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Relationships WINTER 2009

Amicus introduces international teens to a new home in Christ. pg. 5 Latino kids enjoy a week all their own at Young Life’s Saranac Village. pg. 9 Students learn about ministry in academia and on city streets. pg. 17





By way of Young Life’s Amicus, a German teen meets Jesus in the United States, and takes her faith back to her home country.

THE EXTRA THOUSAND MILES How five friends + five days + 1,000 miles = “skatebonding.”


THE ULTIMATE GOAL A Young Life leader gets creative as he reaches out to kids in the midst of their demanding schedules.


DREAMS COMING TRUE IN DENVER Some of the best college-aged leaders in the Mile High City receive an education in the classroom and on the streets.


2 From the President 3 In Your Own Words 4 Young Life Lite 8 Young Life Online 13 From the Grapevine 20 Passages 22 Parting Shots

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Through extreme answers to prayer, Latino kids experience Christ in their own culture at Young Life’s Saranac Village.

ABOUT THE COVER Eternal moments can happen at any time, especially when kids feel like they’re not only being listened to, but heard. Young Life Capernaum leaders spend countless hours reaching out to kids who long for that intimate audience of one. True friendships are formed when faithful adults go to these kids and give them not only their time, but their lives as well. Photo by Pam Harmon.



“But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”


— 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

reat opportunities almost always involve great opposition. Paul knew this when he was writing to the believers at Corinth. He hoped to spend some time with them but that trip was going to be delayed. He was staying in Ephesus “because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” Opportunities and opposition. That was true of Paul’s life and true of ours. It’s also true for Young Life. But in the midst of the opportunity/opposition tension, God refines us, matures us, strengthens us, and causes us to rely and trust on Him. Every time Marilyn and I have decided to make a change and follow God’s call to a new place or ministry, it seems like opposition has come. When we came to Young Life, we were energized by the opportunity to lead a group of dedicated staff and volunteers to reach hundreds of thousands of adolescents a year. We loved where we were. We felt appreciated and accepted. But we also felt God

In the midst of the opportunity/opposition tension, God refines us, matures us, strengthens us, and causes us to rely and trust on Him. saying, “Come, follow me to Colorado and Young Life.” After being chosen by the Young Life Board, and before we arrived on the job, opposition surfaced. A couple of people didn’t think we deserved the position. (I agreed with them — no one

deserves any position God gives him or her.) A few believed a person from outside Young Life could never learn the culture and do the job. One or two were very agitated and we felt like saying, “Who needs this! Thanks, but no thanks.” But some wise Board members and friends encouraged us to stand firm and we did. That was more than 15 years ago and we are so thankful that we didn’t let opposition dissuade us from pursuing the opportunity of this new call. I’ve talked to other people who have faced the same sort of situation. When they walked through the open door, not everyone was glad to see them coming. Starting a new business venture, pursuing a new job where you sense God’s call, beginning a new outreach in the neighborhood, adopting a baby, returning to school after being away from academia, etc., lead to great opportunities and great opposition. In Young Life, we have unlimited opportunities. The field is ripe for the harvest. The laborers are too few. But we face opposition in moving through these open doors. Some folks don’t want us to have access to the middle school or high school. In some countries, our staff and volunteers fly under the radar because of persecution. In addition, naysayers whine, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Or, “We can never raise that much money or recruit enough staff and volunteers.” Or, “We’ve tried to get to that school before and we just didn’t succeed.” Or, “Let’s just be content with where we are.” Great opportunities … great opposition. If you are involved with Young Life locally, and I hope you are, I’d like you to help us walk through doors of opportunity and then overcome the opposition. And if you’re a member of the opposition, I’d like you to stop! Instead, let’s all encourage the staff and volunteers in our areas; let’s drown out the naysayers; let’s come up with creative solutions and make a difference. Let’s do that as well in our personal lives.

Denny Rydberg Young Life President 2 / WINTER 2009

IN YOUR OWN WORDS Our readers share their thoughts

Changing Hearts, Changing Minds This summer I was blessed by attending Timber Wolf Lake two times — once as a leader and the other as an adult guest host. My wife and I were never adult guest hosts before, but it was amazing to experience how Young Life works in the lives of adults who attend as guests, not only the campers and their leaders. One adult guest shared with us at the end of the week that he was very skeptical that a Christian youth camp could touch the lives of high school kids when he first arrived. By the end of the week his own life was being transformed! He went back to his area on fire for the Lord and for getting more involved with Young Life! — Tom and Pamela Huissen Fremont, Mich.

Because of the Love

Glimpse of Hope This summer I interned at the Dale House Project in Colorado Springs while on my break from the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work. I am Young Life at heart, and when I found an organization that put Young Life and social work philosophies together, I was eager to be involved. Never have I experienced such humbleness and brokenness for young people than this summer. From broken families to drugs, crime and depression, the Lord revealed Himself through me to show these kids who the person of Christ is to the outcasts of our society. Because of the foundation of building relationships that Young Life taught me, I was able to counsel and mentor the hurting kids toward a glimpse of what it looks like to walk with God. — Kate Reaka Lee’s Summit, Mo.

PAGE 17 is a publication of Young Life, a mission devoted to introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith. P.O. Box 520 Colorado Springs, CO 80901

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Duplicate copies and change of address If you are receiving duplicate copies or you would like to notify us of a change of address, please contact the Young Life Mission Assistance Team at (877) GET-YLSC (438-9572).

After returning from a Young Life mission trip to Kentucky we had our fund-raising banquet, where kids serve at each table, and then share their testimony. I was working with an exchange student from Japan. I could tell she was worried about what she wanted to share so I pulled her aside and said, “Let’s put down your notes and you just tell me from your heart what you think of your experience with us so far.” She began to fidget a bit and said so sweetly (in her Japanese accent), “Well, you know I’m not a Christian.” (I nodded.) “But what I think is that I met all of you and you all talk about how much you love Jesus. You talk about how it is because you love Jesus that you love me. You talk about how it is because you love Jesus that we got to go to Kentucky and help people. I know that you love me because you love Jesus, and I want to read my Bible and learn about Jesus and that kind of love.” Needless to say, I was fighting the tears. I gave her a big hug and told her that she had her speech nailed and that this was one of the best things I had ever heard. The fact that I get to be part of an adventure in my own walk with Christ has me on my face with gratitude. — Dannette Arney Incline Village, Nev.

Publisher /President Denny Rydberg Executive Editor Terry Swenson Lead Editor Jeff Chesemore Coordinator Donna McKenzie


Copy Editor Jessica Williams Senior Designer/ Illustrator Luke Flowers Contributing Photographers Chris Barnes Pam Harmon Joel Strayer

Young Life is a Charter Member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

YOUNG LIFE LITE By Stacy Windahl


Sharing the love of Christ through laughter

n April 12, 2008, Vancouver, Wash., Young Life leaders Tori Truong and Kyle Sharpe exchanged their vows in the presence of 230 family members and friends. Two days later they repeated their vows in the presence of another crowd of witnesses. This time, the witnesses were high school students who were guests and participants in the Sharpes’ “Big Fat Young Life Wedding.” The Sharpes became friends in college. When Kyle moved to the Vancouver area, Tori introduced him to Young Life and the kids who were so special to her. Kyle started going to club to help with the music, and eventually became a volunteer leader. During this time, Tori and Kyle’s friendship deepened. When they decided to date, the kids were all for it, but the Sharpes knew this dating relationship couldn’t be casual. “Kyle and I decided that we would do this only with the intention of possibly getting married. We wanted the kids to see what a healthy relationship would look like, and knew how important it was for us to be a good example in their lives,” explained Tori. Under the watchful eyes of hundreds of kids, Tori and Kyle’s relationship progressed from simple friendship to courtship, and then to their engagement. But when it came time to plan the wedding and work within the limits of a wedding budget, the Sharpes were stuck. “Kyle and I both fell in love with so many of the kids from our Young Life club that we really felt they should be part of our wedding,” Tori said. “They were there for everything: our friendship, our dating and our engagement. They were such an important part of our lives that they should be able to watch us tie the knot.” One of their club kids offered a suggestion. “Why not throw a ‘big fat Young Life

wedding’ for us kids, and then all your problems would be solved.” And they were. On Monday, April 14, more than 100 kids, dressed in their snazziest clothes, turned out for a Big Fat Young Life Wedding — a themed club complete with bridal party, ring ceremony, food (baked by the kids), dancing and a talk about Jesus all rolled up into one. Kyle and Tori drew names for their five bridesmaids and groomsmen, ring bearer and flower girl. With dollar-store bouquets in hand, the bridesmaids and their groomsmen processed down the aisle. With a co-leader escorting her down the aisle, Tori made her way to her groom, who stood by Robb Schreiber, their area director and officiant for both — Tori Truong wedding celebrations. Schreiber said the kids were “so incredibly excited” about the wedding. Kids who hadn’t been to club in months showed up that night. What they witnessed was different from what most have seen portrayed on television or in film. “The Sharpes’ wedding wasn’t about having a magical Hollywood moment, but instead it was about the marriage that God had formed and how He would help them through all the days ahead,” said Schreiber. Young Life leaders like the Sharpes know that the best club talks are lived out in the presence of watching kids, in twice-in-alifetime ceremonies and in the mundane moments of ordinary days. The kids’ reaction to the wedding only reaffirmed this for Kyle Sharpe who said, “It made me realize how important it is for Young Life leaders to be beacons of light for kids in all areas of life: relationships, academics, sports — you name it — God placed us in these kids’ lives for that reason, to be the light of Christ in all that we do.”

“They were there for everything: our friendship, our dating, and our engagement. They were such an important part of our lives that they should be able to watch us tie the knot.”

4 / WINTER 2009

by Erika Jay

By way of Young Life Amicus, a German teen meets Jesus in the United States, and takes her faith back to her home country.

“It was the best week of my life!”

is what kids say who have experienced one of Young Life’s camps. But have you ever heard a teenager say, “It was the best year of my life”? That is what Amicus (pronounced ah–Mee–cus) exchange students will tell you.

If you aren’t familiar with Amicus, which comes from the Latin word for “friend,” you’re not alone. “It’s one of Young Life’s best-kept secrets,” says Elizabeth Jessup, the program’s director. Of course, the secret isn’t intentional. For nearly three decades, Amicus has provided a bridge between Young Life in the United States and internationally. Since 1980, Amicus, Young Life’s international student exchange program, has reached out to more than 1,000 students from 33 countries — more than 1,000 kids who will never be the same. Many of these teenagers, not knowing God upon arrival in the United States, have returned home as followers of Jesus and as the next generation of leaders reaching their communities for Christ. Noemie (pronounced no-amy) Boulot is no exception. In 2002, a host family in Colorado Springs, Colo., opened their home and hearts to her.

A life-changing year

Only two days after arriving from Germany — experiencing a bit of culture shock — Noemie’s host brother invited her to the local Young WINTER 2009 / 5

Life club. Never having been exposed to Young Life, she wasn’t sure what to expect. “I didn’t know what it was about, but I wanted to make friends,” Noemie said. What happened that night was amazing. Noemie discovered an environment that would soon open her heart to Christ. “It was the first time I ever felt like myself, but I never thought it would bring me to Jesus.” The little that Noemie knew of God was, in her words, a “dry religion,” which hadn’t spoken to her heart. Young Life was completely different. “I slowly learned about the person of Christ and of accepting Him as my Savior,” shared Noemie. That fall, Noemie attended a weekend camp at Frontier. Saturday night, outside the club room, she gave her life to Jesus. She said, “Everything lined up for me. I heard the message in an inviting and powerful way.” As her exchange year continued, her host family poured into her and encouraged her to get involved at church. Noemie recalled, “My host mom told me she was there for me if I needed her and then gave me freedom — offering herself and opportunities for growth, but never forcing anything on me.” She continued, “God used her to set me on the path I am on now.” When the school year came to a close, Noemie and her Amicus friends went to Young Life’s Rockbridge in Virginia; after camp was over they spent three days in Washington, D.C., sightseeing and attending special Young Life clubs with messages specially designed to prepare Amicus exchange students for their transition home. Though Noemie would be returning home to a challenging

situation — unbelieving family and friends — she was encouraged by the week. Many of her fellow exchange students had made the same decision to follow Christ during the year, or were going home with seeds of faith planted. She could see everyone had been significantly impacted by Young Life and Amicus. Back in Germany, Noemie found it more difficult to re-enter than it was to go to the States. “I found I was slipping away from what I had learned and not living out what I believed because my environment was counter to my faith,” Noemie said.

those around her. She immediately sought out Young Life and found Matt Adams who had recently moved to Munich to follow up with Amicus teens and develop leaders for Young Life all over the country. Noemie had met Adams and his wife while at Rockbridge and was delighted to find them in Germany. Noemie’s passion was evident. Adams eagerly involved her in Amicus leadership and provided training for her, enabling Noemie to help start and lead a Young Life club for high school kids in her area and equipping her to serve as a leader for Amicus camps

“I feel called to help establish Young Life clubs in German high schools and to bring the vision of Young Life to Europe.” — Noemie Boulot Answering the call

Then, in 2005, when God knew she really needed it, Noemie had an encouraging conversation with her Amicus representative in Colorado Springs, Marilyn Phillips. Representatives serve a critical role as liaisons between host families and students, often forming lifelong relationships with both. Phillips suggested Noemie serve on summer staff at Young Life’s Trail West camp. Noemie agreed, and once there, she discovered the community and support she had been longing for in Germany. She learned how to read the Bible, “journal” about what she was learning and pray. Noemie was looking for spiritual guidance, direction and fellowship — she found it at Trail West. Once again, Noemie returned to Germany, but this time even more grounded in faith and determined to share Christ with

at Rockbridge. “She doesn’t want other returning Amicus students to have to do it alone, as she did,” said Adams.

Sharing the story

Noemie recently shared her heart for Amicus and Young Life. “I feel called to help establish Young Life clubs in German high schools and to bring the vision of Young Life to Europe.” Young Life Amicus serves as a vehicle to help make this happen, creating strong leaders and sharing the vision of reaching kids all over the world through Young Life. Noemie is now doing what others in Amicus have done for her — offering herself, loving kids without holding back and telling them the greatest story ever told. Hers is one Amicus story, one of the many lives, and now communities, impacted by this little-known but powerful facet of Young Life.

AMICUS OPPORTUNITIES • Young Life is looking for loving, flexible, faith-filled families to host carefullyplaced Amicus students! You don’t have to be perfect, just willing. Your family has the opportunity to grow together and grow spiritually by investing in a student’s life. Through Amicus you can impact not only the student, but many others in the student’s community at home. • Love working with teens and families, but don’t have the time to be a Young Life leader? Consider volunteering as an Amicus representative. Representatives help find host families and serve as liaisons, providing support and encouragement for students and families. Be blessed through relationships with both the kids and the families who invite them in! • Serve as an “aunt/uncle” giving respite to host families by taking in the Amicus student for a week or weekend.

Top photo: Noemie and Marilyn Phillips, her Amicus representative. Middle photo: Noemie while visiting Rome. Bottom photo: Noemie back home in Germany, with her friends from Young Life.

• Young Life Amicus offers other ways you can get involved as well. Come join us in this strategic ministry! For more information on hosting, serving as a representative or to find out more about Amicus, please call Young Life at (877) 438-9572.

6 / WINTER 2009


i really learned what it means to live in community and live life alongside one another


by Leslie M

ontgomer y


We had an unbelievable time this is now a tri


How five friends + five days + 1,000 miles = “skatebonding.”

hen four high school Campaigner boys chatted with their leader one day about taking a road trip, they thought it was just a crazy idea. Luckily for them, Jason Rinne, the Flagstaff, Ariz., area director, is a big fan of making crazy ideas happen. After an amazing week at camp last summer, a group of guys from Sinagua High School wanted to keep the adventure going. All avid skateboarders, the kids dreamed up a trip around California where they could skate, surf, camp and just be together to enjoy their final summer as high school students. “In Young Life, we’re always trying to find ways to be with kids. I encourage my leaders to find something they like to do, and bring kids with them. It’s natural and pretty easy to hang out when you’re all doing something you enjoy. And that’s what I did with this trip. These guys wanted to go on a skateboard road trip. I love skating, I love them; it fit perfectly,” said Rinne, who the kids refer to as “J.” “When J told us we were going, I couldn’t believe it,” said Kyle, now 19. “He made it happen, and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever had.” Day one actually lasted until 2:30 in the morning. The group of five stopped to skate once, then drove north throughout the day before ending up in Las Vegas, where they skated in three more parks. “Four parks in one day was pretty intense,” admitted Rinne, “but it was definitely worth it. It was a big day for everyone.” The next few days were spent along the coastline of California. In San Clemente, they won a raffle and were awarded a beachside campsite. Nightly campfires with front row seats to the sunset proved to be a perfect stage for conversations. “We talked about anything and everything,” said Kyle. “It was like ‘cabin time’ [at camp] but longer and better. It was really cool; we were totally honest and got to talk about whatever we wanted. Those times were my favorite part of the trip.” Not surprisingly, these Arizona boys had little surfing experience, so the day in San Clemente was special. “They picked it up pretty quickly and we spent the whole day in the waves,” said Rinne. “Just chilling in the water was super-rad,” said Kyle. “We’d surf then talk, surf then talk … all day.” And the conversations didn’t end there. From the car to the waves to the skate parks to the beach, the conversations continued, naturally and comfortably. “It was like they never really ended, we just picked

WINTER 2009 / 7

up where we left off,” said Kyle. In other stops, including San Diego, most of the time was spent scouting out and skating the parks along the route. “It couldn’t have gone better,” said Rinne. “We had an unbelievable time. This is now a trip that’s permanently on my calendar.” Kyle, now a leader at a high school in San Luis Obispo, Calif., reflected on how the trip changed him: “I really learned what it means to live in community, and live life alongside one another. To know that you can just be yourself, and be with your friends, and that all those things please God — that’s cool.”

“I really learned what it means to live in community, and live life alongside one another.”

— Kyle

“Because of Young Life and my friendship with J, I’ve learned a lot. I don’t even know where to start — Jason has taught me so much. He’s one of the most influential people in my life. The thing about J is that he’s always excited to see us — he lights up. He puts down whatever he’s doing just to find out how our day is. That there’s an adult who respects me, a kid, that much, and cares that much — that’s an incredible feeling.” In all, Jason, Kyle, Aaron, Mike and Tyler traveled more than 1,000 miles in five days, playing, talking and simply living life together. “It just doesn’t get any better than that,” said Kyle.

YOUNG LIFE ONLINE Connect with the mission @

A Match Made in Heaven

Boone and Peggy Powell

By Terry Swenson

When considering how they might celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, Young Life Trustee Boone Powell and his wife, Peggy, decided on a trip to Young Life camp — but not for themselves. Instead, they sent kids who would otherwise not have been able to go. They sponsored an entire busload of kids — granting scholarships for 50 kids (one for each year of their marriage) to attend camp at SharpTop Cove. To read more of how the Powells celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and blessed even more people, read the full story online at Select “News” in the “Take me to” drop-down menu on the home page.

Giving to Young Life Giving to Young Life, whether it be to a specific person or ministry or to a missionwide initiative, is easy thanks to the Giving site, which can be accessed from the home page. Find out about different opportunities and strategies to support Young Life and access the link to the Young Life Online Giving site, through which you can designate a one-time gift or set up an account for recurring gifts.

Young Life Foundation While gifts of cash are vital to any ministry, there are many other ways that your non-cash resources can support Young Life. Learn more about the Young Life Foundation at

Kids can grow in Christ thro ugh serving kids with disabilities at one of two Capernaum camps this summer. As Discipleship Camp participants, they will attend club, play games, eat meals and enjo y activities alongside Capernaum camper s. In the evenings, kids will come together for a small group experience.

For more information, and to sign up, contact your local Young Life

8 /WINTER 2009

BIGGE BIG By Chris Lassiter

Through extreme answers to prayer, Latino kids experience Christ in their own culture at Young Life’s Saranac Village.

WINTER 2009 / 9





nstead of panicking, they began praying. The four leaders for Young Life’s outreach to Hispanic teens at Harrisonburg High School — called Vida Joven (Spanish for “Young Life”) — were in real need of a miracle. During the fall weekend trip, volunteer leader Claudette Monroy and her teammates noticed how linguistic and cultural differences had impacted the camp trip. Together, the team decided to take kids to a Young Life camp week custom made for them. For the second year in a row, Young Life’s beautiful Saranac Village would host a camp week catering to Hispanic kids. “They’ll get to eat guacamole at dinner and listen to reggaeton,” volunteer leader Luisa Henao said. “It was just a better environment for our kids.” There was just one problem. This custom-made camp session was scheduled for late August. Located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg City Schools would already be back in session. That’s when Monroy, Henao, Vicky Julian and Kyle Smethurst began asking the Lord to intervene. Together, the group began praying and fasting. If God could part the Red Sea, surely He could help the four volunteer leaders get their kids to Saranac. A decision was made to cancel a club and spend the time in prayer. Monroy and others sent e-mails asking others to pray as well. The group fasted the day before Smethurst addressed the Harrisonburg School Board. After a few anxious weeks, the Young Life team received their answer. Because of numerous requests from various people — the Young Life team’s petition was just one of many — Harrisonburg City Schools would start later, allowing the leaders to take their kids to camp.

Their crisis was big. Their God was bigger. “I was crying,” said Monroy, remembering her own reaction to the good news. “This is really important to me, because I know what these kids go through, and I know how camp changed my life.”

A volunteer’s vision

One of the most diverse high schools in Virginia, Harrisonburg school board vice-

(Continued on page 11) 10 / WINTER 2009

(Continued from page 10) chair Tom Mendez said 40 percent of the students in Harrisonburg City Schools are English as Second Language (ESL) students. That percentage is the highest in Virginia. Young Life’s outreach to Hispanic teens at Harrisonburg started two years ago when Vanessa Cisneros, a former volunteer leader, befriended many of the Hispanic students at the school. Pete Hardesty, the area director of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County, believes Young Life’s presence at Harrisonburg High School is a constant reminder of God’s sovereignty. “That’s been one of the most incredible parts to me,” Hardesty said. “When God wants something to happen, it happens.” Beginning the work in Harrisonburg’s Hispanic community wasn’t easy. “It was pretty tough, because there was no concept

purpose. “We believe that kids are going to know the Lord,” she said, “and it’s going to happen at camp.”

Best week ever

A group of Hispanic teenage boys rushed the blue and white CrossTours charter bus as soon as it entered the Harrisonburg High School parking lot. The guys raced through the door, jostling for the “cool” seats at the back of the bus. Just minutes before midnight, a group of people gathered to pray for the trip. Tim Hartin, on Young Life staff in Harrisonburg, prayed in English. Henao prayed in Spanish. Then, bus No. 33 pulled off. After months of praying, fasting and pursuing kids — watching God repeatedly remove obstacles in the process — Harrisonburg Vida Joven was on its way to Saranac. Literally seconds after the bus transporting the 20 Harrisonburg teens arrived at Saranac, Luis, Sammy, Manny and Arlinton were rushed off the bus and on to the tubes.

“I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did. There were more than 50 kids at the new believers’ walk who had never responded to Christ before. That in itself is a big deal.” — Carlos Dimas, camp speaker

of Young Life established,” Julian said. “It was really hard for parents to let their kids hang out with us. They didn’t understand why we were doing this.” Now, Young Life is a huge part of the lives of Harrisonburg students like Genesis and Aracely. “It’s something for us to do,” said Aracely, a junior at Harrisonburg, “and it’s one of the only places I’ve heard about God.” The leaders have seen example after example of God’s faithfulness. “It’s really encouraging,” Henao said. “We’re starting to see a little bit of fruit. It’s like, ‘Finally, something’s happening.’” After hearing about the faith of these leaders, a private donor gave the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County area a sizable financial gift to help scholarship potential campers. “It’s definitely increased my faith and trust in the Lord,” Monroy said. “It’s given me a bigger revelation of God.” Julian believes God’s provision for the trip is part of a bigger WINTER 2009 / 11

“They were blown away,” said Smethurst, the lone male leader for Harrisonburg Vida Joven. “It was an incredible experience for these kids. They just kept telling me, ‘We didn’t know it was going to be like this.’” That introduction to Saranac was just a microcosm of the week, as the Harrisonburg teens found themselves consistently amazed at the Young Life camping experience. “I liked everything,” said Juan, a sophomore at Harrisonburg High School. The only part our kids didn’t like was leaving. “That was the best week of my life,” one of the Harrisonburg girls, Yeri, said of the trip. “You learn so many things about God, and you meet so many people.” Even volunteer leaders like Henao were overwhelmed by this camp week custom-fit for HIspanic kids. “It was so much better than I expected,” said Henao, who believes the cultural relevance made a huge difference in her girls’ camping experience. “It was just more natural to them. The kids all looked like them.” This year, a special dance featuring merengue, salsa and bachata was offered. “The kids went nuts,” said camp director Jen Gros, Young Life’s staff person on point for Latino outreach in Stamford,


KID Conn. “It was well-supervised, fun and clean. It was done respectfully.” Carlos Dimas, the speaker for Latino camp week both last year and this year, thought year two was even better. “It was amazing,” said Dimas, who also brought a group of his kids from South Arlington. “I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did. There were more than 50 kids at the new believers’ walk who had never responded to Christ before. That in itself is a big deal.” Being away from the normal distractions back home also gave many of the girls Monroy has invested in a chance to process the Gospel. “Our kids have really hard lives. We had really good conversations,” said Monroy, who witnessed the Lord doing amazing work in the hearts of the girls she knows. “We had one girl who just moved here from the Dominican Republic a week before camp. She ended up meeting the Lord.” With stories like Monroy’s emerging from the camp, Gros is already excited about year three. “I’m excited to see the potential and growth for the mission,” Gros said. “Kids will be impacted and lives will be changed as the mission stays committed to a bilingual week of outreach.”

The Latino camp week at Saranac is a viable option for Young Life areas reaching out to Hispanic kids, thanks in large part to the New York Metropolitan Region’s tireless pursuit of in-culture ministry. That pursuit is spearheaded by Mac McNally, regional director for the New York Metropolitan Region as well as vice president of strategic growth with Young Life. The region launched an Hispanic initiative in 2006. “The Latino population is certainly on the rise,” said McNally, who sees great diversity in the five million school-age children in his region. “We started breaking into new communities and starting club. And they enjoyed the traditional style of Young Life. They loved coming together as a culture. They loved coming out en masse to club.” In 2007, a decision was made to turn a week at Saranac into the first Young Life Latino camp on the East Coast. “All it took was an empty week at Saranac and the risk from the staff,” McNally said. Gros thought the inaugural camp was incredible. “The entire camp was first-time kids and leaders,” Gros said. “Every kid who went continues to share that it really was the best week of their lives.” The week provided the typical excellence of Young Life camp, as well as a cultural sensitivity to the Hispanic teenagers. Small gestures such as fresh guacamole with dinner or empanadas for dessert went a long way in making the kids feel welcome. “Latinos had always come to camp and someone else had been the dominant culture,” said Jim Dyson, vice president of Field Ministries in Young Life’s Eastern Division. “This was the first time their culture was celebrated. There was just a festive feel about that. The message was done by Carlos Dimas, and it totally focused on speaking to kids within their culture.” Dimas felt honored to be part of Young Life history. “There aren’t many firsts left in Young Life,” Dimas said, “and this was a first.” But not the last. Based on feedback from the 2007 camp, a week custom-made for Hispanic kids found a permanent spot in the Saranac camp schedule and was offered to areas outside the New York Metropolitan Region. Harrisonburg and South Arlington, both located in Virginia, signed up to join five groups from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “In three years,” said McNally, barely hiding the excitement in his voice, “we’ll have the camp full.”

12 / WINTER 2009


hortly after relocating to Darien, Conn., with Young Life staff, I began to realize this was a place like no other. This picturesque, affluent suburb of New York City is a community of high-achieving, fast-paced professionals with a small-town feel. Young Life has been in this town for more than 40 years, and I expected to find widespread brand awareness and a sustaining community of supporters. Instead, I’m learning how to adapt the tools of Young Life to develop Gospelcentered ministry which serves the needs of people within this fragmented culture.

A Young Life leader gets creative as he reaches out to kids in the midst of their demanding schedules.

Young Life Leader and Assistant Coach Andy Ward (top right) celebrates a tournament championship with the Darian High School Varsity ice hockey team.

By Andy Ward

According to a recent edition of the high school principal’s newsletter, “Our students are expected to excel academically, in competitions, on standardized tests, at getting into excellent colleges and in nearly all that they do. This is not a typical public high school atmosphere.” The $85 million high school campus boasts countless championship banners in its gymnasium and trophy cases, and an athletic department that fields 58 athletic teams, on which 70 percent of the high school student body participates. In many ways, the high school is the focal point of this community; furthermore, high-achieving, overscheduled student athletes define the high school atmosphere. Consequently, Young Life has had difficulty creating long-lasting impact among the kids who influence the campus culture.

An open door

During my first fall semester on staff here, as I was learning the “lay of the land,” I visited the high WINTER 2009 / 15

school seeking a volunteer coaching position with the hockey team. After briefly discussing my previous playing and officiating experience with the athletic director and coaching staff, they introduced me to the team as a new assistant coach! It was comforting to feel as though I had prayerfully discovered an open door and was walking into the community behind God, following His lead. The opportunity to volunteer as a hockey coach has fostered many new friendships with student athletes and established my credibility among both the student body and families throughout the community. Coaching is a door as well as a window into the town; to establish a presence and earn the right to be heard, as well as the opportunity to identify the needs, obstacles and opportunities to building unconditional friendships with kids and

opportunity to respond, the consensus being that a leader makes everyone around them better, considers others more important than themselves and values those under their influence. The discussion eventually led to topics ranging from “stresses” such as SATs and early-admission applications, to the difficulty of living up to expectations placed upon them by their parents. Several of the freshmen remained quiet at first, but I found opportunities to welcome and encourage their voices, often not their experience during their “rookie” season. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and both the players and parents spoke highly of the venue and content. Mike, a co-captain, reflected, “Thanks for doing all this for us, Coach. I didn’t know what to expect — you said it would be good, but it was great. Let’s do it again.” Jay’s father, who I see often at his local restaurant said, “I greatly support what you’re doing with these boys. Thank you for investing in my sons.”

These young men see themselves as athletes, friends and students ... I pray they choose their identity in Christ; created with a purpose, unconditionally loved, forgiven and set free. Continuing the conversation

I praise God for faithfully bringing kids to the table. Since that dinner, my time with players outside of the ice rink Investing in his players off the ice, Ward hosts his high school players for has increased both in quantity and quality. We now get Young Life’s NFL season kickoff party. together both at my house and local sports grilles to eat and watch games together. I’ve also been able to utilize other venues which serve to expose them to the Gospel growing a healthy Young Life area. message and lead them spiritually. For example, this past season Teenagers in this culture are sometimes over-programmed I took several players to hear Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony and under-served. They can be conditioned to strive for excellence Dungy speak about diversity and personal character. in an intensely competitive environment. Under immense pressure As I continue to pursue in-roads into the community, I seek to perform and achieve expectations, some students can feel as creative venues for contact work and discipleship. I’ve delivered though they are valued for their accomplishments. summer camp invitations to each player along with a vision for how a cabin of players and their friends could change their lives, their Learning to speak their language friendships with each other, and greatly impact their personal and I began to wonder: How do you relationally impact kids who have team success next season. The motivation of this ministry continues no time? In starting a new ministry, can or should Young Life to be Christ, and we’re adapting methods to reflect and serve this club compete with existing schedules? Instead, I communicated unique culture. Let us seek to reach kids where they are, in the the ideals of a Young Life club into their schedules and was able language they speak in order to break down barriers which prevent to accomplish the goals of club in the language these kids so them from meeting Jesus. passionately speak: leadership and success. These young men see themselves as athletes, friends and One Friday night in November 2007, I hosted 21 boys from the students. They will surely become executives, attorneys, investors, varsity and junior varsity hockey teams for a “Team Dinner.” The boys coaches, teachers, husbands and fathers. I pray they choose their enjoyed gourmet hors d’oeuvres, pasta and a variety of desserts identity in Christ; created with a purpose, unconditionally loved, around the conference room table in our Young Life office. Amidst forgiven and set free. the poster-sized pictures of Young Life summer camp and club activities which hang on the walls, I then facilitated a conversation themed “Building Strong Teams: Leadership that Outlasts Itself.” The discussion began organically when Jay, a senior captain, initiated the question, “So what’s one characteristic that you think a true leader must have?” One at a time, each player had the 16 / WINTER 2009

Some of the best college-aged leaders in the Mile High City receive an education in the classroom and on the streets. By Jeff Chesemore


ric Ebel and Kris-Angela Washington, two kids involved in Young Life during their high school years, are benefiting from a golden opportunity; one which offers them the chance to grow in their relationship with Christ alongside other believers, impact the lives of kids in inner-city Denver and receive a free college education while doing so. Where does such an opportunity come from? In the summer of 2007, Young Life Central Denver, Mile High Ministries and Colorado Christian University (CCU) established a partnership entitled the “Transformative Leaders

WINTER 2009 / 17

Apprenticeship” (TLA) “to house and train young adults who are emerging as ministry leaders in and for inner-city Denver.” This apprenticeship is aimed at those with great leadership potential who might not ordinarily enter college, due to financial or other restrictions. While taking classes within their chosen major at CCU, these students will also take six courses together that comprise a Young Life minor; these courses focus on ministry leadership, spiritual foundations, adolescent development and cross-cultural ministry, with an emphasis on Young Life’s style of relational evangelism.

And the icing on this academic cake? Upon successful completion of coursework requirements, students receive a scholarship that covers full tuition at CCU. But the learning doesn’t stop there; throughout the two years, the students also receive training in how to take their theology to the streets and “flesh out” the good news of the Gospel in the inner city. The inaugural year of the TLA, by all accounts, was amazing. Eric Ebel, currently in his second year of the program and Young Life student staff at Manual High School, shares what his time in the program has meant to him: “It’s been a dream of mine to live in an eclectic community, to sit under and be discipled by veteran leaders of the community, and to seek higher education. I’m in awe that all three have come together under one umbrella.”

Stemming the tide

program because of feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes it simply seems like too much to handle, and I question if I can truly handle it as a 19-year-old. This is coupled with the Lord’s call on my life, however, and upon true examination, I know, beyond any doubt, that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”

“Living in community is a challenging endeavour and the balance between respect and love and being real in all situations is one that has and will continue to stretch me.”

“This kind of partnership has been a dream of mine since my first year on staff,” shared Albus Brooks, Young Life area director for Central Denver. “I’ve seen how life can become a black hole for many kids after they graduate from high school.” Jeff Johnsen, executive director of Mile High Ministries, put this “black hole” reality into jaw-dropping perspective: “So many of these city kids don’t succeed, because when they do enter into college, it’s a foreign environment for them. In this neighborhood about 50 percent of the kids drop out of high school. Of those who don’t drop out, only one-third go on to college. Of those who go to college only a third finish. So when you do the math you end up with a very small percentage of kids getting degrees.” So three years ago, Brooks began an ongoing conversation about this challenge with Johnsen and Terry Leprino Doig, a regional trainer for Young Life who teaches courses within the Young Life minor at CCU. After a year of dreaming, praying and strategizing, the three were ready to begin the apprenticeship. With primary funding coming from a foundation which Doig runs, and CCU’s agreement to help with scholarships for first-generation college students, the TLA was ready to move forward. Seven apprentices finished out the first year and twice as many enrolled this fall; all that despite the program’s high standards. “It’s 60 hours a week they’re committing to,” Brooks noted. “The applicants we’re looking for are young adults from the city who are leaders; they may be rough around the edges, but when they enter a room, wow, leadership emerges. These are our best kids.” Kids like Ebel, who by his sophomore year in high school was already leading a WyldLife club. His Young Life experience in high school developed in Ebel “an apostolic heart to go to hard places,” like when he started a club his junior year with entirely underprivileged students who came from extremely difficult backgrounds. Of course, those who have been faithful with little will be entrusted with more, and as the stakes of leadership increase, so do the demands. Kris-Angela Washington, also in her second year in the TLA, knows these two years will push her: “It gets hard balancing school, ministry, the TLA, family and friends; I know it will be a challenge, but I also know that it promotes growth.” Ebel is honest in assessing the demands he’s faced this past year: “I’ve indeed struggled with thoughts of leaving the

— Eric Ebel Growing up

All this learning does not just take place in the classroom or in meeting rooms — much of it goes on in the students’ living quarters. During the apprenticeship, students live in an apartment building in northeast Denver, where the learning sometimes comes in unexpected ways. Vic Nellum and his wife, Q, are the on-site coordinators, living with their two children in the apartment building, and helping students navigate community living. “It’s exciting to see these folks living in the context of community. What do you do when you come home, open the fridge and see someone ate your fruit? How do you work with that?” The students acknowledge that learning how to live in close quarters has, at times, been a work in progress. Ebel admitted, “Living in community is a challenging endeavor and the balance between respect and love and being real in all situations is one that has and will continue to stretch me.” The apartment housing where the students live is known as the Issachar Community. Understanding the times and knowing what should be done in central Denver is an apt description of what these students are experiencing firsthand. “I’ve learned what it means to care for ‘the least,’ to catch a vision for people’s lives and to call them into the freedom of Christ,” Ebel said. “I’ve learned what it means to experience the brokenness of the world and then to watch Christ’s light cast out darkness. I’ve learned how to sit with people in their pain and to invite them, God willing, into a new paradigm of God’s love for them; and I’ve learned to be patient and use my eagerness for the King’s Glory and not to fuel my own selfishness and pride.”

Now what?

What do students take with them after the two years are over? During the program each of the 14 students is placed on a club team at a local high school or middle school, with the possibility that they will one day become the team leader. Mission trips and serving on summer staff at Young Life camps are part of the continuing growth plan for the students (Continued on page 19) 18 /WINTER 2009

(Continued from page 18) when they have completed their official two-year apprenticeship. “Once they’re done living in community our hope is that they make the choice to live near schools where they’re already serving, and continue to impact that school,” Doig said. “Whether they end up on Young Life staff or not, they are going to be a transforming force in their community — the TLA has potential to transform a city long term.” Washington knows that what she’s learning will far outlast her college experience. “It’s been amazing learning what it means to do ministry in an urban setting,” she shared, “and how to apply it to my personal life.” And as for the communities in the heart of Denver? “It’s pretty exciting when you look at this group of people and realize they’re all going to school,” Johnsen mused. “And I’m • To qualify for free tuition, starting to hear about the ripples in students take out a loan from the community as the younger kids the foundation. Upon who are now in high school watch successful completion, the them go to college. It’s been about foundation pays off their loans; creating a new expectation for this if the students don’t complete peer group; we’re creating a culture the year, however, they are excited about going to college.” responsible for paying off Not only are inner-city kids the loan. benefiting by seeing older friends attend college, but they’re also • The TLA is underwritten by receiving the benefits firsthand, Terry Leprino Doig’s foundation as the apprentices pass on their and local supporters. “riches” to them. Among the many kids Ebel’s befriended, one named • Through the apprenticeship, the Cameron represents so many within opportunity exists for donors this community. Born in Ohio in his to invest in students’ lives not mother’s crack house, he quickly only financially, but in an even grew up into a life of gangs and drug more personal way. Donors have addictions. After being shipped to the opportunity to meet with Denver to live with his grandmother, students once or twice a semester he fell back into trouble. Ebel formed a so that there’s a relationship and relationship with Cameron by helping Students in the TLA lift up their city in prayer. accountability with that person. to coach his freshman football team. “We began to dig into each other’s lives and within weeks, Pogo (his nickname) and I were on our way to snow camp with seven of his freshman classmates. That weekend, Pogo started living with purpose and started desiring more out of life than “What we’re doing following the generations before him.” Cameron still has his ups is raising up the and downs, but he also has Ebel there through it all. Ebel hasn’t community to given up on Cameron, however. “We talk weekly and I find myself on a journey with a kid who desires so much more than what is right in meet the needs front of him; and he’s beginning to realize he can find it in Christ.” of the An intersection that may never have happened were it not community. for the apprenticeship, a reality not lost on Ebel. “Young Life What we’re represents the outpouring of all that God is filling up through looking for the apprenticeship,” Ebel proclaimed. “It represents the place is in our where we give our lives to kids and invite them into the community freedom and purpose we have found in Jesus. This is always new and exciting when initiated and maintained by God.” already.” — Albus Brooks


WINTER 2009 / 19

PASSAGES Honoring those who have served the mission

Add Sewell, a Man of Firsts By Jeff Chesemore Young Life lost one of its founding fathers when Addison “Add” Sewell went home to be with the Lord on Sept. 6, 2008. Sewell was one of the original five staff members; the others being Jim Rayburn (founder of Young Life), George Cowan, Wally George and Gordon Whitelock. Born on April 20, 1915, Sewell was raised in Wills Point, Texas, and upon graduation from high school drove his Model A Ford to Wheaton College in the fall of 1932. After graduation, Sewell sensed the Lord leading him to Dallas Theological Seminary — a providential direction indeed, because it was there he met Jim Rayburn, a sophomore at the time. Along with the other staff, Sewell helped Rayburn start the Young Life Campaign in Gainesville, Texas, in 1940. As the school year began, Sewell headed to Gainesville to follow up on some of the kids from the summer campaign. He simply went to their football practice, and in doing so became the first Young Life leader to do what later became known as “contact work.” Rayburn wrote this about Sewell’s trip to the high school that day: “This is the most needed type of ministry in the world today. I pray that he may be the vanguard of hundreds of men whom God will raise up for this most vital of ministries.”

Other firsts for Sewell include opening the Young Life Chicago office in 1944; helping to develop the Young Life Fellowship at Wheaton, a training program for staff and volunteers; being instrumental in starting Young Life in the Pacific Northwest and helping Young Life acquire Malibu in 1953. Bob Mitchell, former Young Life president who’s known Sewell since Mitchell was 13, recalls the years they spent together opening and developing Malibu: “That first year of operation was a wonderful challenge and opportunity. God must have a great sense of humor — to put a couple of landlubbers from Texas in charge of developing the most beautiful water resort for kids in all the world!” Sewell left Young Life in 1962 and moved to Seattle to work at the University Presbyterian Church under Dr. Robert Boyd Munger. He later joined the Presbyterian Counseling Service, and was named Pastoral Counselor of the Year by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He helped many people with

“That first year of operation was a wonderful challenge and opportunity. God must have a great sense of humor — to put a couple of landlubbers from Texas in charge of developing the most beautiful water resort for kids in all the world!” — Bob Mitchell Sewell and his wife, Loveta.

It was during those early years of the Gainesville club when Sewell met Loveta “Vettie” Murphy, the first club kid Rayburn ever led to Christ. Sewell and Vettie were married on Oct. 20, 1941, by … Jim Rayburn. Out of those early clubs came kids like Roy Riviere, Tom Bade and Tom Raley. Emile Cailliet, in his 1963 book Young Life, remarked, “Thus out of this early period of activity in one small area of East Texas emerged, under the influence of Add Sewell, three of the most effective missionaries to high school youngsters.”

personal and family counseling until his retirement at age 80. Speaking at Sewell’s funeral in September, Mitchell remarked, “He’s gone now, physically, but his presence and influence will never leave us. And he is in the presence of that One he taught us to worship.” The late Tom Raley, who became a Christian in Sewell’s club in Pittsburg, Texas, once said, “I don’t remember much of what Add said or specific lessons, but I do remember perfectly how much I sensed his love for me. I learned about the way God loved me because of the way Add loved me.”

20 / WINTER 2009

WE’RE BRINGING TOGETHER YOUNG LIFE COMMITTEE CHAIRS AND AREA DIRECTORS TO BE ENCOURAGED AND TRAINED. Why? Committees are a vastly underutilized resource in areas reaching more kids. At the Summit, we seek to strengthen the committee/area director partnership to reach every kid in our respective communities. We want to share pictures and tools for how committees can dramatically enhance the scope, depth and quality of work in every area.

“I’ve always gone home from training conferences with great ideas but no one to encourage me with them. Now, we’re going home committed to them together. This is awesome.” — Brian Powell (Area Director, Westfield, N.J.)



Have you ever considered working at the Service Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.?

As Young Life’s administrative core, the Service Center equips both camping and field staff to fulfill Young Life’s mission. This is a great way to serve the ministry. Check out any open positions at — click on “Types of Jobs” and then choose “Service Center Jobs.” If you have any questions, please e-mail Human Resources at


Serving xYcoeullnegnce with E

Since 1941

WINTER 2009 / 21


PARTING SHOTS A collection of photos from the field

Mom and daughter enjoy the week of their lives at Lake Champion’s YoungLives camp.

These Northern Kentucky guys, dreaming of winter a little early, build a summer snowman at Timber Wolf Lake.


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Super Blob Man flying through the air at Lost Canyon.

Just one of the many sights you’ll see during a week of camp is groups of kids building human pyramids, like this one at SharpTop Cove in Georgia. (Notice how the smiles seem to increase the higher up you are in the pyramid ...) These WyldLife girls enjoyed a houseboat trip on Lake Powell with Young Life’s RMR: Backcountry.

Cabin time gone wild when this group of guys gets ready for cabin competition fun at Washington Family Ranch.

Portsmouth, Va., kids chillin’ in the snow at club.

22 / WINTER 2009

Young Life’s Trail West Family Camp in Buena Vista, Colo., offers a true family vacation, with activities designed to draw you and your family closer to God and to each other in a fresh, winsome and adventurous way. Call us to find out why families say it was “the best week of our lives!”

“Our kids said it was better than Disney World ... We will treasure the memories!”

Call us for more information STILL TAKING at (719) 395-2477. Or visit RESERVATIONS FOR SUMMER 20


— Trail West Guest




P.O. Box 520 Colorado Springs, CO 80901 ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED

Crooked Creek, Frontier and Trail West are available for ski trips. For more information go to or call (719) 381-1839.

Relationships Winter 2009  

Relationships is a publication of Young Life, a mission devoted to introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their fa...

Relationships Winter 2009  

Relationships is a publication of Young Life, a mission devoted to introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their fa...