The Story of Iral & Gwen

Gwen and Iral Barrett

By Leslie Strader

Nine thousand rocks don’t sound like much of a return on an investment. But for Iral and Gwen Barrett, the pile of stones represents an eternal acquisition that’s worth more than anything money can buy.

From 1996 to 1999, the Barretts made generous contributions of time and money to Wildhorse Canyon, a then-new Young Life camping property in Antelope, Ore. The inaugural year, 1999, a tradition began: At the end of the camp week, each teenager who began a relationship with Christ tosses a rock on the growing pile in the camp’s welcome area to mark the decision.

Today, more than 9,000 rocks stand as testimony to the thousands of teenagers who were saved by the grace of God through the ministry of Young Life.

“Those rocks represent nearly 1,000 kids who accepted Christ every summer since Wildhorse began,” Gwen said. “Tell me, where else but Young Life can you get that kind of return for your dollar?”

The Barretts were first introduced to Young Life in 1952 as high school seniors. Two years later, they were married and leading a club in Albany, Ore., while Iral was attending Willamette University.

Since those early days of serving as Young Life leaders, the Barretts have served on Young Life committees in Seattle, Salem, Sisters, Ore., and now in Maui, Hawaii.

Iral explains his financial commitment to Young Life this way: “I’ve always been impressed with the way Young Life knows how to reach out to kids and share the Gospel in an interesting, understandable and winning way. The leaders know how to walk with kids and earn the right to be heard. We give to certain individuals we believe are men and women of God doing an effective job of sharing the Gospel and teaching others to do the same.”

Iral and Gwen established the Barrett Family Fund through the Young Life Foundation in 1988 and when they sold their family business, Supra Products, Inc., in 1994 they contributed a tithe of the sales proceeds to the Barrett Family Fund.

“Every year, we review our fund balance and giving commitments. We make up a schedule which we give to the Young Life Foundation and they transfer the funds into the designated accounts every month. It facilitates thoughtful, committed giving in a systematic way that we feel works best for what we want to do.”

From committee to work crew and even mission staff, the Barretts' three children and six grandchildren have also been involved with Young Life. “Young Life has strengthened our own family,” Gwen said. “We’ve invested in Young Life and we’re seeing the best returns we can get.”

 “The effect of what we’ve given to Wildhorse Canyon will live on because it gives kids the opportunity to hear about Jesus while they have the time of their lives,” Iral said. “Young Life touches the young folks who are the future of our country, so our investment now and in the future will have an ongoing impact on Christian community. That’s the best legacy anyone can have.”