Fifty Years (and Counting) of Gratitude

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​Most of the time, people engaged in ministry are not serving with expectations of receiving accolades, or even knowing the long-term impact of their investment in the lives of others. This can be especially true when a Young Life leader is working with people moving through their teenage years. Similarly, though there may be good intentions, it is rare when a person who was impacted actually reaches out decades later to inform their leader of the impact that they had. Such is the tale of Bruce and Beth Sundberg, and the Rockford, Illinois, East High School class of 1965.

Dick Daniels is a member of the class of 1965, and a recipient of the Sundberg’s Young Life influence. Dick currently lives in Naples, FL, and has fond memories of attending the Young Life club led by Bruce, going to Star Ranch as a camper, and growing in his faith through Campaigners. In his words, “God truly used Bruce to impact my life and the lives of many others in the Rockford high schools.” 

In an effort to honor Bruce and Beth, and the investment they made in their lives, Dick and eight of his classmates (Including Vic and Kathie Verni, Brad and Sue Roos, Denver and Pam Bitner, and Bill and Gay Takakoshi.) traveled to Washington, D.C., in May 2017, where they had lunch and spent the afternoon with the Sundbergs. During this time, each person shared about the impact that Young Life and the Sundbergs had on them back in their high school days. In Dick’s words, “It was a time full of laughter and tears. We then went around the circle and shared about what our lives became because of the roots built into our lives during those early years.” The Sundbergs then shared a bit about their journey since leaving Rockford — living in St. Louis and the Philippines, and returning to D.C. In D.C. Bruce became an associate at the International Foundation for the remaining decades of his ministry leadership.  Bruce and Beth led some of the work with international leaders who attended the National Prayer Breakfast.Dick Daniels Group.jpg

A year later in October 2018, this group of Young Life and East High School alumni gathered again in Door County, Wisconsin, near Green Bay; however, this time there were 20 in attendance. Once again, the group wanted to reach out to the Sundbergs and scheduled a conference call. “People don’t often see the outcome of their efforts,” said Dick Daniels. “We just wanted Bruce and Beth to know how much they are loved and prayed for.”

Dick Daniels says that those early years in Young Life taught him a lot that he has carried through more than 50 years of life and work. “It was back then that I came to understand relational ministry; it’s not a sprint, but a marathon. I experienced and understood what it means to ‘earn the right to be heard’ — not invading, but allowing the reality of the gospel’s account of the life and teaching of Jesus to be seen over a long period of time…that following Jesus makes life better and makes you better at life.” Over the years, Daniels spent two decades in church planting, served as Dean of Student Development at Bethel Theological Seminary, and has spent the last 16 years in leadership development coaching with corporate executives. His book, Leadership Briefs, was nationally awarded for a unique contribution to leadership development literature. He has coached and trained ministry leaders in five global countries as part of his ongoing work.

How about you? Is there someone from your Young Life years that you might like to find, reach out to, and say thank you? Or, perhaps you have a similar story that you’d like to share. We would love to hear from you at