By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Five years ago, Shantrice Coleman got talked into going to a youth camp against her better judgment.
“I really wasn’t for it,” she said. “I had been in a church a couple of times, but I didn’t really know what it was all about.”
Ultimately the idea of a road trip to Tennessee convinced her to say yes, but she instantly regretted it.
“I didn’t know that the friend who invited me had invited another friend, and that girl would get jealous if I would hang out with them,” Coleman said. “So I ended up just hanging out with all these people I didn’t know. I was kind of over it before it even started.”
But that whole week, “God was changing my heart,” she said.
On the last night, speaker Adam Robinson, pastor of Double Oak Community Church, Birmingham, urged the teens to think of people they could go back home and share their faith with.
“I felt like God was saying to me, ‘How can you go home and share My name with these people when you don’t know Me yourself?’”
Coleman strode purposefully up to her student pastor and said, “I need to give my life to Christ.”
That student pastor was Scooter Kellum, who was serving at the time at First Baptist Church, Kenner, Louisiana, and now serves as youth ministry strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).
“You could hear and sense this boldness that she was ready to go live her life for Christ,” Kellum said. “She has walked through some very tough times in her life, but from the very moment God got a hold of her, you could sense her boldness.”
It was with that same sense of boldness that Coleman walked to the microphone several times during the recent SPEAK conference to share her story through spoken-word poetry.
Over the past three years, she’s become a staple at the conference. In 2016, the first year the Youth Evangelism Conference tried out the theme of SPEAK, she illustrated that theme through her spoken-word poetry, which was scattered throughout the weekend.
“The third time she took the stage, the students erupted in applause and she got a standing ovation,” Kellum said. “She was 16 at the time, and to hear another teen use her gifts that way and tell them they needed to put their faith in Christ — it really spoke to them.”
After that year, the SBOM changed the conference’s name to SPEAK officially and Coleman has continued to do just that.
It’s been a platform she never would’ve imagined she could have.
“A few months after I came to Christ I heard spoken word done at the Louisiana youth evangelism conference. I didn’t know what it was at the time,” Coleman said.
But she loved to write and speak, and it wasn’t long before several people who knew her well were encouraging her to give spoken word a try.
One of those people was Kellum.
“He just kept asking me and asking me to do it,” Coleman said. “Then one day we were at a ministry project out in the community for the weekend and he told me I had the opportunity to share the gospel with a lot of people.”
She went home that night, wrote out a piece that explained the gospel message — creation, the fall, redemption and response — and shared it the next day.
It kicked off a new passion for her. “It’s been crazy the opportunities and the doors that God has opened,” she said.
And it wasn’t long before Kellum had moved to Alabama and was asking her to come be a part of SPEAK.
“It has been so great to get to be a part of it,” she said. “The big thing I wanted to get across this year is that I’ve been through valleys where things got really bad, and I’ve had mountaintop experiences, but God chooses to use us despite our brokenness. We just have to choose Him every time.”