September 2017

Black asphalt in Arizona is not an image that I associate with comfort. In fact, on most summer days, you could fry an egg on the pavement in the desert. Yet parking lot asphalt became the common denominator for both protection and provision for a young man named Raymond. 

Ray's father provided for his family by collecting stray shopping carts from parking lots each day, and Ray sometimes made his bed in a parking lot at night for protection. When Ray's father would drink and become violent, Ray would take his brother and sister to sleep outside the local Home Depot. “I didn't know who to talk to,” said Ray, “and I didn't speak English well.” Asphalt doesn't ask questions, thankfully, so the parking lot became a silent refuge for the three siblings.

Halfway through high school, Ray met a Young Life leader named Thomas, who seemed the least likely person to become Ray's good friend. Thomas was a skinny white boy with long hair who had never slept in a parking lot his whole life. Thomas took an interest in Ray, however, and — unlike the asphalt — Thomas asked questions. One day he asked, “Ray, what is your story?”

“No one had ever asked me that before,” Ray said recently, choking back tears. Thomas took Ray to a local fast-food restaurant that evening, and the two sat in the parking lot while Ray told his story for the first time.

Today Ray is following Jesus, is involved in church, and he spent a month this summer serving on summer staff at Young Life camp. Ray's father has also given his life to Jesus and is involved in church. It's a grand story of redemption too large for this letter, but one thing is certain: Ray's transformation began that night in the parking lot with Thomas. On the black asphalt in Arizona, Ray discovered Jesus was for him.

Thank you for supporting Young Life. This school year, countless kids will have life-changing conversations with Young Life leaders across this mission. May each one discover the Savior is for them. Thank you again for making these conversations possible with your support.

In Christ for all kids,

Newton F. Crenshaw

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