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Relationships WINTER 2011

Twin sisters find their place in Young Life Capernaum. pg. 9 Memphis Young Life unites! pg. 11 Brandon Heath: An alumni and friend. pg. 15

CONTENTS IN THE FACE OF DOUBT One teenager’s slow and steady journey to Christ and the leaders who showed him the way.


Three brothers embrace a new life through a WyldLife leader’s care.


Twin sisters find their place in Young Life Capernaum.








Bringing worlds together in the home of the blues.

BRANDON HEATH (Q AND A) An Alumni and Friends interview with contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Brandon Heath.


PICTURES FROM CAMP Some highlights on our efforts to provide world-class camping for every kid around the world.

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YOUNG LIFE MAKES THE PGA Lee Janzen and Don Pooley help shine the spotlight on Young Life.

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From the President In Your Own Words Young Life Lite Young Life Online From the Grapevine Parting Shots


AN OPEN INVITATION Patient persistence draws a kid into Young Life leadership.



Friday night lights. Every week, all over the world you can see countless variations of this scene as leaders do what we call “contact work.” Simply put, contact work is the act of going to where kids are to build bridges of friendship with them. And this doesn’t just happen on Friday nights – any day of the week you can find caring adults spending time with kids to demonstrate their genuine interest in what’s going on in their lives. From school plays in Nebraska to pick-up soccer games in Tanzania to coffee shops in Munich, leaders spend countless hours getting to know kids “with no expectations of who they should be, but with every hope for who they can become.” Photo by Hailey Carrillo




his year I have been enjoying a daily devotional that meeting with Him, walking with Him in all circumstances, etc. I’ve incorporated into a portion of my quiet time in the My friend is a former professional golfer, so guess what? Jesus mornings. The book is titled Jesus Calling by Sarah Young to him looks like a very wise and kind teaching pro. Jesus is and I recommend it highly. She writes from the perspective not wearing a robe; He’s wearing golf attire. The word picture that each day Jesus is talking directly to you in the helps my friend more intimately relate to Jesus. first person. Regardless of the tools we use to help us “see” Jesus, On Sept. 5, she began with this line and, remember, how do we relate to a friend? We spend time with a friend. she’s using the image of Jesus talking to us, “I am your best Time usually cements and deepens a friendship. We share friend as well as your king.” One passage Sarah selects is John the interior of our hearts — our deepest thoughts with Him. 15:13-15 where Jesus talks to His disciples about His friendship We take the time to know His heart as well. What’s on Jesus’ with them and us. Verse 15 concludes with, “I no longer call mind? What brings Him joy? How can we bring pleasure to you servants, because servants do not know their master’s Him by the way we live out our lives? Obedience is one way. business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that “You are my friends, if you do what I command you” (John I learned from my Father, I 12:14). If a close friend have made known to you.” told us to do what he How does a person commanded us to do, relate to another living we might take offense. being who is both a king But not if he were also and a friend? As people our king. living in a free country, we As I’ve thought about don’t have a reference to Jesus as king and friend, I being a subject to an allkeep coming back to the powerful ruler who calls image of the mighty lion, the shots and is clearly in Aslan, the Christ figure in control. But let’s suppose C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles we did. How would we of Narnia. A lion (although relate to a king? I’ve certainly never met With deference, one like this in a zoo or for starters. With great on a trip to Africa) could respect. And probably be an enormous kitten, with some fear. With all fluffy and furry. When tremendous humility. With we felt the need for the sense that the king emotional support, we holds the keys to our life or could bury our head in his If a close friend told us to do what he our death, our prosperity or mane and be comforted commanded us to do, we might take our poverty — whether it be by his kind words and spiritual, material, physical, offense. But not if he were also our king. loving strength. But he is psychological, mental, etc. also the mighty king of Even if he were a great friend, we would choose our words a the jungle with fangs and claws and a horrendous roar. And little more carefully in his presence because, after all, he is the when we stand in his presence, we are awestruck. king. We might even need to remind ourselves, “He’s the king; Jesus is our Lord and friend. No question about it. The we’re not.” And my guess is that we would be very grateful Bible tells us He’s both. Now we just need to walk with Him that we had a friendship with him. and get to know both aspects of our Savior. And, in Young Although most of us don’t understand the nuances Life, that’s what we’re helping kids to understand as we draw of relating to a king, we have a sense that we understand closer to Jesus ourselves. friendship. But some of us, myself included, have a harder time understanding a friendship with a person we know but Denny Rydberg do not see. I have a friend who has tried to overcome that by Young Life President imagining Jesus in the flesh and creating an image of Jesus — 2 / WINTER 2011

IN YOUR OWN WORDS Our readers share their thoughts

What a Feeling! I don’t think you realize how much of an impact Young Life has made in my life. I leave every camp, every club, every Campaigners, anything that has to do with Young Life feeling completely whole and so happy. I had the best week of my life at Crooked Creek this past summer and cannot wait to go back for a whole month as a work crew member next year. — Cindy Nguyen, on Facebook

No Tipping Needed I love how Young Life work crew and staff members always listen to you and everybody, especially when they don’t get paid. I was tempted to give our waiter a tip, but we can’t do that at camp. That’s how awesome the workers and staff are! This was my last year [in WyldLife] and I’m now motivated to be a leader! Thanks, Young Life!!! (Also, what age do I have to be to become a leader?) — Brendon, 14, Washington

The Most Important Thing The Young Life program changed my life. When I was a teenager with so much going on in my life, I needed something to hold on to. Jesus was and is that in my life. I attended camp at Windy Gap and SharpTop Cove. It was such a blessing to return as a member of work crew, where I was able to learn what it truly meant to become a servant and to meet and work with new people. I am in the military and married now, but if there was a way for me to work with kids just like I was, to make the same impact that was made on my life on theirs, it would be an honor. I know that coming to know the Lord and learning to walk with Him is the most important thing in my human life. Without Jesus, functioning would be utterly impossible. — David Cooley, Oceanside, Calif.

Always a Young Lifer Hey guyz!!! I am a certified Young Lifer … being a Young Life member is the COOLEST and Young Life is the most AMAZING organization I’ve ever seen … I hope this organization will help more and more youth in this generation … to be good and successful leaders someday … a Young Lifer is always a Young Lifer. — Gilbert Silva, the Philippines, on Facebook

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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You receive Relationships because of your support of the ministry. If you haven’t been able to give in a while, or would like to know how to support Young Life online, you can go to Thank you for your partnership in caring for kids!

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

Copy Editor Jessica Williams Designer/Illustrator Luke Flowers Contributing Photographer Hailey Carrillo

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

YOUNG LIFE LITE By Jeff Chesemore


Sharing the love of Christ through laughter

oung Life camp is full of interruptions. From “spur of the moment” activities to program characters showing up unannounced, a signature of the camping experience is the element of surprise. Part of the fun of Young Life is learning to expect the unexpected. And few things are more unexpected than the appearance of a bright green man! “An alien” you might be thinking to yourself. Oh, he’s “alien” all right, just not the kind you’re picturing. He’s not from another galaxy, planet or country — just another state of mind. This creature seemingly appears from out of nowhere — accompanied only by the sounds of funky rhythms. His mission quickly becomes clear — he’s here to dance. Completely silent and green, this “random” dancing machine is quite literally “a mover and a shaker.” In reality, though, the appearance of Green Man is not random at all, but a very strategic move by program directors at various camps. A relatively new character on several program fronts, Green Man is a silent friend to every kid in camp. He’s part entertainment director, dancer, mood lifter and energy inducer. Look closer, though, and you’ll find him to be a joy-spreading personality, who raises the spirits of those around him. Nowhere was this made more clear than during Young Life Capernaum camp at NorthBay*. Steve Rawls, area director for Rockbridge County, Va., and one of the program directors for the week, said, “Our only goal with Green Man was that kids would laugh and be engaged. We wanted him to be a reoccurring theme throughout the week. We figured our Capernaum friends would connect well and respond to him.” The connection was indeed powerful. Like all kids, it took the Capernaum campers a little while to warm up to the green being, but they quickly grew to love him. “When he first popped out and started dancing, they just didn’t know how to respond,” Rawls said, “but then every time Green Man came out, kids cheered and danced.” The reason for his popularity is not lost on John Köehler, Capernaum advisor and volunteer leader in Hampton Roads, Va. “Green Man had no purpose other than to be there, to be happy, to dance and to cause others to feel the same way, or even better than him. Because when we put ourselves down below others, the net effect is that they are lifted, and not the lowest carving on the totem pole. Green Man [was] the servant leader happily dancing his way to the bottom of the pole.” Perhaps that’s why Green Man is so significant to kids with disabilities. We might think they’d struggle to relate with him because he’s a dancer, yet he actually resonates

more deeply with them through the freedom in his dance. Köehler explained, “We roll and walk in feeling the weight of our disabilities and wishing they would run away and leave us in peace, leave us alone. But then Green Man comes and dances around happily even though he can’t speak. He is so happy and his happiness causes us to forget our unhappiness and even the way that our legs don’t work quite right.” Just as the Gospel is beautiful in its simplicity, so is the embodiment of joy in a silent, dancing green friend.

Just as the Gospel is beautiful in its simplicity, so is the embodiment of joy in a silent, dancing green friend. “Sometimes our coolest and most random ideas,” Köehler said, “are Holy Spirit ideas we try to package in a costume of our own making. Green Man was like the Holy Spirit, slightly frightening at first, but then contagious and then you laugh and then ... you dance.” *Capernaum is Young Life’s ministry with kids with disabilities and NorthBay is a camp located on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, which Young Life uses throughout the year. 4 / WINTER 2011

IN e face th T B U O f D o V

inny Paiva was a good kid with a good life. Known as “Brazilian Thunder” to his friends on his soccer team, Vinny was a star on the field. Vinny was a popular high school student, but stayed away from the party scene. He always had a girl on his arm and a smile on his face. Vinny’s life was full — not only full of success, but deep down, full of questions and doubt. Despite all his achievements, there was one thing he didn’t have and wasn’t sure he wanted: a relationship with Jesus. But God was working and used faithful WyldLife, Young Life, and Young Life College leaders to help Vinny finally gain what he’d been missing all along.

How the journey began

Vinny was in seventh-grade in 2003 when he moved from Florida to Lexington, Ky. A friend invited him to WyldLife club and Vinny said he “immediately fell in love.” Vinny loved WyldLife so much, he continued on to Young Life in high school. The people he met made an impact, but God was about as real to him as the man in the moon. His freshman year, Vinny met Micah Poston — a volunteer leader for Lafayette High School — and John Bunch. John and Vinny were teammates, but off the field their lives went in different directions. “I was wild, and he was laid back,” John admitted. “I think Vinny went to Young Life more than I did. We didn’t hang out outside of soccer. We had different groups of friends.” Poston remembers meeting Vinny at club one night. He and his girlfriend came nearly every week. Poston developed a friendship with Vinny, but says it was superficial. “I always suspected Vinny needed Jesus, but I saw a kind-hearted, fun-loving kid who didn’t have a whole lot of walls built up,” Poston recalled. “Some kids you really have to fight to get to know, and they always have a scowl on WINTER 2011 / 5

By Leslie Strader

One teenager’s slow and steady journey to Christ and the leaders who showed him the way.

their face. Vinny was not like that. He was always smiling.” Vinny’s junior year was a turning point, Poston said. Vinny signed up for a weekend camp, and that’s when Poston first saw something stir inside him. “I saw the Holy Spirit working on Vinny during that camp,” Poston said. “After that, he would come over to our house or sit in my office and we’d talk about the Gospel. He was filling up his life with soccer, but he was starting to see if he blew his knee, everything he was investing his life in was down the toilet. “Vinny’s always been very honest. He’s a good critical thinker, but also able to open up and admit, ‘I don’t get this.’ I remember thinking several times, ‘Vinny is about to grasp it,’ but it never happened.” Vinny says he was curious about spiritual things, but didn’t want to be a hypocrite. “I believed there was a God, but everything else was up in the air,” Vinny said. “I’d debate with my friends and ask them to prove it to me. I didn’t want to be the kid who came back from camp and said one thing and did something else. I needed a concrete reason to believe or I knew I wouldn’t stick with it.”

One step ahead

While Vinny waded through his doubts, God stayed one step ahead of him. The summer before Vinny attended the weekend camp, John, his teammate, signed up for a week at Rockbridge (Young Life’s camp in Virginia). There, he accepted Christ as his Savior, and his life radically changed. John’s new lifestyle attracted the “good kid” that Vinny tried to be. The pair started hanging out more. After graduation, they both headed to the University of Kentucky and decided to room together. “Vinny knew me before I was a Christian, and he knew what I was about coming in to rooming with me,” John said.

“I wasn’t going to go in and not talk about the Gospel. That’s just not my personality. But I would do it in a gentle way.” John jumped into Young Life College and became a volunteer leader at Bryan Station High School. At night, while studying or playing video games, the roommates’ conversation would turn from soccer and girls to God. “Vinny always started the conversation, and it always led back to faith,” he said. “I was just making sure we built our relationship and got to know each other well. All of it led to deeper purposes. God was definitely working.”

Doubt dissolves

John didn’t want to pressure his friend into “religion,” but decided to take a chance and invite Vinny to his Young Life College Bible study. “I really went just to hang out with those guys,” Vinny said. “I remember them being so happy. It was the one thing they had in common. I knew supposedly why, but I didn’t believe it.” That night, the group studied John 3 and 4: Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Vinny said the community he saw in Young Life College coupled with the grace of God he read about in Scripture finally overwhelmed him. “Nicodemus had to look at Christ before he would believe,” Vinny explained. “I realized I didn’t need to put God in a position to have to step out and show me a miracle for me to believe. I have a great life; everything about it is really easy. The only thing I really had was doubts.”

“I really went just to hang out with those guys. I remember them being so happy. It was the one thing they had in common. I knew supposedly why, but I didn’t believe it.” — Vinny Paiva

happen without the Holy Spirit breaking into his life through the power of God’s Word.” Last spring, Vinny went through leadership training and, in June, he took a cabin of high school guys to Castaway (Young Life’s camp in Minnesota). He calls his conversion “ordinary” compared to his roommate’s radical transformation. But John knows Vinny’s story has a power all its own. “There are tons of kids who find themselves at rock bottom, where they have to reach up,” John said. “But so many people are just on the fence, trying to figure it out. “People need to hear that Vinny was just another person on earth, seeking purpose for his life, and he found it in Jesus. A dramatic story doesn’t make you any more of a Christian than anybody else. Some of the disciples were just fishermen. They weren’t doing anybody harm; they were just fishing. But they changed the entire world.” For more information about Young Life College, please go to

Top: Vinny Paiva Middle: On the receiving end of a whipped cream attack at camp. Bottom: Vinny (middle) with friends from the University of Kentucky.

When they got back home, during their late-night conversation, Vinny told John he’d accepted Christ. “I don’t know what that means,” Vinny told him, “but I’m going to try to find out.”

No ordinary faith

For six months, Vinny met weekly with Marshall Wilmhoff, director of Young Life College for the University of Kentucky, where his skepticism turned into a passion for learning about God. Wilmhoff said Vinny’s story illustrates the importance of Young Life leaders staying faithful while letting the Holy Spirit work. “This is a classic case of loving kids whatever their response,” Wilmhoff said. “I don’t think Micah (Vinny’s leader in high school) spent dozens of hours with Vinny; I think he was just loving and faithful to pray for him. “This story shows the value of college-age leaders loving their friends on campus, but I also think it couldn’t 6 / WINTER 2011

Three brothers embrace a new life through a WyldLife leader’s care. By Ned Erickson



hange takes different forms. Seasons change. Moods change. People change. At Southwind (Young Life’s camp in Ocklawaha, Fla.) we see a lot of change. Every summer, kids from around the country change there. They leave transformed after experiencing this God who is head-over-heels in love with them. But the change in Allen, Bernard and Tirus Seals took everyone by surprise. In June, the three brothers went to Southwind with Greater Athens (Georgia) WyldLife (Young Life’s ministry for middle schoolers). Allen, the leader; Bernard, the thoughtful; Tirus, the boisterous — they came from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Athens. They were like many other kids from their neighborhood: growing up with no father, living with their grandmother, their mother having gone away to find work and start over. Two years ago, John Yasenchok, a college student at the University of Georgia and a WyldLife leader, met them outside their apartment. He was picking up one of their friends for club and invited them along. They came without hesitation. “When you go to the inner city to pick up kids for WyldLife, everyone wants to come!” laughed Yasenchok. Coming across town to WyldLife was one thing, going hundreds of miles to central Florida was another. However, Yasenchok had earned their trust and, after some work, he was able to reach their mother by phone to ask her permission. When he called, “She stopped me mid-sentence,” recalled Yasenchok. “She told me she had become a Christian. She had been praying for those boys since she left — for someone to rise up in Athens and walk with them.” At Southwind, the boys had the week of their lives. They had endless fun WINTER 2011 / 7

Left: John Yasenchok at Southwind with his three favorite brothers: Allen, Tirus and Bernard. Below: Allen drives for the basket. Bottom of page: Tirus strikes a pose.

“She stopped me mid-sentence. She told me she had become a Christian. She had been praying for those boys since she left — for someone to rise up in Athens and walk with them.”

— John Yasenchok

engaging with the program, playing basketball and shooting down the 250-foot waterslide. They were blown away by speaker Julie Clapp’s creative talks. And over the week, change took place. It happened in a quiet moment for Allen. “We were sitting in the room after hearing Julie tell us about the cross. Allen went off by himself. He was so solemn,” remembered Yasenchok. “It was like I was watching transformation happen before my eyes.” Bernard’s change took on a different form. Jessica Condit, the area director for Greater Athens, watched, astounded: “He was out with the work crew. Of all the things he could be doing, he was laying sod! Later, I asked him about it. He just told me that he wanted to help.” “I remember Tirus distinctly,” said Yasenchok about the third brother, “he was helping put bags on the bus. During the ride, he asked me if I wanted a Capri Sun. When he came back holding two, he asked me which one I wanted. He gave me the grape. It was things like that. Something had changed.” For Allen, Bernard and Tirus Seals that change took on different forms. One brother cried; another served; a third put others before himself. Each responded to a God who was and is and always will be head-over-heels in love with them. For more information about WyldLife, please go to

YOUNG LIFE ONLINE Connect with the mission @

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New Trustees Young Life is governed by a Board of Trustees, whose ultimate responsibility is to control and conduct the affairs of the organization. The Young Life Board recently welcomed two new trustees — John Brandon and Mark Zoradi, both of whom will serve on the Board for the next four years. To see more about our newest trustees, read the full story online at Select “news” in the “Take me to” drop-down menu on the home page.

Find Us on Facebook! On Sept. 13, Lisa Buhler Milton became Young Life’s 50,000th fan! Here’s a little of what she had to say: “I am definitely a big fan of Young Life as I love that they do all things with excellence for the Lord!” Here’s what some other friends have to say about Young Life:

Melissa Harkness: Young Life has completely flipped my life RIGHTSIDE UP!

YoungLives Our last issue of Relationships featured a picture from our YoungLives ministry on the cover. The cover prompted readers to ask where they might find stories about our ministry to teenage moms. To read more, go to and click on “YoungLives.” On the YoungLives home page, click on “YoungLives Stories.”

Julie Piper: I will never forget my

Young Life camp experience in 1984. Coming to know Jesus Christ at Saranac Village was an experience that has changed my life forever. What great times!

Davia Walters: Young Life rocks my socks off!! Had the BEST time last week!!!!!!

Jim Gray: Young Life had a huge

In the World of Kids Video The In the World of Kids video is a compelling tool for communicating the mission of Young Life. To view this video, go to and click on the “Launch Video” graphic in the “Young Life in Action” box.

impact on my life as a 17-year-old. Twenty-four years later the fire still burns.

Jacob Johnson: Young Life is good, God is great and can I go back to camp now, please? Gisela Chiotti: I was part of Young Life back in ’85 located in Lima, Peru ... the best years ever ... God bless you guys.

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By Jeff Chesemore

Twin sisters find their place in Young Life Capernaum. Above: Rebecca and Ashley Garriott Right: Kara Kawanami, front left, and her group prepare to leave for Lost Canyon.


n a Sunday morning in May 2009, a devastated Regina Garriott walked out of church in the middle of the service. That morning she listened as both kids and adults spoke glowingly of how their church camp experiences had made Jesus even more real to them. The mother of twin girls with autism, Garriott was crushed by the thought that going away to camp would never be a reality for her daughters. “There was no way John and I could see it happening with Ashley and Rebecca’s dietary restrictions, medications and other issues,” Garriott said. “I didn’t see how I’d feel good about sending them away for a weekend. I envisioned we’d be getting a call [to come pick them up] at 8:00 the first evening. It just seemed like a huge impossibility.” A month later a new Young Life Capernaum ministry was born in Garriott’s town of Orange, Calif. Having learned about Young Life’s ministry with kids with disabilities from a pastor at the church, she called the Capernaum director, Kara Kawanami. “Kara was just so positive about meeting Ashley and Rebecca,” Garriott remembered about the interaction. This passion reaffirmed Garriott’s decision to have her daughters check out the group. While Garriott admits the twins, aged 14, were a little nervous to try something new, their apprehensions melted away as the girls embraced the fun, games and club talks wholeheartedly. They also warmed up to the leaders pretty quickly. “It was such an overwhelmingly incredible experience to go to Capernaum club,” Garriott said, “because

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there were all these incredible volunteers who couldn’t wait to meet our kids and tell them how much Jesus loves them. That meant so much to us. “They were so excited because they found a place where they fit, where people were not just tolerating them but loving them. It’s really incredible because so often you see your kids sitting on the side and sometimes people are very neutral toward them. They may not be as accepting or engaging because it’s a little more work to build a relationship with someone who doesn’t respond the same way their typical peers will.” By the end of their first Capernaum meeting the sisters were asking, “When’s the next one? We want to come back!”

No problem!

The girls quickly became regulars at Capernaum, making it to every club that fall. When they heard the group would be attending a winter weekend at Oakbridge (Young Life’s camp in Southern California), there was no question about whether they wanted to go.

“They were so excited because they found a place where they fit, where people were not just tolerating them but loving them.” — Regina Garriott

Their mom, however, wasn’t on board just yet. “The next thing I hear is that there’s a winter camp and we already know the camp thing isn’t going to work,” Garriott laughed. “I told Kara the questions I had and explained about all the different situations that might come up and she just kept responding, ‘No problem! No problem!’” Kawanami said, “Regina was a little reluctant, but she wanted to give her daughters the experience.” The step of faith paid off — Ashley and Rebecca loved the weekend at Oakbridge. Rebecca would often say, “I cry when I think about camp because I miss it so much!” “Regina and John were blown away that their girls could attend camp on their own, something they thought impossible six months ago,” Kawanami said. The trip also marked the first time in 14 years the couple had sent the girls off by themselves. Garriott remembered, “John and I looked at each other and said, ‘Wow! What do we do? Our girls aren’t here!’ Childcare is difficult and we don’t tend to have many date nights but this trip provided us with a date weekend! It was really special.”

Amazing place

After returning from Oakbridge, it came as no surprise when Ashley and Rebecca proclaimed, “We can’t wait to go to summer camp!” The first ones to sign up, the twins were counting down the days to camp months in advance. This time the Garriotts sent them off to Young Life’s Lost Canyon in Arizona without any reservations. They knew the leaders would care for the twins and all of their medical and dietary needs. “Someone even provided a scholarship,” Garriott said, “which was very helpful, because when you have children with special needs, life can be very financially taxing with the extra expenses.”

Arriving at camp, the girls were not disappointed. That week Ashley constantly exclaimed, “This place is amazing!” while Rebecca marveled, “I can’t believe this camp was made just for me!” From riding on the swing to swimming in the pool to enjoying God, His love and His beautiful creation, the girls were beside themselves with joy, Kawanami said. Both Ashley and Rebecca happily announced, “We had the best week of our lives here!”


While Young Life Capernaum has inspired Ashley and Rebecca’s faith, their involvement has also changed the group. “The Garriott family has become Young Life’s biggest fan in the area,” Kawanami said. “They’ve really talked up Capernaum and that’s helped our group grow. They’re great ambassadors for us in the church and the community!” When asked what she would tell other parents of kids with disabilities when considering Capernaum, Garriott quickly responded, “Just do it! This is not just a place to drop your kids off — this is a place where people are passionate about showing the love of Jesus to your child. They’re actively going out of their way and seeking your child. It’s so worth it. It’s something that every teen with a disability should give a chance. What a huge opportunity — I would hate for them to miss out on that.” “I’ve seen a lot more joy in Ashley and Rebecca now. They see it’s OK to be a Christian. This is where they belong and where they have a sense of community. Capernaum gives them something to look forward to and I think every kid needs that.” For more information about Young Life Capernaum, please go to

Clockwise from top left: The Tustin, Calif., ladies all decked out at Lost Canyon; Kids and leaders at Easter club; John, Ashley, Rebecca and Regina Garriott.

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Bringing worlds together in the home of the blues. By Chris Lassiter

They still have a dream.


he city of Memphis boasts mouth-watering barbecue and world-class blues music. It‘s where the “king” Elvis Presley called home, and many families nationwide have found hope at the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The city is also home to the infamous Lorraine Motel, the site of one of the most horrific acts in the history of American race relations. “I was leading the Young Life club at Central High School when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated,” Memphis Metro Director Brad Baker said. “The racial division that happened in our city then was overwhelming.” The city is still marred by racial tensions, but there’s hope inside the I-240 Beltway. The Young Life leaders in Memphis are doing their part to combat that division. Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the city’s various, racially diverse Young Life groups came together for a special camp trip to Windy Gap, Young Life’s camp in North Carolina. “It was such an exciting weekend,” lifelong Memphis resident Nancy Holcomb said. “We think God is tearing down walls of prejudice, and it’s in Christ and Christ alone.”

A new chapter

In 1943, the First Evangelical Church in Memphis brought in Jim Rayburn to speak at a camp in Shelby Forest. That sparked the beginning of Young Life in the city. Nancy Holcomb’s family has been involved with Memphis Young Life from day one. “Nancy’s mother, when she was in high school, heard about Jim Rayburn,” said Hamp Holcomb, Nancy’s husband. “She and two other ladies from Central High School had Jim Rayburn come to Memphis. Nancy‘s family has been involved with Young Life for [nearly] 70 years now.” Over the years, both traditional and urban models of Young Life have flourished in Memphis. However, the ministries have flourished somewhat independently. Until recently. Last year, Memphis Young Life leaders made the agonizing decision to permanently cancel the annual ski trip to Colorado, a beloved tradition

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for nearly 40 years. Longtime leaders like Baker watched scores of kids give their lives to Christ on those ski trips. In addition to the difficult but necessary decision, the leaders also decided to replace the ski trip with a camping trip. That opened the door for a city-wide trip over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. “We decided to bring their worlds together,” said Jonathan Torres, co-area director of Memphis Multicultural/Urban Young Life. “We weren’t intentionally divided. It just happened that way. We wanted to be intentional about bringing them together. We wanted to figure out a way to get kids from all different parts of the city to come together for one camping trip. We got together and made it a reality.”

Walls come tumbling down

Just because something hasn’t been done in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The Memphis Young Life leaders had no promises that the weekend would be a success, but it was a risk they were willing to take. The biggest concern heading into the weekend was designing a program and presentation of the Gospel that would connect with a diverse teenage audience. The forethought that went into making the camp a success was evident throughout the weekend. Whether it was the musical variety provided by Jon Jackson and Drew and Ellie Holcomb, or the carefully selected teams during the field games, the weekend was designed to bring kids together. “Every kid there laughed at the humor and listened to the Gospel,” Baker said. “I think they hit a homerun in making it fit for every kid.” Kids usually arrive at Young Life camp with their walls up. The weekend at Windy Gap, with around 200 white teens and 200 black teens, was no different. The kids were standoffish at first. It wasn’t long, however, before kids had their arms around the person beside them singing the old Jackson Five classic, “I’ll Be There.” Jake Craft, a volunteer leader at suburban St. George’s High School, watched the walls come tumbling down.

“It doesn’t take long for them to take down their walls or their tough guy or pretty girl mask,” Craft said. “They could just be real and have fun and do stupid stuff up front and be shameless about it all. Everything from the music to the games was a really good mix of styles between suburban and urban Young Life camp.” For Jazmine, a senior at Kingsbury High School, the camp trip to Windy Gap exceeded her wildest expectations. “It was the best weekend of my life,” Jazmine said. “Everybody was getting along really well. We got to see different people come from different areas that we wouldn’t see come together. Usually the urban people are always with each other, and the suburban people are always together. It was great to have everyone there together.”

Something in common

As the weekend progressed, kids from urban schools such as Kingsbury and suburban schools like Germantown realized that they weren’t all that different. The teens all shared similar musical tastes. And they can all relate to living in a fallen world. “It’s just cool to see that no matter what school or race, whether you’re out in the country or if you’re in the middle of the downtown inner city, that high school kids have the same problems,” Craft said. “The details differ, but overall they still suffer with the same stuff.” The Gospel and its verbal proclamation have always been essential parts of Young Life camp, just as the lives of the leaders, work crew and summer staff have always served as a living proclamation of the Gospel being shared by the speaker. For one weekend, kids in Memphis experienced another aspect of God’s kingdom. “A lot of walls were torn down for these kids,” Torres said. “We realize in Revelation — every tribe, tongue and nation — there won’t be any people missing. For them to get that small glimpse of heaven, it’s worth the whole weekend for us.” Race relations still have a long way to go in Memphis, but a new day is on the horizon. “It’s taken us a long time to get past that division,” Baker said, “but Memphis, unlike any city I know, has so many ministries working hard to bridge those gaps.”

Top: The Memphis group at camp. Middle left: A group of friends pal it up. MIddle right: Kids strike up the fun with camp games! Above: 12 / WINTER 2011 Club kids unite in song and laughter.

FROM THE GRAPEVINE A fruitful selection of stories from the field

Freedom Behind Bars By Travis Johnson

O.J. Wandrisco

When O.J. Wandrisco was first approached by his regional director, Chris Buda, about taking Young Life to Pittsburgh’s detention centers and alternative high schools, he said no. “It was a prideful response,” he remembered. “You learn a lot when you’re being challenged

to change ministries.” The call refused to lift, however, and soon Young Life took root in the underbelly of Pennsylvania youth culture. “Nobody was doing it, at least not in Pittsburgh,” Wandrisco said. “If we’re going after every kid, then it has to look different because kids are different.” Here, reaching every kid means going to a place where cruelty and violence abound, and often lead to a life behind bars. “Kids are kids,” Wandrisco said, “and these so-called ‘tough kids,’ they’re just dying to talk to somebody.” Wandrisco draws his vision for reaching out to these kids from Micah 6:8, which states, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Two years ago, Wandrisco found himself at Western Psychiatric Institute to meet Jack.* Jack was 15, awaiting trial for attempted murder. For a period of several months, Wandrisco saw Jack twice a week. They often spoke about freedom. “[Jack] had read the Bible,” Wandrisco said. He had tried starting in Genesis, but Wandrisco suggested he start reading in John, the Gospel of Love. “God has a plan for you,” he told Jack. “You have worth, and you have value.” Jack’s trial date approached and his sentence entailed a transfer to another correctional facility two hours away. The distance made visits difficult, but Wandrisco kept in touch. In the spring of 2009, Jack’s mother contacted Wandrisco to tell him Jack had become a Christian. She invited Wandrisco down to the correctional facility for Jack’s graduation. “He got his diploma,” Wandrisco said. With barbed wire for a backdrop, Jack walked onto a stage with a smile beaming on his face. “It was just like a graduation party,” Wandrisco said, “but it was in prison.” After the ceremony, Wandrisco shared a few moments with Jack. Jack said he finally figured out what that freedom they used to talk about really was. “It’s Jesus,” Jack said. Over the last two years, Young Life has spread its reach to three of Pennsylvania’s alternative high schools. “It’s toxic, and it‘s a war zone,” Wandrisco said. “You show up, you love Jesus and you love kids.” Jack’s sentence expires when he turns 21. Wandrisco plans to visit him again soon. *Name has been changed.

WINTER 2011 / 13

Kingdom Bridges By Erika Jay

This summer, Young Life and Compassion International teamed up to bring a sponsored child to camp, and heaven got a Selenia, far left, and little more crowded. her father, back left, For more than 10 years, at Pico Escondido. Mike and Gina Drexler, staff at Young Life’s Service Center in Colorado Springs, have sponsored Selenia, a young lady from Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program, in the Dominican Republic. Over the years they’d written to her and seen her grow up through pictures. After the Drexlers visited Selenia in May 2010, they decided they wanted to send her to a local Young Life camp. “After our trip we were thinking about how cool it would be to send her and four or five of her friends to camp at Pico Escondido [Young Life’s camp in the Dominican Republic],” Mike recalled. It wasn’t long before the Compassion country office and Katie Felix in Young Life’s Dominican Republic office were talking. A week before camp, Felix e-mailed that everything was set and the trip was a go. It was even funded by Young Life’s Campership Legacy Fund, part of the Reaching a World of Kids initiative, and other sources in the mission. But there was a surprise around the corner. God had plans for more than just Selenia at camp — He was about to make it a family affair. “Gina and I were so excited that everything worked out. While we were praying for her and her friends’ week at camp, little did we know that there was a communications mix up and she took her dad and little sister to camp with her rather than her friends,” Mike said with a smile. Felix shared that the camp staff weren’t quite sure what to do with Selenia’s dad at first, but they took advantage of the Lord bringing him there and welcomed him just like the kids. Because of God’s leading, the Drexlers’ listening, and Compassion and Young Life’s ability to work together, Selenia and her dad both met Jesus that week. “Selenia’s dad had a total life change at camp. He walked away a new person,” Felix shared. How awesome to know lives have changed and heaven has rejoiced as God used kingdom bridges to walk Selenia’s family to the foot of the cross.

The Foundation that Prayer Built By Cory Bordonaro

Jim Rayburn, Young Life founder, used to say that within one mile of every high school in Cambridge, Md., guys at Lake Champion. America, there are enough Christians to reach that school for Christ. Dave Etling, area director for Eastern Shore Maryland Young Life, has seen this firsthand. Back in the spring of 2007, Etling had been praying about a new chapter in his ministry. Unbeknownst to him, 10 hours away, a group of believers calling themselves the Maryland Keymakers was meeting in Cambridge to pray for the marginalized teenagers in their town. A little more than two years later, after being assigned to oversee Young Life in Cambridge, Etling walked into a Keymakers’ prayer meeting. He soon began to see that God had been laying the groundwork for Young Life through these pastors, a dentist and other faithfully prayerful people.

The group had been praying for an organization to come into the community and meet the needs of teenagers. “The [Keymakers] were just looking for that specific tool that would be most effective,” Etling said, “and they found it in Young Life.” Out of the group, Etling formed a solid committee of supporters. Soon, new-to-town young professionals were volunteering to lead at the high school and hefty financial gifts were coming in, before the team had even begun contact work at the school. When the Young Life leadership did start meeting kids at the school, it wasn’t long before a dozen of them had signed up for summer camp — all before the first club! “The whole thing is the power of the spirit of prayer, how things come together because people are praying,” Etling said. In the summer of 2010, Etling was part of a group of leaders who took more than 30 kids to camp, during two separate trips. He is still in awe of the way God is working in Maryland. “God has been healing some things here,” Etling said, “and pulling together the like-minded people who want to make an impact on teenagers’ lives.”

Parking Lot Praise By Cory Bordonaro

God works in mysterious ways, sometimes even on highways. After the first year of Young Life ministry in Fallbrook, Calif., Area Director Rob Broyles and other leaders took a group of nine high school students to Woodleaf, Young Life’s camp in Northern California. “They were all totally blown away and had the best week of their lives,” Broyles said. “These guys and gals were not expecting anything they experienced. It was truly life changing for them.” One student in particular had been on an arduous journey. Substance abuse and unrest at home led David to drop out of school before the year was over. But, when club started up in February of 2010, David was there. “With all the love he was getting from the leaders, God just drew him right into club,” said Broyles. “He came along from the very beginning and didn’t miss a Monday.” David was also the first to sign up for camp and was one of the six guys who gave their lives to Christ while there. “The whole thing is a huge testimony to relationship, to contact work, to walking alongside these kids,” said Broyles. While the girls were also having a great time at camp, leader Ryan Harvey said they were “digging their heels in,” against the Gospel. During the car ride home, though, Broyles said they realized “they didn’t want to go down the road they were going down anymore and they wanted to change.” When the caravan of cars stopped for gas a couple of hours north of San Diego, Broyles was bombarded with news that the three girls had received Christ. “They all came running up to me, tears streaming down their faces,” he said. “It was a really precious time. We stayed at that gas station for about 20 minutes, our cars just stalled at the pump while we all hugged each other.” Harvey was equally awed by the timing of what God had orchestrated. “We played worship songs in the parking lot and prayed, thanking God for working through the leaders and working in the kids’ hearts.”

Fallbrook ladies prepare for volleyball.

Rob Broyles, back left, with the Fallbrook guys.

14 / WINTER 2011

Schultz, by Jonathan InterviewFri ends director Alumni and

WINTER 2011 / 15

A renowned contemporary Christian singer/ songwriter, Brandon Heath has been awarded the GMA Dove Award for Male Vocalist of the Year in 2009 and 2010. He has three number-one singles: “I’m Not Who I Was,” “Wait and See” and “Give Me Your Eyes,” which won the 2009 GMA Dove Award for song of the year. Jonathan Schultz, director of Alumni and Friends, recently caught up with Heath and the two discussed his deep involvement with Young Life …


hat was life like for you when you were young?

I had two very loving parents. Their marriage didn’t work out, but both were always very loving toward me. According to them, I was a good kid! I didn’t get into a ton of trouble. I was an only child and had plenty of attention from them so I think it was maybe just hard to get into trouble. I had a hard time in school, especially middle school. I don’t know too many adults who loved middle school; for me it was awkward and math gave me a headache. In high school, though, something clicked for me. I think I just decided to apply myself one day and I did. I made some good friends who have remained close through the years, and I learned to play the guitar, which was a good move I think!

How did you become involved with Young Life?

Caroline Baugh and Karen Gray deserve the credit for that. These two attractive young ladies who were friends of mine had been going to club and wouldn’t stop talking about it. They invited me to come along, and the next thing I knew I was signed up to go to camp — Malibu in British Columbia, Canada. That year, 1995, was the only year that Young Life Nashville ever went to Malibu. I’ve been back every summer since and I have a lifelong commitment to that place. I gave my life to Jesus on the ninth hole of the frisbee golf course.

How did you come to Christ?

A guy named Jim Caldwell was the speaker at camp that week. I would say he was the first to share the Gospel with me. But it was my Young Life leaders in Nashville who followed through and kept challenging me. I just had dinner with one of those leaders and his family last week.

What did your faith mean to you then, shortly thereafter and into adulthood?

I had never known hope or love like that of Jesus. It was deeply impactful to me then and almost immediately began a change in my heart toward others, especially my dad, with whom I’d become estranged. Forgiveness is something that transformed me, first from Christ and then my own forgiveness toward others who’d hurt me. I let go of things that I felt entitled to before, like bitterness and revenge. I realized that it can cause a person a lot of distress to hold on to pain and even hurl it toward other people. God captured my heart and my motives toward others. If it’s not to love, it’s not good enough.

What were the most impactful experiences you had with Young Life and/or Young Life leaders?

Campaigners was a big one early on. We met every week and that’s how I learned to “do” the Bible. But the biggest was my time at Malibu. I was an intern there for two summers in a row. I learned about healthy community and met some of the most influential people in my life there. Not surprising, the first people who became fans of my music were in Young Life. They were the ones who not only bought my first recordings, but also urged me to keep going. I have kept going and it’s been an amazing ride. God’s made sure of that.

How have you been involved with Young Life since then, and how has that impacted your life?

My career keeps me very busy and on the road, so being a volunteer leader is out. I do a handful of fundraisers all over the country still. I tell my story to a lot of folks and how Young Life played a big part in that. I shout it from the stage every single night, “Any Young Lifers out there tonight?” Without fail, there always are.

“Kids need to know they’re loved by God. They are searching for a piece of truth, hope, love. Young Life, as far as I’m concerned, wrote the book on how to share that with a kid. Fun and friendship.” — Brandon Heath Why are you an advocate of the Young Life mission today?

It’s obviously made a lasting impression on me. I want people to know how I heard about Jesus first. I make a point in explaining that a ministry like Young Life can reach kids who are the furthest out. I was one of those kids. They’ve been doing it for a long time and the fundamentals haven’t changed. Kids need to know they’re loved by God. They are searching for a piece of truth, hope, love. Young Life, as far as I’m concerned, wrote the book on how to share that with a kid. Fun and friendship.

If you were talking to someone considering involvement with Young Life in some way, what would you say to them?

I would say it’s a lot of work, but you’ll never have more fun and feel more honored to be loved back by a kid. I would stress that each of us have a different gift. To hang out with a kid, your gift doesn’t have to be “I’m good at being goofy on stage” or “I’m really good at singing club songs.” Kids are different from each other, too, and it takes a lot of different personalities and gifts to reach and impact the multitudes. Brandon Heath is just one of thousands of alumni still closely connected to the mission of Young Life. To visit the Alumni and Friends website, join, update your information and reconnect with your Young Life friends, go to 16 / WINTER 2011

Some highlights on our efforts to provide world-class camping for every kid around the world.



detroit lakes, mn

You can’t think about Castaway without remembering the Windjammer. Built in 1914, it carries nearly a century of whispers in its walls. Jim Rayburn even spent significant time there, having built a friendship with C. Gordon Smith, who donated the property to Young Life in 1964. Now, some of the walls are about to come down. As part of a major renovation effort, the upper and basement levels will receive a makeover that will make every level of the Windjammer accessible to everyone who comes to Castaway. Camp Manager Greg Johnson reported that 100 percent of the funding needed to complete the project has already been donated or pledged. Renovations will bring the upper-level work crew housing up to the standards of Young Life’s newer facilities. The main level will receive a new covered entrance. A new basement hallway will connect the game room to the leaders’ lounge and will include a lift that runs all the way up to the work crew housing. “The question has always been, can a work crew kid in a wheelchair be involved in the same community here, and the answer,” Johnson said, “will be yes.”

The Windjammer.


The dining hall includes a game room and club room.


Camps in the Southeast faced a remarkable “problem” this summer: each was filled to capacity and had to turn kids away to other camps. The relief for this “problem” rests right on the border of North and South Carolina. Carolina Point welcomed its first campers this summer, and expects to welcome more in the fall. Though still under development, Carolina Point is poised to meet the growing need in the Southeast. The newly completed dining hall includes a game room, and an expansive club room able to hold up to 250 kids. Nearby waterfalls accentuate an idyllic setting where campers hike, fish and sleep out under the stars. Carolina Point is designed to be completely accessible to every kid, including kids with disabilities. Phase one development, including the construction of two dorms, should be complete by 2012. “This is a camp that is primed for growth,” said Camp Director Greg Carlton.

table rock lake, mo

Acquired in 2000 in anticipation of growing camping needs in the Midwest, our camp in the heart of the Ozarks remains largely undeveloped. However, athletic courts and beautiful waterfront are all Camp Director Pete Fritsch and his team need to provide an exciting, four-day camping experience that requires great creativity but only a small budget. Some of the features look familiar — the property boasts a dining hall and a full-size basketball court — and leaders also utilize the waterfront setting to strike new chords of adventure. Inside 300 acres of Mark Twain National Forest, Clearwater retains the scope and awe of Young Life’s repute, like a hike to the lake under a carpet of stars, and a surprise jump from the dock into 30 feet of water (with a life jacket, of course). The core of the experience, however, still rests in the relationships built with kids. “We try to make an ordinary night something far more extraordinary than kids can ever imagine,” said Fritsch. WINTER 2011 / 17

brevard, nc

Campers enjoy the sand volleyball court.

Camp on Wheels in Africa.


Water features will be completed in the spring.


antelope, or

What began in Antelope, Ore., with the largest donation ever given to Young Life will reach its zenith next summer. A second camp will open at Washington Family Ranch in 2011 developed especially for WyldLife and featuring a no-holds-barred waterpark. Construction began in July 2009. At present, efforts to complete the park are on budget and ahead of schedule. “Water features will be done in a couple of months,” said Camp Manager Andy Squires. The waterpark will hold 350 campers and leaders. Three tube slides will intertwine with one another around a surging four-person racing slide, all crowned by a towering 50-foot thrill slide. The addition of this unique second camp, called Creekside, has generated enormous enthusiasm. “A lot of folks are excited about it,” said Squires. With this expansion, Washington Family Ranch will offer an additional 10 “wet and wyld” camp weeks for middle school campers and one week for YoungLives.


saranac lake, ny

This summer, in celebration of its 40 anniversary, 358 guests returned to Saranac Village to remember and celebrate the countless hours of service from work crew and staff, and the hundreds of thousands of life-changing stories etched in Saranac’s history. Tom Hammon, regional director of Young Life United Kingdom/Ireland, joined Young Life President Denny Rydberg to speak at the event, which also included talks from Rick Rogan (senior regional director in the Greater Northeast), John Wagner (Eastern Division vice president) and Camp Manager Ryan Silvius. Honored guests included former camp managers Pete Gerard, Bob Magee and Bob Wade. “We joyfully welcomed home many,” said Silvius. “It was fantastic.” As part of the celebration, Rydberg and Silvius bestowed a lifetime volunteer service award on Jimmy Clowes, who has served at least two weeks every year at Saranac for the last 23 years. “He’s Saranac Village’s most valued volunteer,” Silvius said. th

Young Life’s international camping efforts continue to reach across the globe. In 2009, more than 300 camp sessions were conducted outside the United States and Canada, a 14 percent increase from the year before. As part of the Reaching a World of Kids initiative, international staff and volunteers work to create a camping experience that combines high adventure, humor, personal relationships with leaders and the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ in a culturally appropriate environment. “That combination is a winner with kids around the globe,” said Dave Carlson, International Camping coordinator. International staff and volunteers are currently working to identify 10 sites around the world to develop Young Life camps. “Every teenager wants to be known,” said Carlson, “and every heart cries out to know their maker.”

The gym at Pico Escondido in the Dominican Republic.

Celebrating 40 years of camping ministry at Saranac Village.

Pico Escondido’s main lodge.

18 / WINTER 2011


he pursuit of lost kids is at the very heart of Young group was going to Rockbridge (in Virginia) for the first Life. But as one North Carolina friendship proves, lives week of the summer, and Gardner made Emily an offer she can also be indelibly changed when a leader builds a couldn’t refuse. She offered to get Emily a scholarship if she relationship with a kid who already knows Christ. would come to camp as a junior leader. “I told her, ‘All you Lisa Gardner was new to Charlotte, N.C., having have to do is love on them like you love on people at church, recently moved there when her husband, Steve, became the and if they ask you about Jesus, you tell them what He’s director for the Carolinas Region. In the sea of strange faces done in your life’,” Gardner said. at Myers Park High School, where she was a volunteer leader, Reluctantly, Emily packed a bag and went to Gardner spotted one junior girl whom she knew from church Rockbridge after graduation — two days late. Still, she — Emily Brafford. proved the In just a age-old Young By Bethany Bradsher short encounter Life sentiment is at church the grounded in truth. week before, It was, she said, Emily had made the best week of an impression her life. on Gardner. She Just days after watched the she got back to teenager interact Charlotte, Emily with people after was calling the the service, and girls from her cabin Patient pe rsistence even though to go to dinner draw into Youn the new tagline and Campaigners. g Life lead s a kid ership. had yet to be That fall when she introduced, she enrolled at High was convinced that Point University, she jumped into the Emily was made Young Life College for Young Life. “I just kind of ministry there, and watched her and now she pours into I was like, ‘She fellow students as knows everybody a leader. And the at this church,’” pivotal point in Gardner said. “She her ministry was was hugging on the day she finally the older ladies, decided to try Young Emily Brafford loving on the little Life, she said. and Lisa Gardner kids, everybody.” ”I just felt When the like the Lord was two ran into each speaking to me, other at Myers saying, ‘You need Park, Gardner to love people naturally invited because I love Emily to club. But them. I put people Emily had tried in your life for a In Young Life, the pursuit is often as much about Young Life before, reason,’” Emily said. finding disciple-makers as it is about making disciples. “Being a Christian when she was a freshman, and she is more than didn’t feel like she fit in there. She liked Gardner, but with just believing. You have to live it out and have an actual relationship with Jesus.” every invitation, she came up with an excuse. For Gardner, her enduring friendship with Emily is an “She tried for a good two years to get me to go, and I important reminder that, in Young Life, the pursuit is often wasn’t having it,” Emily said. But even as she received one rejection after another, Gardner felt compelled to persevere: as much about finding disciple-makers as it is about making disciples. “I was like, ‘I will invite you to everything. You can come to “I feel like there are people out there who are doing nothing or everything, that’s fine.’” Emily graduated from Myers Park in 2008, and she had Young Life anyway with their life,” she said. “And we need to give them an opportunity to do that within this ministry.” never returned to a Young Life event. But the high school’s

WINTER 2011 / 19

By Aimée Kessick



olf enthusiasts may have noticed that the PGA Tour has two very big fans of Young Life. Two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen and Don Pooley, who won the U.S. Senior Open in 2002, have both sported the Young Life logo while competing this year because they love what the mission does, and they’ve also seen God work through Young Life in their own lives.

Lee Janzen

Growing up, Lee Janzen remembers spending a lot of time at church. But soon golf was the priority, and by high school, “I was consumed with golf,” Janzen said. After a college golf career, he joined the PGA Tour in 1989, and since then has won eight tournaments, including two U.S. Opens in 1993 and 1998, and the Players Championship in 1995. But Janzen’s faith foundation didn’t go to waste, and in the mid-1990s, his life with Christ reached a turning point. “The question of how good do I have to be kept gnawing at me. Am I in or am I out? I finally really understood the Gospel and now there’s not a doubt in my mind.” Janzen is excited that Young Life is helping his son and other kids in their community to build a spiritual foundation of their own. When his son attended club the first time, the impact it made on him seemed almost immediate, Janzen said. “It only took one time and he was really into it,” Janzen said, “It’s made an immense difference in his life.” Since then, the Janzens have also hosted Young Life club in their home. “The Janzens are very supportive parents and strong followers of Christ,” said Southwest Orlando Area Director Shannon Watlington. “It’s a great blessing to have their support and encouragement.” The Janzens simply love what Young Life does for kids. “We watched how Young Life accepts everyone,” Janzen said. “Teenagers are so self-conscious, but Young Life goes

out of their way to make sure everyone is accepted.” That’s what Janzen said he loves most about Young Life. Because even he, as a successful professional golfer, has learned that being impressive won’t give anyone the acceptance or fulfillment they’re really after. “I’ve tried to win to impress God. I realized that there’s no way to impress Him. He wants my heart, not my scores.”

Don Pooley

Pooley teed off with Young Life as a high school sophomore in Riverside, Calif., going with his friends on a weekend retreat. The weekend was a blast, Pooley said, yet when it came time for the optional Sunday morning worship service, “I was going to opt out of that one.” Thankfully, Pooley’s friends didn’t take no for an answer, and that morning marked the first day of Pooley’s new life as a follower of Jesus Christ. “The speaker was talking about God in a way I had never heard before,” Pooley said. “I realized it was not enough to just be good. That morning, everything changed. I felt absolutely elated. It was certainly the best decision I ever made.” It’s a decision, he said, that has kept him grounded amid some great successes since going pro in 1973, including winning the B.C. Open in 1980, the 1985 Vardon Trophy, the 1987 Memorial Tournament and making a million-dollar hole-in-one at the 1987 Bay Hill Classic. (Continued on pg. 21) 20 / WINTER 2011

(Continued from pg. 20)

“The speaker was talking about God in a way I had never heard before. I realized it was not enough to just be good. That morning, everything changed. I felt absolutely elated. It was certainly the best decision I ever made.”

— Don Pooley

Over the years, Pooley has generously given back to Young Life in a variety of ways. “Don Pooley, and his brother Dave, have been anchors to Young Life Tucson for more than 20 years,” said Marty Caldwell, vice president of Young Life’s International South Division. “Don helped with some Young Life golf camps in the mid-’80s and he has been a part of the founding group of funders helping Lost Canyon get built. He serves with humility and confidence, always reminding staff and leaders about walking worthy with Christ.” For Pooley, loving Young Life is easy. “They’ll be with anybody. Young Life befriends them all. God’s done a wonderful thing through Young Life. It’s my favorite organization for kids. I will be a supporter for the rest of my life.” So whether we walk world-class fairways or high school hallways, both golfers remind us that our most important fan is cheering for us from the heavenly stands.











PARTING SHOTS A collection of photos from the field

1. Denny Rydberg, far left, spends time with folks from Syracuse North Young Life at Saranac’s 40th -anniversary celebration. 2. Houston Southwest volunteers baby-sit at Lost Canyon’s YoungLives camp. 3. Freckled Alamance County, N.C., Young Lifers. 4. San Francisco WyldLife camp.






Amicus (Young Life’s international student exchange program) kids celebrate in Washington, D.C., after a year in the United States and a camp trip to Rockbridge (Young Life’s camp in Virginia). Elizabeth Jessup, Amicus director, said, “More kids than ever stood up at the Say-So [to publicly declare their new relationship with Christ].”

22 / WINTER 2011





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Relationships Winter 2011  

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

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