From the Grapevine

Many Happy Returns

In 1979, Tracye, Tina and Regina were high school students at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Ind., when leader Christy Bakker sat at their cafeteria table to play backgammon with them. Over lunchtime games and conversations they became friends, and eventually the girls attended club and summer camp.

After camp, these three attended Campaigners, rarely missing the opportunity to be together. Tracye attended even though she had doubts. “‘Christy,’ she’d say, ‘I’m here, but I’m not believing this stuff.’” Bakker would reply, “Tracye, we’re glad you’re here. You keep coming!”

Two years after this group first met, Bakker and her husband moved to Pasadena, Calif. Bakker held the girls close in prayer, and they stayed in touch through letters and calls.

Tracye wrote to Bakker about her struggles. In one letter she wrote, “I’m in such a dark and difficult place; I don’t know where to turn.” But in the next letter, Tracye wrote, “I decided my only hope was to look to Jesus, so I did … Don’t know why He’d want my life, but I gave it to Him anyway.”

It’s hard to imagine a better gift to a leader than that, but years later, on Bakker’s 40th birthday, this group of friends gave her something that came close. Unable to attend Bakker’s surprise party in Kansas City, Tracye, Tina, Regina and their families had their own party for her. Then they mailed a video of their celebration to be shown at Bakker’s surprise party.

On the video they sang “Happy Birthday” around a decorated cake; their children made wishes and blew out the candles. They recounted old Young Life stories and they even performed a rendition of the skit, “If I were not in Young Life … ” Bakker said, “The KC crowd was laughing hysterically, but I had tears streaming down my face as I watched ‘my’ high school teens, now beautiful women with children of their own, going to such lengths to tell their old leader they loved her.”

The group reunited last Thanksgiving in Indianapolis. The former Campaigners told stories about their lives, ministries and mission trips. And, before they parted, they prayed for each other. The girls who captured her heart, said Bakker, "were now ministering to me."

— Stacy Windahl

Brothers in Christ and Life

Before Skyler Howeth graduated from Chamberlain High School in Tampa, Fla., he was an influential and popular student, but he was looking for more than popularity. He was looking for a brother who would stand by him in all of life’s circumstances.

Skyler found that brother in Bobby Herrington, a volunteer leader who weathered the storms with him. “From the very beginning you reached out to me and took me in. To this day I wonder why,” wrote Skyler in a letter to Herrington. Despite being the kind of kid who loved club and took kids to club with him, Skyler got into trouble, just “wanting to make a name for myself.” Skyler recalled the day he was arrested and wrote, “I felt like my whole world was going to fall apart, but who was there? You.”

The relationship between Skyler and Herrington deepened and, as it did, Skyler’s love for Jesus grew right along with it. Today, when he prays or reads Christian books he remembers, with gratitude, Herrington and Young Life.

After graduation, Skyler joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Before his first deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, he wrote to Herrington, “You have become closer to me than any brother I could want … I only hope that our friendship, better yet, our brotherhood grows stronger and stronger as the years progress and that I continue to make you proud … ” He signed the letter, “Your brother in Christ and Life.” In November, when Skyler returned from his first tour of duty, it was Herrington who waited to welcome him home. No doubt Herrington will continue to stand proudly by his brother in faith always. Semper Fi.

— Stacy Windahl

Walking It Out

The worms weren’t the only things wiggling on stage. Macy was, too.

A junior from Louisville, Ky., Macy had just been called to the front of the club room at Rockbridge Alum Springs in Goshen, Va. After being blindfolded, Macy tried to “walk it out,” across a stage covered with what she figured to be earthworms.

As it turns out, the earthworms were replaced with gummy worms.

“They were slimy, wet and gushy,” said Macy, flashing a wide smile. “I just took off running, but I ran for no reason.”

Like Macy, hundreds of teenagers from parts of Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina left the urban Young Life winter weekend at Rockbridge with no shortage of stories to tell and experiences to share.

Whether it was meeting new friends, starting snowball fights, screaming on The Screamer (a giant swing), enjoying the antics of B-Money and Professor Hamm, participating in dancing and free-styling competitions in the Springs Center or competing in the Catt and Carey Game Show, the kids collected a lifetime of unforgettable memories in a four-day span.

After a series of Gospel messages by Young Life speaker Bill Paige, many kids left with more than just memories.

Paige brought the frenzied crowd of kids to a dead silence as he intertwined biblical accounts with his own touching life story.

“He’s a phenomenal speaker,” said Clay, a senior from Roanoke, Va. “He relates it to us. He puts it in our terms, so we can understand it. And on top of that, he’s funny, too.”

Michael Burbage, the area director for Multicultural Young Life in Norfolk, Va., said the four-day trip over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was a life-changing experience for many of the 40 kids he brought to camp.

“The majority of our campers were first timers,” Burbage said. “Some of them told me they had never been to church. They had a chance to hear the Word of God in a context they could understand and receive. This experience has really made a difference in their lives.”

— Chris Lassiter

I Hear You Calling

The U.S. State Department reports that of Peru’s 2.1 million children, 60 percent live below the poverty line, and child kidnapping and trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor are common. 1

In that setting, finding a kidnapped child is a miracle to celebrate. That’s what Christen Morrow, and fellow Capernaum (Young Life’s ministry to kids with disabilities) leaders did when Junior, a deaf child with developmental disabilities and hyperactivity, escaped his trafficking captors and was returned safely home.

“Junior was one of the very first Capernaum kids we met in Peru as we began to do contact work in 2005. He was at the first club and he is unforgettable,” said Christen Morrow, the Capernaum Latin America coordinator. “He is also incredibly determined to communicate and bursting with love for anyone who comes near him.”

Junior spent most days playing in the streets of Callao in Lima, Peru, a better alternative to the alcoholism and abuse he encountered at home.

When Junior was kidnapped off those streets in 2006, his parents expressed little interest in finding him. So, Capernaum leaders and the Association for the Deaf in Peru began a campaign to find Junior. Flyers went up all over Callao, but his captors fled with Junior to Northern Peru.

One night while the men slept in their truck near a highway, Junior escaped and was found later running along the highway. After a stay at an orphanage in another city, he was brought home.

Morrow said, “When children disappear from Lima, they are rarely ever found,  especially not in a short four months. The miracle is that he was and is fine!”

It’s a miracle to celebrate: adults who won’t stop looking for unlikely kids in dangerous places, and a God who calls for us in ways we each can hear so that He can bring us safely home.

1U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2007

— Stacy Windahl