Trees have been the livelihood of generations of families in Springfield, Ore. Inside the noisy mills of this timber town, sturdy fir trees are refashioned into pages in a novel or walls in a home.
Over the last 53 years, another kind of transforming work has planted itself firmly in the rich west Oregon soil — the ministry of Young Life.
Today, the ministry's roots run deep, thanks to three dedicated men. Jack Loy, Ron Sauer and Joby Jarvis have, over time, taken their turn shaping teenagers in this community for Christ using the tool of discipleship. In a culture easily swayed, their faithfulness stands firm.
A vision for discipleship
It all began in 1957, the day Jack Loy drove into Springfield with one big idea: get to know high school kids and shape them into disciples for Christ. And for nearly 20 years, that's exactly what he did — all of it as a volunteer.
"Over the years I had the opportunity to go on staff, but never felt like that was what I was supposed to do," Loy explained. "When I went to Springfield to start Young Life it was not with the idea of running a Young Life club. The idea was to build disciples. That was the goal from day one."
For 19 years, Loy taught school, ran his own construction company and oversaw five Young Life clubs within a 40-mile radius of each other. And his discipleship strategy worked — kids met Christ, grew in their faith and led others to do the same. For years, his clubs were the largest in Oregon.
One of those kids was Ron Sauer. Sauer and Loy met in the spring of 1968. Loy was his baseball coach. Loy began to build a relationship with the teenager, who became a faithful club and Campaigner kid.
In 1976, after years of pouring into Sauer's life and then leading Young Life as volunteers together, Loy handed Sauer the reins of the ministry.
"Ron did the things I couldn't do. He was the quintessential contact work guy," Loy said. "My legacy is in guys like Ron. They're the reason it's all worth it."
Sauer said, "Jack believed God raised me up in his footsteps. You have to continually build leaders to replace you. That's part of effective ministry. Since I stepped into the role, my prayer was, 'Who are you going to give me, Lord?'"
Joby Jarvis was a freshman at Thurston High School in 1992 and met Sauer at the first club of the school year. Jarvis said from that time on, Sauer was intentional about inviting him to Campaigners and camps.
After high school graduation, Sauer recruited Jarvis to volunteer at Thurston High. He also met with Jarvis every Sunday night for Bible study. From sapling to maturity, Sauer cultivated his relationship with Jarvis over 13 years. By 2005, he knew Jarvis was his replacement.
"When Ron asked me if I wanted his job, I knew that my gifts and passions lined up with Young Life and that I was supposed to be doing ministry in Springfield," Jarvis said. "I attribute my growth to my discipleship relationship with Ron, just walking through life together. Unless the Lord tells me to do something different, I see myself staying right here."
Come to stay
Today, Jarvis is area director of Greater McKenzie Young Life in Springfield, Sauer is regional developer for Young Life in Oregon and Southwest Washington, and Loy lives a few hours away in Washington.
Throughout these transitions, the goal hasn't changed: longevity in Springfield Young Life.
"I feel called to be in this community for the long term, to put my roots down deep and see how the Lord moves," Jarvis said. "Just because a kid accepts Christ doesn't mean you're done with that kid. It's just the beginning. The history of relationships Young Life has here is pretty powerful."
While not every area needs this kind of constancy, Sauer believes everyone should begin with the end in mind. Don't just plant seeds and pray for the best, he said. Stick around and watch it grow.
"My challenge from when I was a young man was, what would it look like if I planted myself in one place and developed leaders to do that too?" Sauer explained, "Our vision is for the high schools and middle schools, and by focusing on schools and students, we see families touched. Through these, we see neighborhoods touched and the city touched.
"Young Life areas need to have a long-term vision that impacts every day of your ministry. Then, your best days are always ahead."
Alumni and Friends: Relationships Don't End at Graduation!
Jack Loy, Ron Sauer and Joby Jarvis have created a 50-plus-year legacy in Springfield, Ore., that literally stretches around the world. Many of the kids they once worked with now have marriages, children (and grandchildren!). Because of their heart for these former kids, the three men are passionate about a vision that the mission of Young Life also holds sacred: caring for the alumni and friends who have come out of their ministry.
Young Life Alumni and Friends has made great strides this year in its ongoing commitment to live out Young Life's mission statement of "introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith." As kids mature and move into their adult years, we want to stay connected with them and continue to be advocates for their "spiritual best."
Alumni and Friends is committed to ...
- Helping those currently involved with Young Life stay connected to each other and the mission
- Seeking out and reconnecting with those who were once involved in, or impacted by, Young Life
- Seeing the mission reach a world of kids by informing alumni and friends of meaningful ways they can engage at the local level
To ensure the success of this program, Young Life has hired a full-time director and developed a state-of-the-art database — factors that will make this initiative a success.
If you'd like to go to the website, join, update your information and reconnect with your Young Life friends, visit the Alumni and Friends section on younglife.org.