From the Grapevine

Significant Connections

"With sweat and mud running in my eyes, I saw two little girls standing in front of us giggling and smiling. We didn't speak the same language, but I could see the gratitude in their eyes," recalled Braedon McCoy, who engaged in manual labor alongside 22 other Young Life students from Singapore and Japan, as they served the staff and children of a Filipino orphanage.

The children of Home of Hope orphanage welcomed the Young Life leaders and students warmly and, likewise, the Young Life students bonded quickly to these kids. Though it was their intention to serve the orphans, the lives of the Young Life kids were equally impacted.

“Most of the orphans attached themselves to a student or two for the duration of the week. Though we were expecting to shower love on these kids through our time and energy, it was these kids who taught us a rich reality of God’s unconditional love,” said Sarah Mae Billingsley, on staff with Singapore Young Life. “The students felt a significant connection to these orphans, so much so that their Facebook profile pictures were changed to ones with their special orphan.”

One of the students, Kelsey Lightfoot, was excited and inspired by the trip: “I came back not only being more closely connected to Young Life and the people involved, but also closer to God. I am currently pestering all of my friends to come and experience what I did. It was the best week of my life.”

Even as the team boarded the plane for their return, however, the trip was far from over. “While I studied math with one student,” Billingsley said, “two others behind us engaged in a focused conversation that was spiritual in nature. An hour-plus later, the chat wrapped up in prayer, one walking the other through asking Jesus to be the center of his life. What a joy for us to set the stage for a student to speak love and truth to a peer.”

— Kayla Anderson

Crawling to the Cross

One night as I spoke at WyldLife camp at Castaway (in Minnesota), I shared the Gospel in the context of the man who was lowered through the roof by his four buddies. The paraplegic, his friends, everyone, thought the man’s biggest issue was that he was paralyzed. But as usual, Jesus surprised everyone by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus correctly diagnosed and dealt with the real issue.

I went on to share that we all think we know what our biggest issue is. Our parents are divorced. We’re too tall or short or fat or skinny. We’re learning-disabled or unpopular. And yet Jesus knows there’s a bigger issue. It was true for the paralyzed man and it’s true for us.

After I shared this I gave the kids a chance to respond by writing their names on a red paper heart and nailing it to the cross we had on stage. I watched from the side of the club room as kids — some of them crying — individually thanked Jesus for His sacrifice.

The junior higher next to me, Chad Boedeker from Ely, Minn., who was not sitting in his wheelchair at the time, started to move toward the stage. His leader Emmett, thinking Chad might want his chair, leaned over and whispered, “You okay?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “I’m just going to crawl.”

As Emmett walked behind him and helped him work his way through all the kids, Chad slowly made his way to the cross. He crawled up on stage, wrote his name on a red paper heart and nailed it near the bottom of the cross.

I don’t know why it’s such a powerful image for me. Perhaps because, like the paralyzed man in the story, this young man realized his biggest issue — and he understood that Jesus is his only hope.

Or maybe it’s because we are all the same — broken, hurting, desperate. And no matter who we are, Jesus is willing to accept us and love us right where we are.

— Rick Mumford

A Loaded Truth

Gretchen Sanger didn’t pack light when she traveled with young moms to the Puget Sound for Young Lives camp last summer. (Young Lives is our ministry to teen moms.) In fact, when this Vancouver, Wash., leader prepared for the week away, she included a load of small rocks in her suitcase.

Before camp, she painted each one with words like “anger” and “fear,” frequently expressed emotions among her high school kids. “I think it’s common to women, but especially to these gals. They’re all looking for their knight in shining armor,” she said. “They’re needing love so bad that they’re looking for it in the wrong way or in the wrong place and, a lot of times, that’s why they’ve ended up in the situations they’re in.”

During cabin time one night, Sanger piled the rocks into a backpack and passed it around for each girl to wear. After commenting on the substantial weight of the pack, she emptied its contents onto the floor, inviting each camper to take hold of a rock that best fit the description of how she felt toward her life and current circumstances.

With the rest of camp settled into their cabins, Sanger then led the girls down to the lake and prayed as each young woman threw her rock into the water. “There were a lot of tears,” she remembered, “and there was a lot of openness to hurts in everyone’s lives.”

Together, as they watched the rocks sink to the bottom of the lake, they felt the relief of their released weight. What an example of how Jesus promises rest for those who are heavy-laden and weary from the effects of sin.

Because Jesus often uses physical illustrations to communicate the Gospel, Sanger also prefers to use her surroundings to share truth. After a meaningful week at camp, she certainly wasn’t the only one thankful for a lighter load on the way home.

— Cory Bordonaro

Two Steps Closer to New Young Life Camp

A new Young Life camp on the border of North and South Carolina is now two steps closer to becoming a place where kids will spend a life-changing “best week.” Step 1: Select a name. Some of our readers will be familiar with the initial name, Pinnacle Point, which turns out to be a fairly common name for various businesses and landmarks in the surrounding area. A group of camp and field staff have therefore selected a new name: Carolina Point. Originally donated to Young Life by Jim Anthony, who also invested in initial development of the land, Carolina Point will have the unique distinction of being the only Young Life camp with a state border running through the center of the property. Step 2: Build a camp. Plans are now underway to design, raise funds for and build Carolina Point, and meet a growing need for campers in the Southeastern United States. Please pray for Senior Vice President John Vicary and regional directors in the Southern Division, Campaign Director Chuck Scott and Camp Manager Greg Carlton as they lead the planning, funding and building of Carolina Point, and for the kids who will experience Christ at this special place.

— Terry Swenson