In the summer of 1997, Pastor Jaime Garcia invited several small churches in the inner-city to join him for a weeklong student conference called SPAMARAMA (Students Proclaim Awesome Message About Repentance and Mercy Available). SPAMARAMA was a response to chronic problems facing youth in the inner-city. Jaime had watched the degradation of Houston neighborhoods and the lack of support for teens especially through youth ministry programs. Programs closed as church resources were depleted. Church no longer appealed to youth. These struggling churches were losing their young teens to gangs, drugs, prostitution and violence because their teens desperately needed connection and belonging. Jaime intimately understood this problem because he grew up in this environment. Sadly, he witnessed his own loved one fall prey to gang violence resulting in a lifelong prison sentence. Jaime was devastated and heartbroken. He couldn’t change the fate of his loved one but he wanted to help other youth avoid this and overcome their circumstances just as he did. He wanted to expose kids to the gospel, get them to surrender to ministry, broaden their horizons, and help them economically.
With the dedication of a few other community members, SPAMARAMA was born and less than 200 teens from 14 churches participated that first year. In February of 2011, we received our 501(c)3 nonprofit status and now operate under the name Unique Student Ministries (USM). For 17 years, USM has successfully served small churches in the community by providing excellent youth ministry programming. Since our inception, we have added over 100 participants each year. Although the conference name has changed from SPAMARAMA to Unique Week, it continues to be successful and grow. Last year, approximately 1,600 students and leaders from about 65 churches participated. Currently, USM is the only ministry that offers an affordable weeklong conference for inner-city teens in Houston.
Besides Unique Week, we hold Unique Discipleship Day as a follow-up to the conference as well as Unique Weekends. We still have a long way to go because the reality is that gangs unfortunately exist in our neighborhoods, but with USM and your support, we are winning back our youth. Pastor Jaime Garcia, our founder, has drawn together loyal, loving leaders who are passionate about transforming inner-city teens through the power of Jesus Christ.