Handled with Care

Nick had a childhood that was, most certainly, not part of anyone’s American dream. Nick grew up in a public housing project in Ambridge, Pa., where he watched the effects of not one, but both of his parents’ addiction to a variety of drugs. At the age that many kids are learning their ABCs and enjoying Big Bird on Sesame Street, Nick was getting an education on how to use foul language, dodge bill collectors and how to identify different kinds of drugs.
 
Prior to beginning elementary school, his trouble at home increased. His parents were in and out of jail and Nick eventually ended up in the care of his grandparents. Although his   grandparents were supportive, as he grew older, Nick grew depressed and disillusioned at the circumstances of his life. He didn’t pursue his potential as a very brilliant student and spent much of his time inside, inactive and feeling sorry for himself.
 
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘The world would just be better off without me,’” Nick said recently while reflecting on his childhood and early teenage years.
 
A new friend’s impact
Nick was resigned to this lifestyle. But on Valentine’s Day during his sophomore year, things began to change.
 
Nick was invited to an all-night bowling event sponsored by a local bowling alley. Also on the scene was a Young Life leader named Carl Loomis. The two struck up an immediate friendship, spending time with each other, partly because, as Nick said, “Carl had wheels.” Nick began attending Young Life clubs with Loomis, and eventually started attending church with him.
 
One Sunday at church, Nick heard an invitation to start a relationship with Christ, and he walked forward to accept it. Nick began walking with Christ and was soon baptized.
 
That summer, 2003, Nick spent a week at Young Life’s Timber Wolf Lake in Michigan, where he grew in his new walk with Christ and conquered, along with another leader, a lifelong fear: Nick learned to swim. A caring college student serving there as a summer staff lifeguard spent afternoons encouraging and teaching Nick the finer points of staying afloat in water. At the end of the week, Nick received an award for conquering his fears.
 
Water wasn’t the last fear that Nick conquered through the power of Christ. Nick had the opportunity to conquer his social fears by serving on the work crew as a server in the dining hall at Timber Wolf Lake during the summer of 2004. Although Nick struggled with his self-image for years, being a server helped him to become more personable and confident. He also experienced the blessing of being a blessing to others through sacrificial service to the campers. Nick said he also enjoyed the friendship of others on the work crew and growing in his relationship with Christ.
 
“The whole experience really made me see what it is like to live,” Nick said.
 
Power of redemption
During his senior year, through the encouragement of Loomis, Nick took a much more active role in Ambridge’s Young Life club, playing bass guitar and taking more responsibility for helping friends come to know Christ.
 
At the last club of his senior year, Nick told his story. As 50 of his peers listened to the dramatic change in Nick’s life at the hands of Christ and a loving Young Life leader, Nick experienced another blessing of following Christ: witnessing Almighty God redeeming painful and difficult circumstances for His glory.
 
Nick continues to conquer his fears. This past summer he served on the work crew at Saranac Village, another Young Life camp, in July. This time he worked behind the scenes, washing dishes every day with several others for four weeks. As Nick moves from high school to adulthood and college, he has his vision set on being a Young Life leader.
 
“I want to give back what’s been given to me,” Nick said.
 
With the help of a caring, committed Young Life leader Nick’s life has been changed forever.
 
“Carl is always willing to be there for me and challenge me,” Nick said. “He’s also always willing to give up any thing or any time he has for other people.”
 
But ultimately, Nick knows it’s Jesus who has made a difference in his life. Through Christ and His Holy Spirit, Nick has learned the value he has in Christ, the ability to redeem any circumstance and the thrill of conquering his fears. If not for Christ’s love, his Young Life leader and his experiences in the ministry, Nick knows life would look a lot different.
 
“I’d just be another depressed teenager who graduates from high school not knowing Christ,” he said. “I’d try to be living life on my own. But now I will keep following Christ and trust that He’s not going to let me down.”