From Church Phobic to Church Leader

 I was raised in a loving but completely non-believing family in Washington State. We never went to church and I had no idea what anything relating to God was about. I was materialistic and arrogant, insecure and selfish. As a teenager, I was even quite hostile toward the concept of church, believing it to be a pathetic way to spend a perfectly good Sunday morning. 
   Even though I was running away from God, He came and swooped me up one night in 1971. I was 16 and unexpectedly met a believer who talked to me about Jesus. He then asked me if I wanted to ask Jesus to be my savior. After saying yes and praying, I felt as if I had just drawn my first breath. I was truly saved that night, through no effort of my own. The next morning, I was starved for knowledge about this overwhelming change within me. The only place I could think of to turn to was — Young Life. I had no idea what they did at their weekly meetings. Because of my hostility, I had avoided Young Life like the plague and was rude to the leaders who visited my school. But I attended that first week and never missed after that. I was at home. 
   Our main leader, Doug Burleigh, was amazing, funny and caring. I began to learn about this Jesus who had transformed my heart. I joined a Campaigners group of girls my age and found more answers. I was then privileged to serve on work crew at Malibu the summer of 1972. Although my Young Life leaders encouraged it, church still remained out of my comfort zone. I had so many prejudices against it. I went away to college at Washington State University and was thrilled to be chosen to serve as a Young Life leader, helping to establish a brand new club in Colfax, Washington. It was exhilarating, challenging and kept me growing. We had a strong community of leaders who became my family and modeled for me what Christian lives look like. 
   I started to attend a “church,” which was really just a student group with a strong older pastor. We had no building, no offering, no families, and the music was just a guy with a guitar. This kind of church I could do! The Lord used it in my life to continue my spiritual growth. I graduated and worked as a nutritionist in Portland, Oregon. There I met David, who would become my husband in 1982. Here’s the kicker: David graduated from seminary three months before our wedding and was called to his first pastorate in a traditional church in Napa, California, right after that. It was so traditional it even had an organ — and a choir! Things so foreign to me, I had to grill my husband with questions all the time. So I, the church-phobic, became a pastor’s wife! 
   Never was anyone less prepared for the ministry than I. It certainly promised to be a lifetime of challenges. That was 34 years ago and David and I have been in full-time ministry the whole time. A wild ride for me, indeed, and not over yet! I’m now a Bible teacher and author and currently work at our church — the focus of our lives. I know the Lord provided Young Life for me back in my early days to begin to grow His Spirit within my life. I am so filled with gratitude for the foundation it built in me. I have no idea why the Lord chose me, but He has shown His sovereignty and faithfulness to me throughout my life. “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me” (Isaiah 65:1a).

Pamela, thank you for sharing your story and for your ongoing efforts on behalf of Christ and others! For other alumni and friends of the mission who are reading this, maybe you also have a story to share? We would love to receive it at alumni@sc.younglife.org.