Alumni in Action - Cabell Sweeney

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“I am an artist, a woman and a widow; if I lived in Africa I would certainly NOT own a small business. I would most likely be destitute and live on the margins of society. I believe in the way Karama, like Young Life (and Jesus), believes in relationships … in honoring people … in treating all people with dignity and helping them see who God has made and called them to be.”

The above words are those of Young Life alumna, Cabell Sweeney. As you read them, you can feel the passion, the wisdom, the honesty and transparency gained from life lived and lessons learned. In her classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee writes, “The things that happen to people, we never really know. What happens in houses behind closed doors, what secrets … .” If you would have known Cabell as a junior in high school, you would have known a girl raised in a wealthy family, and you might have assumed that life was perfect. However, though things looked polished on the outside, behind closed doors existed the realities of alcoholism and abuse.

During this time of her life, Cabell was first invited to Young Life club. In her words, “It was the ‘cool’ thing to do, so I went. I was blown away by the way my friends and I were wanted and welcomed. I couldn’t believe the edgy games they played and how everyone sang at the top of their lungs. But the talk at the end hit me the hardest. The leader spoke of Jesus in a way I had never experienced. For the first time, Jesus seemed so familiar and attractive to me. Young Life invited me to be honest with God and others about what was going on in my head and heart. I knew I had made a mess of my life, trying so hard to numb the pain, desperate to find healing and wholeness. I longed to know the love of a father, my heavenly Father. I gave my life to Christ at Windy Gap in 1991.”

Fast-forward to The University of Georgia in 1992. Cabell was in college and serving as a volunteer Young Life leader, a volunteer role that she continues to serve in to this very day. During this time, Cabell met fellow Young Life leader, future Young Life staffer and her future husband, Mike Sweeney. Mike and Cabell were married 12 years when Mike died of cancer at the age of 35. “I couldn’t possibly summarize the beauty of our marriage,” Cabell says. “All the kids we watched God call to Himself, the families who were renewed and the depth of love we shared — I will just say that knowing Jesus, being married to Mike and the ministry of Young Life have transformed me in every possible way.” And, fortunately for many, Cabell continues to join God in His transformative work in her local community and in Africa.

Cabell became aware of Karama because her best friend and business partner at Cabell’s Designs, Susan Peterson, was passionate about it. “I was amazed by their passion to offer beautiful African products and celebrate the artisans who created those products. I love that Karama only builds business partnerships with companies who pay a fair wage, offer clean working conditions and provide dignity by honoring the work of the artisan’s hands. Karama gives a market and a platform to marginalized people who wouldn’t otherwise have one. Then, Karama donates a significant amount of its proceeds to send African kids to Young Life camp in Af​rica. That’s a win-win!”

Today, Cabell sits on the board of Karama and is a great example of a Young Life alumna who continues to be involved with the mission and make a genuine difference in others’ lives. If you would like to learn more about Karama, click on any of the highlighted words above. If you would like to explore other ways in which you might reconnect and engage with Young Life, email us at alumni@sc.younglife.org.