From the Grapevine

Jesus on the Mainline

Every morning — not five days a week but seven, not 9 a.m. but 5 a.m. — Young Lives (Young Life's ministry to teen moms) Washington DC Director Sharon Holland and six other devoted prayer warriors dial up the prayer line. "The primary focus is kingdom building. We pray for the nation, families, marriages, teenagers and the babies," said Holland.

Three years ago when the morning conference call began, Sharon Holland was overwhelmed. After working in youth development for 20 years and Young Lives for more than five, the problems were outweighing the solutions. "No answers, no leadership. We needed the power of prayer. We had to cry out because if there was no Young Lives what was left was cocaine, prostitution and prison."

Holland knows. She, too, was a teen mom. Without a father around, she was "looking for love in all the wrong places; looking for guys to provide what my father did not." Marrying hastily, two years later she found herself divorced at 21. "Life went spiral … when you are in a life of brokenness and hurt, there is a lot of darkness." But Jesus met her there.

She went to school, took a job at a university, and began working with youth and singles. Holland is well aware that she is a success story. "God, my Father, has redeemed and restored." Her son is now 27 years old and serves in the Air Force. "He is a fabulous husband and father." Holland's grandson "is the joy of my life."

Her story and her prayers are the source of much hope for the more than 200 moms involved in Young Lives DC. Eighty-five percent of these moms are court ordered, meaning that Child Protective Services is involved with their case. The courts have given Young Lives the opportunity to provide life skills, mentoring and parenting classes.

"It's the system or us," said Holland. "The name of the game is survival." This incredible challenge is what brings her and her team to their knees. "Prayer is our glue. It keeps me sane and gives us hope."

– Ned Erickson


Clothed in Confidence

CariAnn Litz and Jessica Savard, leaders in Lakeland, Fla., were at SharpTop Cove (Young Life's camp in Georgia) with a group of high school girls when they noticed a need. "These girls barely [had] enough clothes for a week at camp," Litz said. "We wondered, 'How do they have clothes for school?'" Upon their return home, they decided to write letters and raise the money to take four or five girls on a back-to-school shopping spree. "God knew the need," Savard said, "and He just happened to show us how to meet it."

The night before the big excursion, they hosted a sleepover, featuring a What Not To Wear-inspired fashion show. Together, they also watched a few episodes of the TLC television show. More important than the clothes, Litz and Savard desired to give the girls a better understanding of what messages their clothes were communicating.

"Respecting their bodies wasn't high on their priority lists," Savard said. "It was: 'What attention can I get, and how can I get it?'"

"We just wanted to extend to them that if you take the time to find things that fit well, you can really transform how you look and feel about yourself," Litz said. "If you are dressing for your body, then that's when you're the most beautiful."

The shopping trip lasted eight hours, and proved to be quite exhausting. "We learned a lot of nice ways to say no," Litz said. But, the experience was instrumental in helping the girls understand that clothing can both express and invite respect.

"A lot of them [had] put up walls," Savard said. "'People are going to notice me for this.' In reality, they were making up for something else. It's just been cool to help them come through that. It was definitely something that God did, and I was so happy to be a part of it."

– Cory Bordonaro


Lunch Encounters

Hall monitors keep a wary eye as 2,300 kids eat their lunches across four intervals at Henderson County Senior High in Henderson, Ky. For Area Director Chris Dillbeck, it's the perfect time to introduce his new leaders to contact work. "I tell my leaders the Lord has a group of kids with your name on it," Dillbeck said.

With a new school principal, as well as a host of teachers new to the faculty, Dillbeck started the school year facing a school staff unfamiliar with Young Life, suspicious of strangers lurking in their hallways.

"Every year, teachers challenge me," Dillbeck said. "We start off wearing name badges and visitor tags, but by the end [of the year], most of the staff recognize why we're there."

The challenge failed to deter Dillbeck's newest leader: 47-year-old Steve Treece. Dillbeck and Treece spotted a group of black-clothed alternative kids hovering around a table outside. Treece recalls that Dillbeck prompted, "Why don't you go out there and start a conversation with those guys?" He felt a little scared, but Treece summoned his courage, and marched outside to introduce himself. Dillbeck quickly found a school administrator and showed him Treece's encounter.

Later that afternoon, Dillbeck received an e-mail from the administrator. Many of the teachers who monitor the lunch periods were away for training that day. The vice principal had expressed some concern, and asked the administrator if he needed more help. "We're all right," the administrator assured her, "Young Life is here."

Treece has remained connected to some of the kids he met that day, and remembers that first encounter as a watershed event. "Some weeks it's hard, other weeks it's like the Young Life tagline says, 'You were made for this,'" he said. "You ask yourself where God wants you to be and, for me, this is exactly where He wants me to be."

Over the past year, the school administration has learned that it has a new partner. "That is what we want to be in schools," said Dillbeck, "where the school identifies us as being a valuable part of the community."

– Travis Johnson