From the Grapevine

Making a Dent

Early one Saturday morning in the fall of 1998, Jim Cornett drove to his high school, Worthington Kilbourne in Columbus, Ohio, for a film session of the previous night’s varsity football game. Tired and late, he swerved into a parking space, cutting the corner too tight and causing, as Jim puts it, “an unfortunate accident for God’s glory.” He hit his coach’s car, leaving a nice dent. Jim nervously approached Coach Boulware, confessed to the accident and offered to pay for the damage. Boulware simply told him to forget it ever happened. Jim was struck by his “unbelievable grace to me and evidence of Christ in action.”

That spring, Jim and his fellow Campaigners were praying for underclassmen and the upcoming camp trip to Rockbridge. Two of those underclassmen were Todd and Eric, Coach Boulware’s twin sons. Both boys had considered going to camp. “I didn’t pursue it,” Eric says. “I knew that it was a lot of money for my parents to spend for both of us to go.”Knowing their desire to go, Jim and his Young Life leader, Steve Gardner, conceived a plan. As “payment” for the accident, Jim’s dad would sponsor Eric and Todd to attend camp. Coach Boulware agreed. Jim said, “It was the very least we could do to express gratitude for the grace their dad had shown me.”

It was the best week of Todd’s and Eric’s lives. “It was at that week of camp at Rockbridge that Todd and I became followers of Jesus,” said Eric.

The brothers stayed involved in Young Life throughout high school and into college. Today, both are on staff in Connecticut. In Eric’s words, “It’s interesting to think that God can use a small, unfortunate event such as Jim crashing into my dad’s car to impact my decision on who I marry, who my friends are and what my occupation is.”

– Michal Bennett


A Great Networker

Sarah and Cecilia, two sisters attending Kingsway High School in New Jersey, knew they couldn’t afford the upcoming weekend camp. As their leader, I brainstormed how to raise $250, but with no results. Finally, three days before camp, I prayed, “God, if you want them to go, you have to find a way.” The next morning, the strangest thought popped into my head. “Call Mike, he knows someone.” Mike, a youth pastor who knew the girls, agreed to ask some parents from the church that evening.

Before youth group started, one of the teens, Bob, asked to speak with Mike privately. He told Mike that he still had his tithe from his summer job and didn’t know what to do with it. He wanted the money to help someone in need, but having held onto it for so long, he figured he should just give it to Mike. Mike counted all the crumpled dollar bills … totaling $244! When Bob, who is also in Campaigners, heard how his tithe would help the girls, he was ecstatic.

Soon our local Young Life prayer group heard the story, and one mother (Kathy) started to cry. She said, “That’s my son, Bobby!” She explained how she had been encouraging him to give the money away for months, but when he kept telling her that “it didn’t feel right,” she assumed he was procrastinating. He had left for youth group without the money, but then came back into the house just to retrieve it.

Sarah and Cecilia were very grateful to experience camp, both throwing themselves at the first chance to give their lives to Christ. Their hearts were prepared that weekend. In Kathy’s words, “If this doesn’t show that Young Life is doing something right in our area, I don’t know what does.”

– Elizabeth Samti


Talking Trash in Young Lives

Many teen moms in Mesa, Ariz., may never look at a trash can the same way again. That’s because Kate Cochran, having never given a club talk in her four years of mentoring, nervously agreed to speak at a Young Lives club. Overcoming her fear of public speaking, Cochran talked candidly that night about sin with a unique visual aid: a trash can she handcuffed to herself as she carried her “sins” around the stage during her talk. Using props like tablecloths and air fresheners in an attempt to cover the sight and smell of her “trash,” Cochran could see in the girls’ faces how well they related to the sins we all carry.

After club, Cochran drove a 15-year-old teen mom, named Samantha, home. Sam had previously shown no interest in hearing about the Gospel, but Cochran’s message had made a profound impression on her. Sam shared that she “wanted to be free of the trash in her life,” so Cochran pulled the car over. Right there on the side of the road, Sam asked Jesus to come into her life. What a grand finale to a night where a mentor’s decision to step outside her comfort zone helped a young friend meet Jesus.

– Jeff Chesemore


The Wheels Keep Turning

Last fall I was shopping for an antique wooden-wheeled freight wagon, and found what I was looking for on a little horse farm on the plains east of Colorado Springs. I met with the owner who introduced himself as Ron and we shook hands. While discussing the price of the wagon, I wrote my home number on the back of my Young Life business card. He turned the card over and studied the Young Life logo. He paused for a second and started to smile.

Ron shared that he attended high school in Cope, Colo., in the early 1950s and a fellow named Jack Potts used to have a Young Life meeting every week. Cope is on the northeastern prairie of Colorado between Fort Morgan and Burlington; in other words, you’ve never been there. He told me Jack would come around after school and all the kids would meet at somebody’s farm house later that night. He once went to Star Ranch for a week in 1953, when the weather was lousy but the camp was great.  He struggled for the name of the speaker that week, so I asked, “Was it Jim Somebody?”

“Yup … Jim? Jim?”

“Was it Rayburn, maybe?” I asked.

“That’s it,” he said. He got so excited both hands came out of his pockets as the memories returned. He described a little more of his experiences as a “club kid” in Cope and then winked at me and said, “I was Jack’s favorite.”

When Ron delivered the wagon a week later, he asked if I’d found Jack Potts. “Not yet,” I said. Truthfully, I didn’t know where to start. I figured the only way to find Jack Potts was to contact a “tribal elder” in Young Life and search the oral tradition. After asking around the mission I was told that Jim Rayburn brought in folks like Jack to work with him in Colorado. Back then they had more weeks to fill at Star Ranch than they had campers, so Jim sent men and women out to the small towns in Colorado to start clubs and bring kids to camp. Leaders like Jack would routinely drive 100 miles a day, working three days a week in three different small towns. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday these folks would do contact work in the afternoon, have Campaigner kids over for dinner and then hold a whopping club at night.

After discovering that Jack and Marj Potts now live in Oregon, I wrote and shared with them the whole story. I asked Jack if he would mind calling “Wagon Ron” and talking with him. Jack did call him and they talked about a prairie high school ministry they had in common 55 years ago.

He was Jack’s favorite, you know.

– Mike O’Leary