Eternal Makeover

As a junior in high school, JR didn’t care much about anything except athletics and being cool. That is, until life starting falling apart. JR started doing poorly in cross-country, his parents were splitting up, his grades were plummeting and his older brother was dropping out of school and getting into trouble.

Life seemed to be headed downhill fast, until a quick conversation set JR on a different path. As he sat watching a high school soccer game, one of his friends, Jaydn, approached him and said, “You should go to Young Life.” JR looked at her and said, “OK, when is it?” JR’s life was about to change for eternity. The following Monday, JR went to Young Life club, where he saw guys from school he didn’t realize went to Young Life. They invited him to church and then to Campaigners. At Campaigners he found the discussion to be very real and open. “I was really surprised and impressed with how easy it was to talk about tough issues, things that really matter. Everyone was so genuine in what they shared,” JR said. “Right away, I started going to club and Campaigners every week. It was a really hard time of life for me. Campaigners helped me get through the tough weeks.”

One night, about a month after he started going to club, JR was riding home from Campaigners with friends when he said, “I want what you guys have.” Excited about JR’s curiosity, they told JR what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“It was really neat,” said Sam, who went to Campaigners with JR. “JR had never even been to church before we invited him. And there he was, already asking questions about having a relationship with Jesus.”

A birthday like no other
Soon it was Christmas, and JR’s family was still in shambles. His parents had separated, his father had moved out and his brother was continuing to struggle. JR was having a hard time dealing with everything.

The morning of his birthday, Dec. 27, he was alone, praying. “That was the day I accepted Jesus,” JR said. “I was praying, asking God to help my family. During my prayer, I got a phone call from my mom saying my first birthday present was my dad coming home. They were getting back together,” JR said. “That day, I just knew Christ died on the cross for me and that God had heard my prayer and brought my parents back together for me. You know, when you feel Him talking to you? I heard Him say ‘This is for you.’” JR had two birthdays to celebrate that day — biological and spiritual — and he received priceless gifts for both.

From Christmas on, things were different for JR. Kent Williams, the Clackamas County area director and JR’s Young Life leader, said, “He was so joyful. He started introducing me to other kids and inviting them to club. His faith was fresh, real and raw.”

When the school year ended, JR went to camp at Wildhorse Canyon. He had an incredible time and left filled with a desire to continue growing in his relationship with Christ. Williams was going to be the speaker at Malibu that summer and suggested JR sign up for work crew. JR had planned to go to wrestling camp, but when he wasn’t able to afford to go, he realized that God must’ve been directing him to work crew. As he served on work crew, God continued to mold JR’s new heart. “JR was a huge encouragement to the other kids, kids who had been Christians much longer than him.”

For JR, his work crew experience helped him to see beyond himself. “I knew it was God’s will for me to be there and felt that I needed to be an encouragement to everyone else. Work crew taught me not to be so self-centered.”

JR’s friends have seen a change too. One of them, Matt, remembers meeting JR. Matt didn’t care for JR at first because JR was always teasing other kids. “He’s different now,” Matt said. “JR is the guy who defends people instead of making fun of them.”

New look at life
Now a senior, JR’s life seems new. His grades have improved and sports aren’t what matter most, Jesus is. He doesn’t worry about being cool; instead he tries to meet someone new every day. JR said, “I want the kid who doesn’t have any friends to be able to say, ‘Hi, JR.’”

Things at home still aren’t perfect, and JR finds it hard to watch his brother struggle, but now he knows God is with him no matter what. “I know that things in life will be hard. But I have faith that God is and will be with me in the tough times and feel like I can find strength in Him to get through them,” said JR. “My life is different now.”