Ethan, a 16-year-old public school student in Colorado, wanted to cut through that dark cloud with some tangible hope last year. So he took his Bible to school, talked about it openly with friends and read it during free time. He was one of nearly 500,000 students nationwide who took similar actions on Bring Your Bible to School Day.
The annual event sponsored by Focus on the Family equips youth with a visual way to celebrate religious freedom and share God's love with their friends. This year's event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 4.
'You Could Save a Life'
"You don't know the person you're sitting next to," Ethan said. "You don't know their past, you don't know what they've been through. Maybe they're in a cry of desperation to try and find some hope, and it just so happens to be that day where you actually bring your Bible to school and they start asking you questions. You could potentially save a life."
He speaks from personal experience: Ethan walked through a dark period in his own life after watching his father's tragic battle with drug addiction.
"My dad ended up getting into meth and passed away last December," he tells Citizen.
Diving into the Bible and internalizing its message of Jesus' unconditional love helped him overcome his own feelings of hopelessness.
"I was bitter and angry, and God was just constantly knocking on the door of my heart," he says. "Over time I couldn't handle ignoring it anymore and I just had to let Him in."
Now Ethan wants the freedom to share that hope with others—and Bring Your Bible to School Day has provided a powerful forum for doing that.
"People were asking me why I had my Bible sitting on the corner of my desk," he remembers. Since then, "I've had a lot more people ask me questions about my faith and what I believe. It's opened up a lot of opportunities" for ongoing conversations.
Ethan encourages other students to take one of his favorite scriptures to heart: Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
"I hold that very personal to my heart," he says, "especially living in a non-Christian environment in my school—that I really shouldn't be ashamed of who I am."
'Nudging at My Heart'
Isabella is another student who has felt empowered by Bring Your Bible to School Day.
At first, "I was kind of afraid that kids at my school were gonna judge me or that they would make fun of me," says the 13-year-old from Minnesota. But then, God started "kind of nudging at my heart.
"It was kind of like God was [saying], 'Come on, Bella, just do it. It's not gonna hurt you. It's a good thing for you.' And so I was like, 'OK, God, I'm gonna do this.' "
She took the next step by asking her school administrators for permission to up posters about the event in common areas where students generally post announcements, like cafeteria walls and lockers. When she didn't get a response, she began to worry about getting in trouble. Then she reviewed information on the BringYourBible.org website (in the "Know Your Rights" section) that explained her equal-access and free-speech rights. So she decided to politely persist in her request.
Finally, when Isabella got to school one morning, she was greeted with a nice surprise from her principal. "He said, 'By the way, when you go into lunch today, your poster's going to be up there.'
"When I went into the lunch room, I saw it there and [I had] a really cool sense of pride."
Isabella began telling friends about it on her bus and in the hallway, and she made an announcement at church.
"We have this little stage, so I went up there and told everybody what it was about. I told them that on Bring Your Bible to School Day, before school started, we could all go around the flagpole and pray."
She led the prayer that morning. "It was a really cool experience because all of us were holding hands," she says, "and just praying and giving the glory to God."
'God Isn't Just for Us'
About 20 classmates joined her in bringing their Bibles into the school and reading them during free time.
"This is a new thing for me because, at our school, it's not normal to see kids praying or doing that type of stuff," she tells Citizen. "People keep it to themselves if they do pray. So this is a very public thing for us to do."
Like Ethan, Isabella feels the event opened the door for more conversations with her friends.
"I think a lot of people just think that Christians hide out and we just are all enclosed and keep the Bible to ourselves, but that's not true," she says. "We need to share the Bible with everyone because God isn't just for us—He needs to be shared."
What You Can Do
Let the students in your life know that Bring Your Bible to School Day is Thursday, Oct. 4. When signing up at BringYourBible.org, you'll access age-appropriate participation guides (elementary, teen and parent/pastor versions). You'll also be automatically entered for a chance to win a free trip for four to meet reality-TV star Sadie Robertson in person at one of her events. Robertson, most recently of Dancing With the Stars, is the honorary chair for the 2018 Bring Your Bible to School Day event.
Through her New York Times best-selling books and her Live Original Tour, Robertson has shown she has a heart for "empowering this generation to boldly walk in the freedom of who they were created to be in Christ."
"The Bible has gotten me through everything in my life," she tells Citizen. As a result, she is proudly joining with Focus to encourage hundreds of thousands of students to bring their Bibles to school and raise awareness of their constitutional freedom to talk about God's love with their classmates.