Act of Love

Sterling Macer isn’t a lawyer, but he’s played one on TV. He’s also played a fireman accused of arson, a corrupt FBI agent and a fisherman from the Pacific Northwest. But one of his favorite roles is the part he’s played in the lives of the high school kids in Los Angeles, Calif.

Sterling Macer may not be a name you recognize, but you’ve seen his face on the big screen in films such as Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and Double Take. He’s also appeared in popular television programs, most recently JAG, CSI and 24.

And in the midst of what to some may appear to be a glamorous Hollywood lifestyle, this successful actor and director has quietly been giving his life away as a Young Life leader in mid-city Los Angeles. As their mentor, friend, big brother and cheerleader, Macer balances his life as a working actor in Los Angeles with his passion for loving teenagers and leading them to Christ.

“It’s a great joy for me to do this,” Macer said. “One great thing about being in this business is that I’m freer than the average person in a 9-to-5 job. If there’s a high school football game in the afternoon, I can go. If kids get out of school and want to hang out, I can go hang out in the middle of the day.”

And although he loves it, some days he struggles with being center stage with kids in ministry.

“Sometimes the idea of getting with some rowdy, raging, out-of-control teenagers is very unappealing to me,” he said with a laugh. “But the Lord put it on my heart, and I know if I were not doing it, I would not be doing completely what God has called me to.”
 
A passion renewed
Macer discovered Young Life while working at Silver Dollar City, an amusement park in Branson, Mo. Director Will Wyatt was hosting a group of Young Life leaders in training at the park while Macer, a college student at the time, performed in a street show. Already a Christian, Macer was invited to attend the training.

“Young Life helped me understand more about grace and what a relationship with Christ means,” Macer said.

That fall, Macer left for acting school in San Diego, but his schedule never allowed him to volunteer at a club. He moved to Los Angeles after graduation, and at church one Sunday his passion was renewed when a group from Young Life visited and talked about the mission. Macer met with them after the service and knew he wanted to become a Young Life leader.

Dawn Finch, regional director for the Central Los Angeles Region where Macer volunteers, said he is needed in the lives of the kids in the community.

“Sterling is a great role model for our students involved with Young Life in Los Angeles,” Finch said. “Because of where we live, many of our kids dream of being in the entertainment industry. To have someone from that industry spend time with them shows kids a different priority. The kids Sterling deals with know that he thinks the world of them, that he is not too busy being a ‘star’ to be their Young Life leader.”
 
Sharing time with kids
Even when Macer is working on a movie or a television project, Finch said his heart is with the kids. When Macer was filming a movie with Lou Gossett Jr., Macer called home and told his wife that he couldn’t get the Young Life kids off his mind and heart.

“He has always been sacrificial with his time to spend it with Young Life kids,” Finch said.

But Macer has a different perspective on his position in “the business.” He knows his professional success won’t take him as far with the kids as will building a genuine, caring relationship with them. “I’m no star,” he said. “I’m an average, blue-collar, wear-your-hard-hat, carry-your-lunch-pail-to-work kind of actor. The kids think it’s pretty cool when they see me on TV or in a movie. But our kids are L.A. kids, and you’ve got to do an awful lot to impress them. So, like everyone else, I just try to stay focused on my faith. I try to make decisions that are pleasing to the Lord.”
 
An act to follow
Macer calls himself a “regular old Young Life leader.” He attends club every week, hangs out with kids as much as possible and leads a Campaigner group called More Life. Many of the kids he works with are Latino and African American.

“Unfortunately, the great majority of the kids in our club do not have a father living at home,” Finch said. “Sterling provides a positive male role model for those kids to look up to at a very crucial time in their lives.”

And along with committed leaders, Macer believes what’s also needed to help these kids succeed is more financial support coming from outside urban communities.

“We depend so much on the contributions of people in this community,” he said. “But the resources are minimal in urban areas, so it’s tough. We need help.”

Setting the stage
Macer says his role with high schoolers is one he plays from the heart, and is privileged to set the stage for the most important relationship of their lives.

“It’s great to be their friend and see that the kids actually trust you and talk to you about things they can’t talk about with anyone else,” Macer said. “Because in you they see the Lord, and they see that the Lord is trustworthy.”