Makaela's Story

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By Marty McCarty, Vice President Young Life Military–Club Beyond

Since 1959, when Jim Rayburn saw firsthand the incredible need of military teens in Europe, Young Life has been reaching out to these kids. As we honor the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our freedoms on Veterans Day, I want to share a firsthand glimpse into the world of a military teen. Makaela’s story is both a sobering picture of what many military teens experience, as well as a story of hope. Club Beyond continues to be a crucial outreach to these incredible kids who are often another casualty of war.
“While I was in elementary school, my dad joined the U.S. Army
In high school we had our first overseas assignment in Hohenfels, Germany. It was terrifying. I had always been in the continental United States; we’d never moved to a place where we had not been able to visit ahead of time. Our first Sunday in the U.S. military chapel, I was really nervous, shaking the entire time. A couple, Jeff and Tara Bellard, introduced themselves to us as the Club Beyond leaders. They invited me to come to club and I told them I would think about it, but I never went. After a few weeks in Hohenfels I made my first friend; she told me about a group she was involved in, and I realized it was Club Beyond. I went and instantly fell in love with what I experienced. I loved the leaders and connecting with kids I’d never be able to connect with outside of Club Beyond. I didn’t realize how important club would soon become.
“While we were in Hohenfels my dad deployed for the third time to the Middle East. When he came back he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was somebody completely different than who we’d known before. My once loving and encouraging father became a hateful and scary man we all tried to avoid. As I practiced piano he would come in and tell me I was not a real musician and to stop. Our traditional family game night became ‘eat as fast as you can and run back upstairs night.’ Our drive to and from post were team efforts to make sure we saw all the bumps as we were going across the road so Dad wouldn’t be triggered. It became my mom’s responsibility to manage my dad’s temper, and I became the second parent as a 14-year-old. My only escape from this craziness was on club night.
“Club freed me from having the responsibility of making dinner and taking care of my 4-year-old brother and other two siblings. I was able to go to club and be a teenager. I was encouraged and loved on. I was cared for instead of being the one doing the caring — and it impacted me in a huge way. After several months of what was an unimaginable home life, my dad sent us back to the states for Christmas and told us he would follow in a couple of weeks. He never came. To this day I still have not seen my dad.
“When my family left Germany, my club leaders, specifically Storey Thompson, continued to pour into my life. They strove to be present in my life after I left. They were the few people who knew what happened, and that my dad wasn’t coming home to us. I really believe that without Club Beyond I would not be where I am today. Without the influence of club as a teenager I would have let my hurt and bitterness envelop me and claimed ‘daddy issues’ as an excuse to do whatever I wanted.
“Today my story is a different one because of the encouragement and support of my club leaders, and the way they pointed me to Jesus, I was able to turn back to Jesus in my time of need and hurt. That’s why I’m so excited to be fundraising to come on staff with Club Beyond. I’m excited to reach kids who have similar stories to mine, who are going through things and making those shallow friendships every military kid makes that don’t develop into anything. I’m excited to step in to be that deep, constant and loving friend for them.”
May we continue to faithfully serve every kid with the compassion and tenacity Storey showed Makaela.