Catching the Vision

“It was the best week of my life!” is what kids say who have experienced one of Young Life’s camps. But have you ever heard a teenager say, “It was the best year of my life”? That is what Amicus (pronounced ah–Mee–cus) exchange students will tell you.

If you aren’t familiar with Amicus, which comes from the Latin word for “friend,” you’re not alone. “It’s one of Young Life’s best-kept secrets,” says Elizabeth Jessup, the program’s director. Of course, the secret isn’t intentional. For nearly three decades, Amicus has provided a bridge between Young Life in the United States and internationally.

Since 1980, Amicus, Young Life’s international student exchange program, has reached out to more than 1,000 students from 33 countries — more than 1,000 kids who will never be the same. Many of these teenagers, not knowing God upon arrival in the United States, have returned home as followers of Jesus and as the next generation of leaders reaching their communities for Christ.

Noemie (pronounced no-amy) Boulot is no exception. In 2002, a host family in Colorado Springs, Colo., opened their home and hearts to her.

A Life-Changing Year

Only two days after arriving from Germany — experiencing a bit of culture shock — Noemie’s host brother invited her to the local Young Life club. Never having been exposed to Young Life, she wasn’t sure what to expect. “I didn’t know what it was about, but I wanted to make friends,” Noemie said.

What happened that night was amazing. Noemie discovered an environment that would soon open her heart to Christ. “It was the first time I ever felt like myself, but I never thought it would bring me to Jesus.”

The little that Noemie knew of God was, in her words, a “dry religion,” which hadn’t spoken to her heart. Young Life was completely different. “I slowly learned about the person of Christ and of accepting Him as my Savior,” shared Noemie.

That fall, Noemie attended a weekend camp at Frontier. Saturday night, outside the club room, she gave her life to Jesus. She said, “Everything lined up for me. I heard the message in an inviting and powerful way.”

As her exchange year continued, her host family poured into her and encouraged her to get involved at church. Noemie recalled, “My host mom told me she was there for me if I needed her and then gave me freedom — offering herself and opportunities for growth, but never forcing anything on me.” She continued, “God used her to set me on the path I am on now.”

When the school year came to a close, Noemie and her Amicus friends went to Young Life’s Rockbridge in Virginia; after camp was over they spent three days in Washington, D.C., sightseeing and attending special Young Life clubs with messages specially designed to prepare Amicus exchange students for their transition home.

Though Noemie would be returning home to a challenging situation — unbelieving family and friends — she was encouraged by the week. Many of her fellow exchange students had made the same decision to follow Christ during the year, or were going home with seeds of faith planted. She could see everyone had been significantly impacted by Young Life and Amicus.

Back in Germany, Noemie found it more difficult to re-enter than it was to go to the States. “I found I was slipping away from what I had learned and not living out what I believed because my environment was counter to my faith,” Noemie said.

Answering the Call

Then, in 2005, when God knew she really needed it, Noemie had an encouraging conversation with her Amicus representative in Colorado Springs, Marilyn Phillips. Representatives serve a critical role as liaisons between host families and students, often forming lifelong relationships with both.

Phillips suggested Noemie serve on summer staff at Young Life’s Trail West camp. Noemie agreed, and once there, she discovered the community and support she had been longing for in Germany. She learned how to read the Bible, “journal” about what she was learning and pray. Noemie was looking for spiritual guidance, direction and fellowship — she found it at Trail West.

Once again, Noemie returned to Germany, but this time even more grounded in faith and determined to share Christ with those around her. She immediately sought out Young Life and found Matt Adams who had recently moved to Munich to follow up with Amicus teens and develop leaders for Young Life all over the country. Noemie had met Adams and his wife while at Rockbridge and was delighted to find them in Germany.

Noemie’s passion was evident. Adams eagerly involved her in Amicus leadership and provided training for her, enabling Noemie to help start and lead a Young Life club for high school kids in her area and equipping her to serve as a leader for Amicus camps at Rockbridge. “She doesn’t want other returning Amicus students to have to do it alone, as she did,” said Adams.

Sharing the Story

Noemie recently shared her heart for Amicus and Young Life. “I feel called to help establish Young Life clubs in German high schools and to bring the vision of Young Life to Europe.”

Young Life Amicus serves as a vehicle to help make this happen, creating strong leaders and sharing the vision of reaching kids all over the world through Young Life.

Noemie is now doing what others in Amicus have done for her — offering herself, loving kids without holding back and telling them the greatest story ever told. Hers is one Amicus story, one of the many lives, and now communities, impacted by this little-known but powerful facet of Young Life.

Amicus Opportunities
  • Young Life is looking for loving, flexible, faith-filled families to host carefully-placed Amicus students! You don’t have to be perfect, just willing. Your family has the opportunity to grow together and grow spiritually by investing in a student’s life. Through Amicus you can impact not only the student, but many others in the student’s community at home.
  • Love working with teens and families, but don’t have the time to be a Young Life leader? Consider volunteering as an Amicus representative. Representatives help find host families and serve as liaisons, providing support and encouragement for students and families. Be blessed through relationships with both the kids and the families who invite them in!
  • Serve as an “aunt/uncle” giving respite to host families by taking in the Amicus student for a week or weekend.
  • Young Life Amicus offers other ways you can get involved as well. Come join us in this strategic ministry! For more information on hosting, serving as a representative or to find out more about Amicus, please call Young Life at (877) 438-9572.