standing with 30,000-square-feet of space at 340 E. Choctaw in the downtown area. It’s been three years of planning, praying and new-found patience for Abney, but he has his nonprofit certification, an optimistic board of six community members, proud parents and a church family behind him.
“The IceHouse is soaked into people’s hearts and he has a lot of support,” Josh Timmons said. “What I like is how God puts like-minded people with the same calling together, and what God has put on their heart is in line with what God is already doing through our ministry. We can be a platform to help – I just praise God for that.”
The long-term vision of the IceHouse and 831 Mission is to send a positive ripple through the area. The community of McAlester has a population of approximately 18,000 people, and is home to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
“I’ve been told every sin and every spiritual battle is represented in that prison,” Josh Timmons said. “If you stop and think about it – it’s right on track with what the enemy has in mind to steal, kill and destroy people. Because of that prison there, you see a lot of families move to McAlester because they have family in the prison. That opens the door to an even greater opportunity to minister to people who are in need.”
The hope is that the IceHouse Youth Project will serve as a hub of relationships, spiritual growth and fun. Abney said he hopes the youth hang-out will house praise and worship nights, after-school programs, gardening, and a kitchen for cooking classes. Ultimately, there will be many more opportunities for the community to make a positive impact in the lives of youth.
“Southeast Oklahoma – where we live – is littered with meth and other drug addiction,” Kami Timmons said. “We have so many more kids that are growing up in that situation than we have growing up in church. We have so many kids in the community being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, while their parents are in jail. It’s an epidemic down there. My relationships with my grandparents are the best ones I have in my family, but I know a lot of kids don’t have that.”
For more information about the Ice House Project, visit icehouseyouthproject.org.
“More and more, God is opening hearts of people to come alongside and support with what God has started,” Josh Timmons said. “It just takes students like Aaron to say yes to the call of God on their lives. That’s what I think is so awesome.”