It is said that light is everywhere in our world; that we need it to see. The farther away a source of light is, the dimmer it becomes. Light, after all, is energy.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He also said, “You are the light of the world.”

On November 30, 2012, House of Praise and Worship/Casa de Adoracion y Alabanza (Hartford) embraced this theme, and along with fellow Urban Alliance network participants Archer Memorial AME Zion Church (Windsor), Citadel of Love (Hartford) and three additional local churches, they hosted a kick-off event for Youth Explosion 2013, which was a glowing success.

That evening, light shone from every corner of Jesus the Everlasting Fountain Church/Iglesia Jesus de la Fuente Inagotable in Hartford, where youth and families from nine local churches came together to worship and celebrate at Youth Explosion, an initiative now in its second year. The goal of Youth Explosion is to bring youth of all ages together and to strengthen relationships throughout the city and local communities, as a build up to a yearly youth summer camping retreat at Camp Wightman in North Stonington, Connecticut.

“After last year’s youth retreat, our youth were so excited for the next retreat because they loved the time spent together. We felt that in order to maintain that beautiful flame that was started at the retreat that they needed to connect more often. Even though our individual churches have our own youth services, we felt that it was important to continue to come together throughout the year,” said Karla Cruz, youth pastor at House of Praise and Worship.

She added, “Urban Alliance has helped us make connections and has offered support by sharing information about these events, in addition to helping support the youth retreat.”

This event marked the kick-off to a new year of Youth Explosion, which continues to grow with each service. 

Under a black light, the church was filled with attendees wore white and donned glow sticks as bracelets, earrings and even faux eyeglasses. Their smiles were contagious as they worshipped under the leadership of Pastor Joel Cruz of House of Praise and Worship, Patrice Howell of New Life Worship Center/Centro de Adoracion Nueva Vida (Hartford) and a youth praise and worship team, who sang and played instruments including bass, drums and guitar.

As the night continued, youth of all ages, strategically dressed in white, reflected light through an array of performances, including mime, hip-hop, praise dance and rap.

Guest speaker Juan “The Speaker” Montañez of House of Restoration, also a church participant in the Urban Alliance network, shared his story and encouraged youth to be bold in their faith when facing issues like self-esteem, peer pressure and stereotypes.

“Don’t deny who you are – be open about the fact that you are the light of the world. You need to shine, like a lighthouse,“ said Montañez.

Dennis “D.R.” Rivera teamed up with Montañez for an unforgettable rap performance at Youth Explosion. The pair has also embarked on a musical journey together through their music ministry, Yaweh Muzik, which works alongside the music ministry God Made Hip Hop, and seeks to provide biblically-based and empowering music to the hearts of youth by sharing the gospel in their lyrics and melodies. Rivera and Montañez rapped three songs at Youth Explosion that spoke of their life stories, which both inspired and encouraged all who were there.

One parent who attended described Youth Explosion: “It started out at one church. Now, it’s grown to be a huge blessing and the networking among youth is incredible. I’ve seen my daughter grow from this experience and in her faith. I see youth having struggles, and there is a need for this.”

Karla Cruz explains, “We want to show [youth] that they are not alone, and that there are many youth from outside of their church who have the same love and passion for God as they do. We want Youth Explosion to be a place where they can be able to enjoy a service, freely worship God and have fun!”

The next Youth Explosion event is planned for January 25, 2013 and will be held at House of Praise and Worship, 184 Ledyard Street, Hartford. The theme for the night will be based on Psalm 23:4. If you or your church would like to be involved with Youth Explosion or for more information, please contact Urban Alliance at or House of Praise and Worship at