A Small Town Goes Wyld

From the Winter 2012 issue of Relationships magazine.       

Megan Mathews was a freshman when she first attended Young Life at Topsail High School in the small community of Hampstead, N.C. It didn't take long for her to get hooked. "Something just clicked," she said. "I could bring all my friends, even ones that wouldn't go to church with me."

Leaders drove 30 miles from the University of North Carolina campus at Wilmington three times a week for club, Campaigners and other after-school events. As the school year ended, however, lack of funding combined with the long-distance commute made it impossible for the leaders to continue their efforts. For the time being, Young Life was forced to shut down in Hampstead.

The next year, tragedy struck the community when a 15-year-old Topsail student drowned at Cape Hatteras, 200 miles up the coast from Hampstead. In the wake of that awful day, however, the community grew closer together. Megan can still recall the memorial service, where 200 of her peers came to know Christ. "It was like a revival," she said. "It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

By Megan's junior year, the community was ready for Young Life to return. While attending family camp at Windy Gap, Young Life's camp in North Carolina, Megan's parents, neighbors, aunts, and uncles formed a committee. With Megan and most of her friends only a year away from graduating high school, they opted to begin an effort to reach out to middle-school kids. "We wanted to start with WyldLife so the kids in middle school would know what Young Life is," Megan said.

The committee held its first banquet in the high-school cafeteria. Word spread and enthusiasm for Young Life continued to grow throughout the community. All they needed was someone to lead.

"We found this middle-school leader named Doug Maners," Megan recalled. Though he had no prior experience with Young Life, Maners taught seventh-grade math and science at Topsail Middle School. The committee quickly recognized his love for kids. After attending leadership training, Maners turned a fledgling effort into a full WyldLife experience. "All the kids love him," Megan said.

Fifty kids attended the first Topsail WyldLife club. Megan and 15 of her friends came to share the love of Christ with each one of them. "I love them so much," Megan said. "I love hanging out with middle schoolers." As the school year progressed, the club sometimes drew more than 60 kids.

Plans are currently under way to bring Young Life to Topsail High School in the near future. In the meantime, prayer remains Megan's biggest lifeline as she continues to pour out the love of Christ to middle-school kids. "You have people's hearts on the line," she said. "God has to walk you there."