My New Home in Christ

350x350Donna Barker1.jpg
​"I stand in Christ with sins forgiven
And Christ in me. The hope of heaven!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
To make His will my home."
(Stuart Townsend, "There is a Hope")

"My home was not a happy place. My home was not a safe place. When I was 16 years old, my parents and I moved to Cañon City, Colorado, where a new life awaited me. I began attending Cañon City High School in the fall of 1949. That year, I became exposed to Young Life for the first time in my life. At the invitation of a classmate, I went to one of their meetings. I saw for the first time a large group of students who were full of joy and excitement singing about Jesus, a name I knew very little about. My heart was drawn to Young Life because of the contrast I saw and felt between the Young Life group and my home. The leaders of the group, Orien Johnson and Millie Carter*, were loving, accepting, caring and fun — all things I rarely experienced in my home. I began attending as often as possible.
 
Millie Carter was the woman God used to draw me to Himself. She was a woman that shared God's heart for young people. She demonstrated an intimate relationship with God through Christ that drew my longing heart to hers. She welcomed me into her life and began to teach me about Christ and the Bible. In my junior year, Millie's Savior became mine. I came to understand that I was not just a daughter of my parents, but also a daughter of God. He was my new Father who loved me, wanted me and cherished me. That knowledge changed the trajectory of my life forever. The impact of Young Life continued with me through high school then college at the University of Minnesota where I was a volunteer Young Life leader with Orien Johnson. 
 
While a university student, I met a young man who was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. He became a good friend but was not a Christian at that time. Because of the influence of Young Life, I understood the importance of choosing wisely my life's partner. I began to share the gospel with him and to mail him Young Life Bible studies. He learned about God, and gave his heart to Christ. We were married in 1957 after his graduation from the Academy. God would use my husband, me and our three children to touch countless lives with the same gospel of love and truth that touched my life through the ministry of Young Life back in 1949. 

Being married to a Naval officer took us to many places around the world, and we brought our passion for Christ and for youth. We brought the principles of Young Life to the young people of the many different churches we attended — from California to Italy to Connecticut to Washington, D.C., to Scotland to Iowa to Colorado to Texas. In all these places, because of the impact of Young Life on me, I sought to impact others for Christ. I would see teens and young women who had a need and would pursue them with the love of Christ. In 1980, my husband retired from the Navy and became a full-time pastor until he retired from the ministry in 1995. In our years of retirement, we have remained connected to Young Life by donating our time and resources. God opened the door for me to again lead a Campaigners group of high school girls from 2011 to 2016. Now, at the age of 85, I still feel the joy and excitement of walking with Jesus every day.
 
In 1949, Young Life led me to my true home in Christ. This home has been a happy place, a safe place, a fruitful place, a joyful and loving place. I did not end up as a "statistic" because of my harsh and abusive childhood home. Instead, God gave me a life beyond my imagination! 

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV).

Donna was a volunteer leader at the University of Minnesota from 1954 to 1957. She then served on the committee, led Campaigners and helped fundraise for her local area in Monterey, California. From 1995 to 2011, Donna continued to serve the mission in Castle Rock, Colorado. Following a move to Boerne, Texas, Donna once again became a volunteer Young Life Campaigners leader for teenage students at Boerne and Champion high schools from 2012 to 2017. The Young Life Alumni and Friends team is constantly encouraged by stories like Donna’s. Stories of impact, of love that transforms live, and the glimpses we get of the ways Jesus is moving. Donna has over 20 years of Young Life experience spanning more than 65 years. We are so grateful for faithful leaders who share the good news of Christ and the ripple effect that service has on countless lives. If you have a story you’d like to share with us, we would love to hear it! Please send all stories to alumni@sc.younglife.org

*Find our 2017 interview with Millie Carter here.