HOW ONE GIRL TRADED THE WILD LIFE FOR WYLDLIFE
Fall 2013 | Vol. 27 Issue 2
TAKING CAMP TO KIDS
IN COSTA RICA BILL MILLIKEN: A YOUNG LIFE PIONEER CELEBRATING DENNY AND MARILYN RYDBERG’S 20 YEARS WITH THE MISSION
contents FALL 2013
3 9 17 19 20 A COMMUNITY 11 FOSTERING OF CHANGE TWENTY YEARS WITH DENNY AND MARILYN
ABOUT THE COVER These four kids, Mariela, Fernanda, Bruno and Viviana, had a blast at our first-ever Camp on Wheels club in Costa Rica. More than 700 kids came out and experienced Young Life’s brand new mobile camping operation, where we bring the fun to kids. For a closer look at Camp on Wheels, turn to pages 9-10. Photo by Jean Jimenez
An interview with Young Life’s president and first lady.
TAKING CAMP TO KIDS
A pictorial of our new camping ministry, Camp on Wheels.
A WyldLife leader and the love of Christ turn a “problem child” into a child of God.
A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH Celebrating the faithfulness of a prayer warrior.
LIVING FOR MORE THAN HIMSELF
2 7 8 15 21
IN EVERY ISSUE
IN YOUR OWN WORDS YOUNG LIFE LITE MISSION NEWS FROM THE GRAPEVINE PARTING SHOTS
A young man embarks on the greatest adventure of all.
Young Life pioneer, Bill Milliken, reflects on a rich life of relationships.
inyourownwords OUR READERS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS
Come Join Me! Last year, my wife and I decided to volunteer to do childcare work at the YoungLives week at Camp Buckner. We spent the week helping with children ages 20-24 months. At the end of the week, I was T-I-R-E-D; totally and completely worn out! It took me about a week to recuperate, and I said I didn’t think I would volunteer next year. In January I read the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, author of The Cost of Discipleship. I realized that my concept of Christian discipleship was all wrong. Jesus told us that following Him wouldn’t be easy. On the contrary, we would experience ridicule, rejection, persecution and even death. It made me realize how trivial my excuse was. I was saying, “I’m doing this childcare work, God, come join me” when in fact God was saying, “I’m already working here at Camp Buckner. You should come join Me!” I immediately decided I would join God’s work again at Camp Buckner. So in June we were back at Camp Buckner for another week of childcare, very excited to be in God’s work again!
— Richard Burkett, Lewisville, Texas
THE HIGH WAY
We’re In This Together
Editor’s note: Former Young Life staff Will Chapman was one of the first police officers on the scene following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. A few days after this horrible event, Chapman wrote the following note of encouragement to Young Life President Denny Rydberg.
I’m in a part of my decompression process where I’m looking back at my life and mapping how God prepared me to walk through the doors and into the gunfire of Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was among many police officers and state troopers who entered the school that Friday in December. I became involved with Young Life as a kid in Storrs, Conn. My experience was fairly typical: work crew, camp, summer staff, etc. After college I took a job as the acting area director for Redding/ Easton, Conn. I left staff in 2006 to pursue a career as a police officer. That’s where Newtown comes in. I was hired by Newtown Police in January of 2008, and have remained a Young Life regional program consultant of sorts, filling in on weekends as needed, and my wife and I also serve in a limited capacity on the committee for Southbury, Conn. I became a cop in order to accomplish 24-hour “contact work” with a community. My training as a staff person and leader has been instrumental in being able to help victims, and have the very difficult “where do we go from here?” conversations with teenagers. One thing that was very clear to me in those hallways is that EVERY KID is special, important and treasured by Jesus. I’m grateful to be part of a ministry that echoes that sentiment day in and day out all over the world. Please offer my prayers, support and encouragement to the staff as they seek HIS strength and wisdom and as they serve their communities. There’s a new normal now. Youth ministry is forever changed with each of these tragedies. We’re in this together. Thanks. — Officer William Chapman, Newtown, Conn.
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is a publication of Young Life, a mission devoted to introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith. Relationships magazine is published three times a year (spring, fall and winter) by Young Life. If you’re receiving duplicate copies or would like to switch over to the electronic version, please contact the Young Life Mission Assistance team at (877) 438-9572. We can also help you with the change of address or giving information.
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In this issue of Relationships we tip our hats to the president and first lady of the mission, Denny and Marilyn Rydberg. It’s an impossible task, adequately capturing the impact of two decades of service and leadership in less than 2,000 words. If you’d like to know more, an expanded version of this article is featured on younglife.org under “Twenty Years with Denny and Marilyn.”
Donna Hatasaki (DH): Denny, along with my own questions, I’ve also collected some from Young Life staff and volunteers around the world. Let’s start with a question from a first-year staff associate who was three years old when you became president:
DH: Seventeen years ago, I interviewed you and I asked you to describe your leadership style. You said it was easier for other people to describe your style than to describe it yourself. So, Marilyn, how would you describe Denny’s leadership style today?
“Twenty years? Wow, Denny, that’s a lot. How does it feel?”
MR: When you hike with Denny, he’s always about 15 steps ahead of everybody. He’s a visionary, but he’s not just a single-minded visionary. He is always scanning to see how the mission is doing. He likes to know where the weak points are. He likes to see problems before they get to be big ones, either with people or with things that aren’t trending well.
Denny Rydberg (DR): It might seem long to a person who was in preschool when I took the job, but it doesn’t seem long to us. It’s been a pretty quick run. Marilyn Rydberg (MR): We don’t think about that 20-year milestone a lot. We’re usually focused on what’s at hand. But it’s been good to get to a milestone and have a little time to reflect. DH: So let’s reflect a little. Here’s a question from a 15-year volunteer: “As president, you see the mission from 30,000 feet. What did you see when you first became president and what do you see today?” DR: When I came 20 years ago, I saw some tremendous people — great staff, wonderful volunteers, generous donors. I had a great appreciation for our history. I thought our approach to kids was God-given. And I was amazed at the grace and favor that so many people had for Young Life. But to whom much is given, much is required. I felt like Young Life had been given a lot, and we needed to step it up. We needed to invite more people to the party to help us go after more kids. DH: When we look at statistics today, here is some of what we see. The number of staff is up more than 125 percent since 1993. The number of volunteer leaders has nearly tripled. We were in 18 countries, and now it’s 93. Our annual budget has more than quadrupled. We’ve gone from reaching 456,000 kids to 1.4 million kids last year. As you look at the mission today, what comes clearly into focus? DR: Today I’m pleased we’re impacting many more kids each year; I’m pleased we have more donors, volunteers and leaders because people and money are what fuel this growth. I’m thankful there are more people praying; I’m thankful we’re doing better training than we’ve ever done before; I’m thankful we’re reaching the world, not just the U.S. I’m thankful we’re going after every kind of kid — urban, suburban, rural, college, middle school, high school, Capernaum, YoungLives. I still see an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s alive and well. I still see the grace and favor we enjoy. But we could be doing more, and we’re trying to do more.
DR: I can add a couple of things. I play different positions. Sometimes I’m the quarterback and have to call the play. Sometimes I’m the coach and have to sit down and think of the big game plan or come alongside a player and encourage him or her. But I’m also an interior lineman. I’m trying to block so others can score. I try to take care of a lot of the distractions and difficulties so the people running behind me can find a clear path to the goal. MR: (smiling) For people like me who don’t know what an interior lineman is, I see us like parents in a family. As parents you deal with a lot of things your children never know about. I watch him — and us — do that. It’s what you do so that everybody can shoulder the appropriate amount of the load. I think that’s pretty healthy. DH: Now let’s talk about Marilyn! Denny, a lot of women had questions for Marilyn, and we may have to do a separate article to get to them all. But here’s one for you. What would you like to say about your ministry partnership with Marilyn over the past 20 years? DR: Marilyn is a tremendous mentor to me. When we got married, Marilyn had been the National Women’s coordinator for Campus Crusade (now Cru) and had spoken on more than 100 college campuses and had put Cru’s training together. When we did college ministry at University Presbyterian in Seattle, we shared that. In her role the past 20 years, she’s been a brilliant strategist. And strategists aren’t always known, they’re behind the scenes. She’s mentored some key people in this mission in significant ways and again, not in the spotlight. She’s helped me on personnel decisions and in all kinds of ways. She’s unbelievably smart. She’s insightful, intuitive, and I wouldn’t have lasted 20 years and have the enthusiasm I have today if it hadn’t been for my friend, Marilyn Rydberg. DH: Here’s a question from someone at the Service Center:
It’s sort of a nudge in the ribs. There was this nudge that we were becoming satisfied where we were, yet there were so many unreached kids still out there. Again, to whom much is given much is required. MR: We need to see just how big God is and how much He wants to do — not in our strength but in His.
“We’ve faced many tragedies in the last two decades — the Columbine shootings, September 11, Hurricane Katrina and Sandy Hook, to name a few. We’ve also suffered tragedies within the mission. As president, you’ve been exposed to more heartache within the mission than possibly any other person. What’s been required of you in those difficult moments?” DR: I don’t want to underestimate what other presidents have faced. Jim Rayburn was facing WWII when he started Young Life. The kids he was preaching to in tents were headed to war and probably a number of them lost their lives. I also don’t want to underestimate the tumult of the ’60s that different people faced. I think anybody in this role faces a lot of tragedy and heartache. But because we’ve been here this long, we have faced the things you’ve said. And because the mission has grown, there are more Young Life staff and volunteers who suffer heartache and loss. I’m sure not perfect on this, but I do know it’s helpful to phone or write people who are facing these kinds of difficulties. And it’s important to go to people when you can. Rudy Giuliani said weddings are optional, funerals are mandatory. That’s where we’re going tomorrow, to a funeral. DH: But even today, in the midst of heartache and sorrow, you’re in meetings and now this interview. What keeps you moving forward? DR: There is a compassionate side of leadership where you’re taking care of your people. Great generals did that. They’d walk around with their troops. However, you’re not just taking care of the troops. There is a mission. That’s why we’re called a mission. We have some hills to climb, we have some battles to fight, and there’s a ton of kids to reach. So it isn’t just about, “How are you? How are you doing?” We’re in a war with the evil one, and we want to prevail. DH: Talk about Reaching a World of Kids (RWOK). Where did it come from? How did it evolve? One regional director asked: “Was there a Moses moment for you?” DR: The Lord doesn’t speak to me through burning bushes.
DR: When you have a big vision, it attracts people who want to see their investment make a difference. So not only have we exceeded $170 million of our $260 million RWOK fundraising goal, with three years to go, but our operational giving is up a ton. We have people saying, “I believe in this. I want to put my money where my heart is. And this is the place to put it.” DH: You talk a lot about taking hills and fighting battles, but you also know how to lead the troops to real retreat. One of the great gifts you’ve given this mission is the All Staff Celebration. Here’s a question from an area director on the East Coast: “When you thumb through your mental scrapbook of the five All Staff Celebrations, what are some of your favorite photos?” DR: My favorite all-time photo was the year I got to the Celebration early enough that I was standing around the pool when the first group of staff arrived. And it was almost like they couldn’t go to their rooms because they had to get into the pool NOW! I felt like a dad who had taken his kids to Disneyland. MR: One thing about the Celebrations, they are all carefully planned, and they sound so fun, but I always have the sense the Lord says, “I’ll take it from here.” Then He makes something happen over the top because He wants to bless the staff for partnering with Him in the Gospel. DR: Sea World last year was one of my favorite memories, because of the surprise it was to the staff and their overwhelming response. I’ve never seen so many grateful staff in one place thanking you for an event. And to be with all these new staff in the first row watching the whales. I was soaking wet. That’s fun stuff. I’m going to miss All Staff Celebrations when we, at some point, leave Young Life. DH: You’ll just have to keep coming. DR: No, it will be different. Gotta let the new people have fun. MR: Absolutely. DH: You mentioned someday leaving your position. There were a few folks who submitted questions having to do with life after Denny and Marilyn Rydberg. Some wanted to know, what advice would you offer the next president of Young Life?
DR: Well, first, we wouldn’t want to impose our thoughts on My friend, Bill Robinson, became the president of anyone new. And, second, I want people to focus on what Whitworth around the same time I became the president we need to get done today. of Young Life. Back then he wrote me a little note and said, “Young Life is a great organization. Don’t screw it up.” I just DH: Then how about this from a regional director: wrote to Bill recently and said I’m still trying to live out his mandate. What courage will be required of the mission in the next 10 years? MR: It’s really not about the president and what he thinks or who he was. It’s about reaching kids. Whenever we do DR: There’s a great change going on in our culture and pass the baton, we really do believe Young Life’s best days society. It’s becoming more and more unfriendly toward the are still ahead. faith. It’s not going to be as easy to stand up and proclaim Jesus or to face some of the social issues coming our way. We’re going to need courage and creativity for this new day. How do we contact kids, conduct clubs and do all we do in an increasingly hostile environment? DH: Twenty years from now, when a staff associate asks an area director, “Who were Denny and Marilyn Rydberg? What were their contributions to this mission?” what do you hope they might say?” MR: Wow … well I hope they say, “They were faithful.” When we came 20 years ago, we thought the mission was great, but still we’ve prayed we would leave it in better shape than we found it. I hope they would say that was true. DR: I hope they would say we were faithful, we were visionary and we had a practical side to us.
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Celebrating 50 years of ministry in 2014!
younglifelite BY STACY WINDAHL
THIS TABLE IS RESERVED
Mitchell, a senior at Riverside Brookfield, prepares to serve fellow students.
Kids enjoy their surprise banquet around candlelit tables.
You wouldn’t make the mistake of sitting at the wrong table in most high school cafeterias. Cafeteria regulars know their place — and yours. It’s dictated by an unseen, unchanging seating chart. It’s the same at Riverside Brookfield High School, in Chicago’s western suburbs. The school of 1,450 draws an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse student body from three communities. Soccer players sit with teammates. Kids in the band eat lunch with other kids in the band. And seniors don’t eat with freshmen. Ever. The 12th-grade leadership team of Riverside Brookfield Young Life scrambled that seating chart for one special night last year. Area Director Jonathon Gorny explained that every summer he challenges senior leaders to develop a thesis statement to guide them as they plan the year’s activities. In August 2012, a group of 11 seniors arrived at this statement of purpose: “Imperfect Christians strengthening our Young Life family through genuine relationships and intentional conversations.” Focused on the idea of family, the seniors considered what families do together (easy — they eat together!) and what that might look like in the kingdom of God. Inspired by Jesus’ parable in Luke 14 about a certain man hosting a great banquet who wanted his house to be full (even with people who were not usually on the “A” list), the seniors decided to host their own banquet. Gorny said, “They all stacked hands and it was settled. We’re going to live out and give an experience of what it was like to be in Christ’s kingdom at a banquet.” On Dec. 12, the seniors prepared a surprise feast for all who attended club that night. It began like a typical Young Life club at Riverside United Methodist Church, “but it seemed to go really fast,” according to junior Vanessa Jebb. “I wondered why.” The club speaker ended with the invitation, “Brookfield, Riverside, North Riverside, you all are invited to this banquet, will you take your seat at the table?” With that, senior leaders joined the group and asked the 115 gathered to follow them down the hall. The underclassmen didn’t know a group of seniors were about to serve them a three-course pasta and chicken dinner they had planned and prepared themselves. Vanessa said, “I wondered if we were going to be led to a big room to play dodgeball or something. But instead, we walked into a room lit with Christmas lights and candles. It was so beautiful.” What Vanessa loved most of all was the table. “Inside the room was a huge connected table so we could all sit together, everyone included.” Hannah Claywell, one of the seniors who served, recalls the same thing. “That night was so unbelievably amazing. I remember walking around, talking and serving, and getting all these heartfelt thanks. But what I remember most was seeing our whole Riverside Brookfield Young Life family around one table and thinking I should be the one thanking them! The banquet was an awesome way to show how much our family means to us.” Like the high school cafeteria, in this banquet hall everyone gathered knew their place. It was at the only table in the room. The one marked “reserved,” for every kid who accepts the invitation to join the family at the table of God.
missionnews Laura Wellington and Brent Cunningham
FINISHED (VERY) STRONG
Brent Cunningham, Young Life regional director for Alaska, was recognized throughout the media after generously giving his Boston Marathon medal to a woman unable to finish the marathon due to the bombings. Brent was featured on ABC’s 20/20 program where he was reunited with the young woman. You can see the story by searching “20/20 Evil Didn’t Win.”
CAPERNAUM LEADER AWARDED $50,000 FOR HIS SERVICE
Do you remember when ... ? Connect! Engage! Reach a World of Kids!
This spring Allen Guy, a Young Life volunteer leader in Tampa, Fla., was awarded the Community Hero Award by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. The prize included a $50,000 grant to help organizations Guy supports with his time and energy. Guy was nominated by New Tampa Young Life Area Director Alissa Holcomb. “Allen’s contribution to our organization is immeasurable,” she said. “He has served teenagers, including those with disabilities through our Capernaum program, for the last seven years with thousands of hours of volunteer work. He spends time with disabled and typical kids through our weekly club programs, by leading our Servin’ It Up community service program, and by caring for countless kids at camp.” Guy will designate the $50,000 grant to be divided among Young Life and two other New Tampa charities.
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Tampa Bay Lightning forward Teddy Purcell (left) and Lightning owner Jeff Vinik (right) present a $50,000 check to Allen Guy.
Camp On Wheels sends a strong message to kids: ‘We want to treat you guys special.’” — Kevin Suwyn, regional director for Central America
YOUNG LIFE IS DOUBLING THE CAMPING IN CENTRAL AMERICA WITH A “COW”! IN JUST UNDER FIVE MONTHS OF OPERATION, CAMP ON WHEELS (THE AFOREMENTIONED COW) HAS IMPACTED MORE THAN 1725 KIDS IN THREE COUNTRIES IN CENTRAL AMERICA …
FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, YOUNG LIFE LEADERS HAVE BEEN TAKING KIDS TO CAMP. THIS YEAR WE’RE EXCITED TO FLIP THE PROCESS! Camp On Wheels is Young Life’s brandnew mobile camping operation. All the fun supplies we can fit (tents, inflatables, games and more) are loaded into a trailer which our Young Life staff and volunteers can drive all over Central America (the program will also be available soon in other places around the world). The result? We’re now making excellent Young Life camping available in six Central American countries.
SOME FACTS TO MOVE YOU: • In 2013, Camp On Wheels will have traveled to more than 22 locations in five Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) • Camp On Wheels is perfect for weeklong camps, day camps and allcity clubs • More than 700 kids came out to the first Camp On Wheels club in San Jose, Costa Rica
WHO BENEFITS FROM CAMP ON WHEELS? Kids … from international school communities … with disabilities involved in our Capernaum clubs … from poor neighborhoods … who are teen moms and part of our YoungLives ministry HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED? • Sponsor a camp, a cabin, a bus or a kid! • Bring a work crew to South America and help us put on a camp! For more information on getting involved with Camp on Wheels, contact Dan Jessup, Young Life’s vice president of Latin America, at (719) 381-1814.
Young Life pioneer, bill milliken, reflects on a rich life of relationships. BY JEFF CHESEMORE
“If it wasn’t for Young Life, I wouldn’t be here.” – Bill Milliken “Here” is the place where Bill Milliken can look back on a life well-lived, while continuing to move forward in his efforts to care for kids. Not many people can say they’ve gone from sharing a room with rats to spending nights in the Lincoln Bedroom, but Milliken’s résumé is hardly the norm. His story spans the humble origins of a confused teenager to a 20-year-old who helped pioneer Young Life’s urban work to a self-proclaimed “Forrest Gump” wondering how he now frequently finds himself in the company of presidents, millionaires and celebrities. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Milliken struggled through school because of undiagnosed learning disabilities. With his self-esteem plummeting in the classroom, and his home life providing more turmoil than refuge, he sought acceptance in the one place he knew he was welcome — the local pool hall. One providential day, the hurting teenager met someone new there, someone genuinely interested in him. The man’s name was Bob and he was a Young Life leader. That summer of 1956 Milliken was on a bus to Frontier Ranch and a road to change.
PURSUED AND PURSUING Upon arrival, Milliken felt he had been duped by the Pittsburgh leaders because of how much “God talk” there was at the Colorado camp. His time there, however, rocked him. “By the end of the week, I said, ‘God, if you’re there, I want you in my life.’”
Milliken explained that in those days, to help kids make the transition in their newfound faith, campers often stayed after their trip and served on work crew. One morning as Milliken and others were digging trenches, he was confronted about his work ethic. “The work crew boss said, ‘Milliken, you’re lazy!’ So, I got angry and threw a shovel of dirt in his face.” While the staff conferred on what to do, Milliken started walking out of camp, presumably back to Pittsburgh. “I forgot how far that was! But I wasn’t going to let them throw me out. Fortunately for me, Goldbrick [Andy “Goldbrick” Delaney, the camp cook] saw me walking down the hill. He came after me and had me bunk down with him. He talked Jim Rayburn [Young Life’s founder] into giving me another chance.” Four years later, Milliken didn’t walk away from a challenging circumstance, but right into one. The 20- yearold drove to Newark, N.J., to hear more about the vision of his friends Harv Oostdyk and Vinnie De Pasquale. Throughout the night the three men talked about their passion for kids in New York City. The next morning, June 18, 1960, Milliken and De Pasquale could be seen dribbling a basketball across the George Washington Bridge, in the hopes of meeting kids, first in Harlem, then on the Lower East Side. From these humble beginnings, Young Life’s work in New York City was born. “People asked me, ‘What education did you come to the streets with?’ Milliken said. “I’d answer, ‘I knew how to hang out.’ I still can’t find a university that’ll give a degree in it (!), but it’s one of the greatest skills you can have. I knew how to hang out at the country club and I knew how to hang out on the streets. But that was exactly what was missing in the lives of those young people,” he explained. “Nobody was out on the streets with them, walking with them, talking with them … being there was what it was all about.”
FROM GANG LEADER TO CROSS CARRIER One of those young people was Bo Nixon. From the age of 13, Nixon had been drawn to the local gangs. “My goal was to become president of the Centurions,” he said, “and one way to become president of the gang was to fight. I never backed down and my friends started respecting me. Because of what was going on in society, I was very angry. The Black Panther party was happening at the time and Malcolm X was up on 125th Street, preaching. What he said sounded good to me as an angry young man.” During this time, Nixon and his friends grew leery of the white man hanging out in their neighborhood. “We’d always go to the park to play basketball after school. White guys didn’t hang out at our park, so we assumed he was a narcotics cop. Bill just kept hanging out, watching and getting to know the names of kids.” By 1962, Nixon’s heart was changing. Six years after Milliken’s own encounter with Christ at Frontier Ranch, an 18-year-old Nixon sat in the same club room, hearing about a Savior who loved him. After the cross talk, the city kid sat outside looking up at the stars. “I had never talked to God before,” Nixon said, “but they said you could talk to Him and He would listen. I said, ‘Lord, if you can do anything with this life, you can have it.’” When he told Milliken about his decision to follow Christ, Nixon said, “Bill acted like it was his birthday! He was so excited. I was scared to death to go back home after I realized what I had done, but the one comfort I had was that Bill was going back with us. Bill told us we could change our community if we stuck together.” Sticking together was a concept Milliken had been working on. He witnessed many gang kids embrace the Gospel, only to be choked out by the temptations of everyday city life. So he laid out an idea with the guys closest to him: to follow Jesus for the long run would require CONTINUED ON PAGE 13
Andy “Goldbrick” Delaney.
Bill Milliken today.
Milliken in 1968.
Milliken and Nixon in 1964 and today.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12 they walk in their faith as a team. They would live under the banner of Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” They named themselves the Cross Carriers, wrote up a constitution to live out and met regularly to support each other. BRINGING COMMUNITY TO SCHOOLS Community became a major theme in Milliken’s life. “We all want to be connected. If you’re not, you’re going to create community that’s either going to be really bad or really good.” But community, he said, must be a give-and-take venture. “The greatest gift you can give a young person is to allow them to give something to you. It’s all grace. If you don’t think that person has something to give to you, that means you think you’re smart and they aren’t. You have to create environments where everyone has the chance to give as well as receive. When Bo would confront me, that was a gift — if I could accept it.” Milliken and Oostdyk quickly learned, however, that city kids like Nixon would need more than just a “new gang” to help them survive their present surroundings. They would also need a hope for the future — that hope was education. “Bill was not only interested in us following Jesus,” Nixon said, “but in asking ‘what are you going to do with your life?’ He helped us go back to school. Bill and Harv started street academies and school suddenly became a beacon; when we were coming up, hardly anyone graduated from high school or went to college. That all began to change.” The success that came through the street academies and the emphasis on community eventually led Bill to follow a different call. In the early 1970s Milliken, his wife, Jean, and their children moved to Atlanta, and in 1977 he helped start Cities In Schools (CIS, whose name was later changed to Communities In Schools) with Neil Shorthouse
and his family, who at the time was with Urban Young Life in Philadelphia. CIS was formed to reach the many children who face challenges both inside and outside the classroom and provide needed resources so students can focus on learning. “CIS is reaching 1,250,000 kids a year with more than 90 percent of them staying in school,” said Milliken, who has given the last 36 years of his life to the organization. “But I learned all this from Bo. His turnaround was transformational because he was the key to cracking the neighborhood. Early on, Bo didn’t want me in the neighborhood, but later he saved my life. If Bo didn’t have the courage to turn around and walk down the street with me, I wouldn’t have made it.” GIVING KIDS NEW LIFE After Milliken left for Atlanta, Nixon stayed on Young Life staff and eventually started the ministry “New Life of New York City, Inc.,” a separate ministry connected with Young Life, which 40 years later continues the model of reaching city kids he learned from Milliken. “Bill gave 10 years of his life to us to make sure we’d become leaders. He said, ‘The reason all these neighborhoods are poor is because all the leaders have left. He challenged us to stay and raise our families here and that’s what I did to be a witness to kids and a model for the next generation.” Milliken laughed, “I tell Bo, ‘God has a great sense of humor — you’re paying the price for beating up these guys all those years ago, because now you’re working with their great grandchildren!’ Bo is somebody who stayed year in, year out, constantly listening to God. He and Mary (Bo’s wife) have been faithful to this all their lives.” A MODEL FOR HOPE While Milliken often praises men like Goldbrick and Nixon
PUTTING IT ALL INTO WORDS Friends for more than fifty years walk the streets of the Lower East Side.
for the critical role they’ve played in his life, they’ve been quick to return the compliment. With Goldbrick, Milliken’s journey with Christ came full circle. “Serendipitously, I went over to see Goldbrick the year before he died. I thanked him and told him, ‘All the things I’ve been able to do in my lifetime are because you saw me go down that road, took me in and became a surrogate father to me.’ Goldbrick started crying and said, ‘If it wasn’t for you guys — you guys brought the first people who looked like me to camp.’” Nixon also reflected on the influence of his friend of more than five decades. “I think the biggest gift Bill has given me is to develop my own style of leadership. To create something like I saw him create, something out of nothing — that means a lot to me. When I get into muddy waters and can’t see anything I call him. He’s always going to be a mentor.” Milliken credits Young Life with providing him a framework to not only know God, but make Him known to others. “I had no concept of a Christ who moved in, not next door, but in the home of my own heart — that he’s here and alive, in us and with us. Young Life’s relational theology is applicable in all kinds of environments and situations. When you take love and relationships and make them the centerpiece, the Spirit is there. A lot of people haven’t learned to identify it with Jesus yet, but you’ve created an environment where people are open, because they’ve seen and experienced it. I think Young Life has been incredibly prophetic in that.” It seems only right to let Milliken have the last word on his journey thus far. “It’s relationships that change people, not programs. That’s what I want on my tombstone. A good program simply creates the environment where healthy relationships are happening between adults and children. It’s a model for hope.”
If you’ve ever uttered the words “tough love,” then you’ve used a phrase invented by Bill Milliken! He came up with the term to explain how discipline can be used to truly care for someone. “I found out loving is tough — it costs,” Milliken wrote in his first book, “and the love itself has to be tough too, tough enough to hurt if the hurt can heal.” He explained, “For us it was about accountability. Tough love means ‘hardnosed agape.’” Principles like tough love were forged in the fire of fellowship Milliken experienced during his decade with Young Life. This period also helped him formulate the “Five Basics” for Communities In Schools: Every person needs and deserves: 1. A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult 2. A safe place to learn and grow 3. A healthy start and a healthy future 4. A marketable skill to use upon graduation 5. A chance to give back to peers and community These basics helped ignite the CIS organization, bringing it to national prominence. As a result, Milliken has served as an advisor to U.S. presidents of both political parties and shared his passion for hurting kids with the world. Bill Milliken has penned four books; his latest, From the Rearview Mirror, (Hay House, 2012), which describes his lifelong spiritual journey, including his early days with Young Life and the development of the urban youth ministry programs, is available from Amazon and Hayhouse.com.
ALREADY AMAZING BY GENEVIEVE SMITH
We recently took Red Hook [a neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York City] Young Life kids to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus in Brooklyn. A lot of the kids had never been to the circus before (and neither had I!). I was captivated by the trapeze stunts, the tightrope walkers, the elephants’ tricks and a man shot out of a canon. The name of the show was “Built to Amaze” and boy did it ever! Some of the stunts were not as amazing as the others, so we didn’t cheer. We sat there, waiting to be impressed. It made me think about some of the teens I serve here in Red Hook and how much pressure they feel to be impressive. They desperately want to be liked or cheered on by their peers. Most find their self-worth in what their friends think about them. Or, how many “likes” they get on Facebook and Instagram. They Red Hook kids looking forward to the circus. put on their “suits,” “do a couple of tricks” and are dying for someone to affirm them, love them, notice them. And, if we’re honest, so do we. We forget how amazing we are to God! All of this leads me to Rayquan. Last night at McDonald’s, Rayquan asked for prayer. When I asked what he’d like me to pray for him he said, with tears welling up in his eyes, “Pray that I don’t grow up to be a bum; pray that I’m not nothing when I grow up, that I make something out of my life.” Immediately I became aware of how unworthy he feels of love and connection and how little hope he has for his life. So, Luke, one of our leaders, and I prayed for him, hoping he would find his worth in God. I want him to know his true worth. I want him to know how much God loves and values him — so much that He gave His Son up to die for him. I want him to know he wasn’t “built to amaze” but was created and is amazing already!
GIVING HER EVERYTHING BY KRISTEN WOLFE
I met Tasha in 2011 when our newly formed Capernaum team launched our first club [in Grove City, Pa.]. We quickly exchanged numbers, and after months of phone calls and hanging out, became “sisters forever.” For quite some time I’ve been taking Tasha to church with me. She loves the music and often copies down the sermon’s PowerPoint notes onto scrap sheets of paper tucked away in her worn Bible. One particular Sunday, Tasha had her purse with her, which was slightly unusual. She comes from a family with very little, so it’s rare for her to have any money on our shopping trips and McDonald’s runs. When it came time for offering, I knew I had money in my wallet, but thought to myself, “I may need that for gas or snacks this week, so I better keep it in there.” Without overthinking it, I passed the offering plate on to Tasha, who immediately took out her wallet. I noticed she had three dollars with her. After she took one out to give to her boyfriend to put in the offering plate and then put in another herself, she passed the offering plate on, without a word. Had I just seen what I thought I’d seen? Then it hit me. The story of the widow’s offering in the Bible. “Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their
wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:41-44, NIV) I was incredibly humbled. Here I was, with plenty, holding onto what I Tasha and Kristen. had for my own selfish pleasures. Two dollars to me would be nothing, yet two dollars to her was everything. She wasn’t following my example, since I hadn’t given an offering. My sweet friend Tasha, who had very little, gave everything out of her love for the Lord. Oh, I can just imagine the huge smile on Jesus’ face that day. This is just one of countless stories of how the Lord has taught me through this girl — and through all the girls with disabilities the Lord has called me to love. If meeting these girls was the only reason He brought me to Grove City College and called me to serve as a Young Life leader, then it was worth everything!
CAUTION: LEADING MAY BECOME HABIT FORMING
BY BETHANY BRADSHER
When three women from Gig Harbor, Wash., answered young women. And through those seven years, their the call to help with the WyldLife clubs at their relationships with their daughters and the other girls daughters’ middle schools eight years ago, none of grew through countless coffee dates and a Wednesday them expected their ministry would continue for night Campaigner group so set in stone that the girls nearly a decade. would lead it themselves on the rare occasion when the When Debbie Hendrickson learned of the need she leaders had to miss. was happy to meet it so her daughter Emma and other “You get into it kind of selfishly, thinking, ‘I want to kids could have the benefit of WyldLife. But following be involved with my own daughter,’” Shea said. “And you Emma and her friends all the way through high school get 20 daughters.” never even crossed her mind. After doing life together through their high school “I kind of felt, well, I’ll do this for the time being,” years, the girls graduated in 2012 and went off for Hendrickson said. “But I got involved with the girls, you college or other experiences to places as far flung as start developing a relationship with the group, and I just Paris and Italy. And just when Hendrickson, Shea and decided I would make a commitment to be with them Sbory could have put their feet up and relaxed after through so many graduating.” years of Soon faithfulness, after they sensed Hendrickson another was getting need. her feet wet With the as a leader girls off at at Emma’s college, the middle three women school, Karen have started Sbory joined a monthly her as a meeting leader. At the just for the same time, moms of Kelly Shea their former was making Campaigners. the same The women decision at meet to a different talk about Kelly (back row, third from left), Karen (back row, second from right) middle how their and Debbie (second row, second from left) with Campaigner girls. school. When daughters the middle are doing schools where the trio had led WyldLife fed into the and to support each other in their new stage of life. In same high school, they merged the two groups meeting February they collaborated to make care packages for all for Bible study into one. All three women were driven the girls. by the desire to connect with their own daughters and “It’s been a blessing to build relationships with to make sure they received spiritual encouragement them,” Sbory said. “It will be interesting to see where it through some tough years. all leads, but I think people are getting closer.” Along the way, the three made a sweet discovery First to their own daughters, then to a whole group — there were dozens of other girls who needed the of daughters, and now to the mothers of college girls same thing, and as WyldLife and Young Life leaders — these three women are evidence that giving your life they had the opportunity to pour into some 25 different away for the kingdom can become habit forming.
BY LESLIE STRADER
A WYLDLIFE LEADER AND THE LOVE OF CHRIST TURN A “PROBLEM CHILD” INTO A CHILD OF GOD. After an afternoon baking cookies with nine-year-old Alexis Hone, Mary Beatty was sure of one thing: her daughter would have to find a new playmate. Alexis had been labeled a “problem child” by her school and neighbors, and Beatty could see why. Beatty, a mother of six, didn’t think she could give Alexis what she needed. She didn’t realize that day in her kitchen all the ingredients had come together to create something beautiful. It’s a recipe for the mission of Young Life: a lavish helping of God’s grace poured into a willing heart and blended with life-on-life ministry can transform a hurting child into a child of God.
FUNNY HOW GOD WORKS Beatty had just begun volunteering with WyldLife in Naples, Fla., in 2008 when she met Samantha Hone, Alexis’s older sister. The girls were from a broken home and often sought refuge at the Beattys’ when things got rough. “I knew a little about Alexis because of Samantha,” the WyldLife volunteer team leader explained. “When Alexis came over that day to make cookies, things started coming out of her mouth, and I was thinking, ‘My daughter is not hanging out with her anymore.’” Alexis said, “Everybody was so polite there, and I was loud! With her having six kids, they were really well
behaved. I wasn’t really disciplined, so it was different from my house.” Because they lived in the same neighborhood, over the next several years, Beatty continued to build a relationship with Alexis. Alexis was drawn to the stability the Beatty home provided, and the Lord gave Beatty an unexpected compassion for the young girl. By the time Alexis started coming to WyldLife in sixth grade, she’d already been suspended from school multiple times for her behavior. “It’s funny how God works. Because the next thing you know, I’m hanging out with her,” Beatty said. “When she’d come to club, she’d stand in the parking lot and scream or laugh inappropriately. She was ‘that’ kid whom no one wanted to be around, and she was drawn to me.” Zach Gurick, area director for Florida’s Collier County, said Alexis was a girl in desperate need of care. “Alexis was extremely difficult to be around because she was always doing obnoxious things to gain attention,” he said. “Mary always had an amazing heart for her and was able to connect with her in spite of it all.” Alexis said she kept coming back to WyldLife because of the love she was shown there. “I’d been to church before, but (club) was the best,” she said. “It was
really, really fun. All the people were so nice to me. I didn’t have a lot of friends in sixth grade, and they became my friends.” HOME AT LAST The summer between seventh and eighth grade, Alexis, along with 47 other middle schoolers, went to Southwind, Young Life’s camp in Florida. It was a difficult week for everyone, Beatty said. “Alexis would stand in the middle of the camp and scream things I can’t repeat. Her language was appalling,” Beatty said. “It was affecting the other kids. One leader wanted to send her home and ban her from future trips.” But Beatty couldn’t do that. She said, “We’re bringing kids to hear about Christ, how can we say, ‘You’re not good enough’? Christ wouldn’t have sent her home.” So Beatty gathered the camp leaders together and they prayed. And they prayed some more. “We prayed every second we could find. We prayed just to get through the afternoon,” Beatty said. And a miracle happened. The last day of camp, Alexis accepted Jesus as her Savior. “When I (accepted Christ), it really changed things,” she said. “I think camp is exactly how it will be in heaven. People there are always there for you. Everything has a purpose. It feels like home.”
THE NEW HAS COME Last fall was still a struggle for Alexis. She not only fought old temptations, but her past reputation as well. But she continued to come to club, and eventually, Beatty said, a “calmer, nicer, more peaceful Alexis” emerged. Then, Beatty said, Alexis went from Christmas to May without being expelled. “I watched her change last year,” Beatty said. “Every day Alexis went to school and was not expelled was a victory for her.” “Her life has been transformed,” Beatty said. “She stayed in school and quit getting in trouble. She’s happy and getting good grades. She’s changed. I’ve never seen a transformation like this before. The old is gone, the new Alexis is here.” Alexis, now 14, said the change has been real for her in every way. “I used to be really, really bad at school and get in trouble all the time. Now, I do what He would do. He guides my life,” Alexis said. “And Mary has been practically a mom to me. She helped turn my whole life around. She inspires me to do well.” Campaigners has been a place of growth for Alexis as well. Beatty said the group has gone from a bunch of girls who wanted to play and gossip to students of the Word. “After her baptism, we bought Alexis a study Bible,” Beatty recounted. “All of the sudden she’s coming to Campaigners saying, ‘Can we do
Alexis (second row, middle) supports - and is supported by — her WyldLife friends.
Proverbs? Did you know Proverbs tells you how to live your life?’ And I’d say, ‘How do you know?’ and she’d say, ‘I’ve been reading it!’ It’s baby steps, but she’s growing.” Gurick believes Beatty’s consistent presence in Alexis’s life has made all the difference. “Mary entered her world and her life in every possible way,” he said. “She rescued her when she needed rescuing, encourages her when she needs encouraging, and gives her strong, loving guidance when she makes bad choices. Mary’s relationship with Alexis is one that truly exemplifies incarnational witness.” Beatty said what comes to mind when she thinks on the five-year journey with her young friend is Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “It’s scary talking to middle school kids! That moves you out of your comfort zone,” Beatty said. “But once you start walking with them, they become your kids. You can feel Christ’s love and compassion for them coming through you. “When you build relationships like this, it really leaves an impact on your heart. You walk alongside them, just like Christ, and it’s life-changing for everyone.”
Alexis (left) after her baptism enjoys the moment with Mary Beatty and her good friend Morgan.
On Tuesday, April 16, 2013, our mission, our area, and my family, lost a pillar of faith and a great prayer warrior. Greta Wade, at the young age of 81, passed away and is now speaking face to face with Jesus the same conversations she has been having for years on our behalf. Six years ago, as I stood in line at Atlanta Bread Company in Peachtree City, Ga., this older lady turned around, noticed my Young Life shirt, and said, “Young Life?” My initial response is usually, “Were you involved with Young Life in high school?” But to be honest, I paused and quickly began to calculate how old someone would be today who would have been a high schooler in the ’40s. Taking a chance, I asked, “Were you involved with Young Life in high school?” A beautiful smile came over her face as she passionately spoke, “Yes! I loved Young Life. We used to have Young Life club in my house. How could I ever forget my Young Life leader, Mitchy.” Wondering if she was speaking of Bob Mitchell, I leaned in even more and said, “Mitchy?” In her sweet voice, she said, “Oh, what was Mitchy’s name? Ah, Bob Mitchell. We all loved him so much.” Realizing I found a diamond in the rough, I asked if we could continue our conversation over coffee. I wish you were there to hear her tell the stories
of Star Ranch and her camp speaker, Jim Rayburn. How he spoke of Jesus in terms she could understand. Then hearing her say, “It was at Star Ranch that I committed to serving the Lord forever.” Those words ring in my ears and my heart even today. Forever. You see, that’s exactly how long Greta Wade served the Lord. Like any good Young Life staff person would do, I invited her to speak at our banquet three weeks later. We were all surprised to read through the commitment cards at the end of the night and find she checked the box saying she was interested in joining committee. Who can say no to that? Greta began serving on committee as our prayer coordinator and our area has never been the same. If I’m really honest, my life has never been the same. Do you know what it’s like to walk in someone’s house and see your name in their prayer journal, covered in Scripture, and saturated in prayer? What about your wife’s name? Your children? She, and her mother (who, as my daughter says, is “over a century years old”), cried out to Jesus on behalf of teenagers in our community, families on our committee, teachers, administrators, and staff because they believe the greatest work of our mission is prayer. I have never known prayer like this before. Greta could be spotted any week in jeans and a T-shirt at Young Life club, praying over leaders and kids at every bus send-off for camp, singing and playing with our Capernaum friends, making treats for leaders, attending summer camp as an adult guest, joining us at Family Camp, speaking to 300 staff at Assigned Team Training, and even writing thank you notes to donors. And on my best weeks, she would be sitting across from me over a cup of coffee, reminding me what we are doing in this mission continues to make an eternal difference in the lives of teenagers. On her final night here, sweet Greta stood on the stage at the Young Life Fayette County banquet, encouraged us with a story, prayed over the staff, and reminded us to keep telling teenagers about Jesus in terms they can understand. Greta kept her commitment to serve the Lord forever.
A Diamond in the Rough BY ANDY DAVENPORT
BY AIMÉE KESSICK
Cody with his leader, Greg Haskell, at Woodleaf.
Garth, Tyler and Leslie Rodericks surround Cody (second from left).
Cody (left) and friends at Woodleaf.
A YOUNG MAN EMBARKS ON THE GREATEST ADVENTURE OF ALL.
or outgoing high school senior Jefferson Cody Derbonne (also known as Cody or Jeff Cody to his friends), Young Life was the perfect reprieve from his grown-up responsibilities. With his dad imprisoned since Cody was a child, he went to school and worked two jobs to help his mom and sisters make ends meet at home. After climbing off his motorcycle when he arrived at his first Young Life club, Cody dove right in. “I remember him paying full attention to everything, laughing and smiling,” said Young Life leader Greg Haskell. By the end of that night, Cody had signed up for the upcoming Young Life ski trip. He continued to attend club regularly – usually showing up early. “He really wanted the community around him because he’d never had that,” said Silicon Valley, Calif., Area Director Bree Haskell. He became a regular at Campaigners which met on Wednesdays at 6 a.m. “He was so intrigued with who Jesus was,” Greg said. The Haskells were determined to get Cody to summer camp at Woodleaf. So they told Leslie Rodericks, who regularly prints out Young Life prayer emails and keeps them in her car to “pray and intercede for Young Life leaders and kids” as she’s driving and waiting at lights. As Rodericks prayed for Cody, he saved up for Woodleaf, somehow managing to set aside money after he helped with the bills at home. But then he got into a fender-bender in his mom’s car, and thought camp would be impossible. The Haskells assured Cody they’d find a way. Each week, Cody handed them whatever cash he could. But thankfully, God was prompting the Rodericks family to give to the area’s campership fund, to make camp a reality for him and others with financial need. When kids from Silicon Valley left for camp, Cody was on the bus, headed for an amazing week where he began a relationship with Jesus. At camp, Cody met Rodericks and her husband, Garth, who were there as adult guests. “He hugged us, told us thank you and started crying,” she said. “He knew the value
of money because he was a hard worker, and he appreciated it a lot. What we gave seemed small, but I’ve learned it’s what God does with small things that makes them big.” After camp, Cody plunged into his new faith, started going to church, and brought his family with him as much as he could. He was baptized that summer and became like family to the Rodericks. “Cody continued changing,” Rodericks said. “You could see God working on his anger and hurt.” As a college freshman, he worked three jobs to pay tuition; outside the classroom he learned a lot about forgiveness, taking every chance he could to spend time with his dad who’d recently been released from prison. “Cody saw how Jesus forgave people,” Greg said. “It allowed him to forgive his dad, and build a beautiful father-son relationship, too.” Out of gratefulness for how God changed him through Young Life, Cody saved enough money to send three kids to camp last summer. On June 29, 2012, about two weeks after those kids returned from Woodleaf, Cody was killed when his motorcycle was struck by another vehicle. On the motorcycle was his Bible with one verse highlighted, 2 Peter 1:5-8: For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Jeff Cody was always ready for the next adventure,” Greg said. And he’d found the greatest one in his quest to know Jesus more. “It’s amazing to think what his faith had become in such a short amount of time. He was living life for so much more than himself.”
1. After a muck fest, a volunteer leader in Grand Junction, Colo., flashes the “YL” sign during cleaning time. 2. Middle school girls in Vestavia Hills, Ala., prepare for a crazy and messy night. 3. Verona, Wis., leaders prepare their float for the town’s spring parade.
International school students from nine different nations enjoyed serving on the service project in Macedonia. Around 240 kids helped build playgrounds in six sites for very poor communities. At night they, gathered for club. By the end of the week, a number of those same young people made commitments to Jesus.
Helping Kids on Their Journey Every kid at camp who makes a decision to follow Jesus receives a gift of a new personal Bible* to guide them in their walk with Jesus. We estimate that more than 25,000 campers received The Journey Bible this summer. This was possible only because of the generous support from friends of Young Life. If you have given toward the Camp Bible fund, thank you! If you’d like to give, funds are still needed (see instructions below). We know a first Bible holds a special place in kids’ lives. And while it won’t be the last Bible they own, it’s probably the most important one they’ll ever receive, as they learn how to take their first steps of faith.
Campers looking up verses for the first time in their new Bibles.
Ways you can give the best gift of all to a new believer … Online: Go to giving.younglife.org (select “Camp Bibles” from the “Other Designations” menu)
One new believer writing her name in her new Bible.
Check: Make check payable to Young Life, with “Camp Bibles” in the memo line. Mail to: Young Life P.O. Box 520 Colorado Springs, CO 80903 * New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs
P.O. Box 520 Colorado Springs, CO 80901 ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED
From an African slum • Young Life leader • Mechanical engineer
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