Rites of Passage

Judging by the number of books on the subject, providing rites of passage for young men and women is gaining popularity. Creating memorials marking significant events in a young person’s life has become a lost art. But not in Young Life. We’re in the memory-making business, as well as the life-changing business.
This summer, a group of high school students from Tulsa, Okla., hopped on the bus to Frontier Ranch in Colorado. Though they knew they would have a good time, two of the boys, Robert and Sean, could hardly have guessed their lives would take a 180-degree turn in a matter of 48 hours.
Both young men had been caught in the snare of drug addiction. Both had been in trouble with the law. One even had to get permission from his parole officer to go to camp.
It was the second night of camp, after hearing that Jesus experienced the same disappointments we do, that the heart of one of the boys melted. Following club, it was obvious he was saddened and wanted to talk. So, we took a walk.
In those moments, he shared that he was tired of the life he was living. Without the influence of drugs, he was able to think more clearly. He wanted to make a change in his life. And with that, I looked around for a place to pray with him.
Frontier Ranch is unique for many reasons. One is that the cabin built and lived in by Young Life’s founder Jim Rayburn is still there. Called The Lookout, it overlooks the valley below Frontier and has stood almost unchanged for 50 years. As I wanted to choose the right place for my young friend to start his new life with Christ, I decided on the porch of The Lookout. That night, on Jim Rayburn’s very porch, the angels rejoiced as a new member was added to the family of God.
The following night, a similar scene unfolded. The other boy was deeply impacted by the talk. He, too, wanted to make a change in his life. Together, he and his friend approached me after cabin time and showed me a package of marijuana. They wanted to get rid of it and, in their words, “never touch the stuff again.”
So, we trudged up to The Lookout. As we stood on the porch, together they unwrapped the package, took the substance in their hands and threw it out over the cliffs. Then we all walked into the cabin. I pointed to the carpet, the very carpet Jim Rayburn and staff had once prayed upon for hours. Worn-out spots surrounded us as evidence of the enormous amount of time they had spent there. I suggested we kneel and pray with the second young man to begin his journey with Jesus. And we did.
As we walked away from The Lookout, I left this thought with them: Fifty years from now, they will be able to come back to this very place and remember the night their lives changed. We embraced, and I welcomed them as my new brothers in Christ.
This summer, Young Life leaders all over the country created rites of passage for their young friends. They provided memorials, marking the day or night that a young man or woman’s life changed. Sometimes it’s a rock. Sometimes it’s a bus. And, sometimes it’s the carpet where Jim Rayburn himself knelt praying for young men and women such as these.