From the Grapevine

Diving into Faith

On Kendra’s first day at camp, she had an ultimatum. “God has six days [at camp] to show up and prove Himself to me.” Kendra had come to camp with plenty of hurt — her father had died two years earlier. Her Young Life leader, Araya Williams, knew camp was just where Kendra, who is deaf, needed to be. “If God can create the world in six days, He can reveal Himself to a hurting girl in six days.”

But her week wasn’t off to a good start. Kendra was upset by a conflict that erupted between two girls in her cabin. She told Williams that she wanted to go home the next day because she didn’t like how people were treating each other.

When morning came, Kendra was grumpy and refused to participate in the activities. By the middle of the day, things were still not looking up. Kendra and her friend didn’t want to participate in the pool “Olympics” after lunch, but after lunch something happened, and they had changed their minds. They enthusiastically took on the activities in the pool, and when it was all over, they both ran to the zip line. Afterward, she told Williams she had so much fun on the zip line and would do it again the next day. “Oh, but you were going home today,” Williams said jokingly, then gave her a hug and told Kendra how happy she was to see her stay at camp and have fun.

Kendra was also soaking up more of Jesus Christ. She had great discussions with the leaders in her cabin and during cabin time. “The softening of her heart allowed for Jesus to meet her in very special ways,” Williams said. “The best part of the week was Kendra standing up with more than 100 other kids at the end of the week to say, ‘This week I decided to follow Jesus.’”

— Araya Williams

A Father All Along

Before the summer of 2006, Lank said he remembers his life as being “chaotic, pretty out of control … real lonely.” He was following the footsteps of an older brother who was falling deeper and deeper into drugs. “I thought that if I did drugs, I’d get more friends. I had no one to connect with or talk to,” Lank said. Lank also had a knack for finding trouble, or for trouble finding him.

Things came to a head one night when his mother called Young Life Area Director Chad Conant in a panic; she had called the police to come and arrest her eldest son after finding a stash of drugs in his room. Into the morning, Conant sat with the family and began to foster a friendship with Lank, whom he had known since Lank was in eighth-grade.

That summer, Lank went to Frontier Ranch with Littleton Young Life. During the week, Lank was given the freedom and space to consider who God created him to be. “I grew up all my life without a dad. When I went to Young Life, I realized I had a dad all along.”

At Frontier, Lank began his relationship with Jesus Christ. “It was a real conversion experience,” says Conant. Looking back, Lank describes it: “I felt like a completely different person. When you do drugs, they can make you feel all right for a while, but if you accept Christ, you feel good for life.”

— Ned Erickson

Leading from the Heart

“Calling all princesses!” read the slumber party invitation. One December night, some of the eighth-grade girls at Mt. Baker Middle School were reliving their childhood days at a “Christmas Princess Party.” Complete with watching A Cinderella Story and making Mickey Mouse pancakes the next morning, Kourtnie Hurd, a WyldLife leader, was so excited that these girls had said yes to her invitation.

Kourtnie’s father died her senior year of high school, right after she turned 18. She was already a Christian, but found comfort and solace in the Young Life community. Young Life, as she said, “really stepped up.” Not only did people reach out in friendship, but she was also given a new place to live after losing her living arrangements. Despite all the tough adjustments she faced, Kourtnie continued to persevere through her grief and stay involved in Campaigners and club.

Then, a year after her dad’s death, Kourtnie felt compelled to start giving back, and she was warmly received by the WyldLife community. As one parent said about her, “Kourtnie, these girls love you so much! They respond so well to you.”

Through a Christmas princess party, and growing relationships with the eighth-grade girls she took to Wildhorse Canyon this summer, Kourtnie understands the importance of investing in the lives of her middle school friends,” said Cara MacDonald, her Young Life leader. “She’s running toward that end goal, and it’s beautiful to watch as she gives back life because she’s been given life.”

— Cara MacDonald

The Ultimate Role Model

Jordan, a junior in high school, said this about his Young Life leader/volunteer football coach: “Although he didn’t know much about football, he really cared about us.”

By his own admission, Area Director Sean Tangen is not much of a football coach, but he’s very good at taking the time to be a constant and positive presence in the lives of kids like Jordan. That personal commitment didn’t go unnoticed on Jordan; it was the deciding factor for him attending his first Young Life club.

Until Tangen came into his life, Jordan didn’t have a role model. His dad left before he was 2 years old. His mom had to work long hours; at one point, she took a job that required her to leave for days on end. Jordan was left to fend for himself, which led him inevitably into trouble. To fit in, he fell into the temptations that exist out on the streets, eventually joining a gang. But nothing satisfied him: “There was always something inside telling me there was more to life,” he said.

That summer at Wildhorse Canyon, Jordan found out what was missing, actually who was missing. For the first time, Jordan encountered Jesus Christ. At camp, “I found my real role model, Jesus.”

Jordan still gets in trouble, but he finds himself second-guessing those bad decisions more often. Life at home remains difficult, but he has learned that Jesus is with him, even in the hard times. He and Tangen are close. Jordan said Tangen is a “real funny guy, but serious when it’s time to get serious.”

This summer Jordan hopes to bring some of his friends who haven’t met the ultimate role model yet to go to camp with him. And for Tangen, that’s as good as an undefeated season any day.

— Ned Erickson