From the Grapevine

Ready to Respond

Last summer Moges Berassa, Young Life leader in Ethiopia, found himself in need of a sickle, because he was in the midst of a deep spiritual harvest. After five “rich weeks at a Young Life camp in a place called Kuriftu,” Berassa returned to Addis Ababa, with a much larger spiritual family.

During camp, 973 kids from five Ethiopian towns attended. In typical Young Life fashion, these camps were marked by adventure and fun. Work crews from Alpharetta, Ga., and Lancaster and York, Pa., stood alongside the Ethiopian staff, doing a remarkable job serving the campers. And throughout the summer, Berassa reported, “The message about Jesus Christ was proclaimed clearly and neatly.”

The result? “Many kids experienced Jesus like never before,” Berassa said.

“We saw kids with tears, broken hearts and a readiness to respond — even kneeling down to pray.” For Berassa, the most exciting part of the five weeks was witnessing 581 kids stand up to make decisions to follow Jesus Christ.

Anyone who has ever led at Young Life camp, however, knows that the end of camp is actually a beginning. It marks a new period of intense depth in the lives of kids, where leader follow-up is critical. In many ways, the time-consuming work of walking with kids as they learn to walk with Christ presents even greater challenges.

"Things are still hot!" Berassa said. “Kids keep calling for more questions and help. Pray for us as we continue to follow up with them and start Bible studies.”

– Jeff Chesemore


Pocket Change

When Thor Odland, and his wife, Kate, joined Stavanger, Norway’s international staff in February 2005, they met with both an interesting physical and spiritual climate. Termed “the land of the midnight sun,” Norway is known for long summer days and winters that see an average of just about six hours of light each day. While the summer sunlight lasts for up to 21 hours, those winter months, Odland says, tend to be “cloud-covered, rainy and dark.”

According to Odland, a first-generation, American-raised Norwegian, the culture there has elevated materialism and sexual promiscuity. “Norwegian inclination toward the subject of God is lost in their self-sufficiency.”

When prayer opened the door for Young Life to join hands with the Norwegian State Church’s confirmation program a few years ago, Odland and his staff began putting on club for a small group of students each week. What began with about 30 kids has grown to become an avenue for relationships with a group about four times that size. During this year’s final club, in an attempt to give kids a chance to respond to the Gospel message, Odland held up a 100 Kroner bill (the equivalent of about $15), saying: “I want to give this to someone. It’s a gift and I want you to have it.”

Every kid in the room raised his or her hand, vying to be selected to receive the money. One brave young man stood up, opened his palm and Odland gave him the bill. Odland explained that Jesus’ redemption is similar, because it’s a gift that simply needs to be claimed. In a time and place where darkness is all too common, light is spilling in. In a culture where Jesus is fictionalized, truth is speaking up. In a corner of the map where economic status is prized, Jesus is prodding hearts and minds with pocket change.

– Cory Bordonaro


Food This Good

“I haven’t had food this good since my mom died.”

Mary Beth repeated that statement throughout her week at camp. The fact that we even knew her was itself an act of God. Her mom passed away from cancer in December 2008. A local Hospice worker, who had a son previously involved with Young Life here in Rockbridge County (Virginia), met Mary Beth through working with the family.

When I received an e-mail about Mary Beth, I was skeptical. This didn’t fit the way I did ministry. We don’t make “cold calls” to people we don’t know. We meet kids where they are, build relationships and then invite them to what we’re doing. But I knew we had to follow up.

Our leader Jill Refvem happily invited Mary Beth to club. Nervous at first, Mary Beth almost backed out of coming that night; but she did, and had the time of her life. That night we told her about summer camp at Lake Champion.

The next week I had a check from her dad for the full amount of camp.

We had an exciting week at Lake Champion with Mary Beth. It seemed like everything reminded her of her mom’s love — the food, the skits and so much more. During a time of 20 minutes alone, she was scared. She didn’t like being alone, especially since her mom passed away. Eventually she sat down and let herself be alone. “I felt like Jesus was on one side of me and my mom was on the other.”

Mary Beth had the greatest week of her life as she experienced love and community in a way she never had before. She also heard about a relationship with Christ and what that looks like. It was my privilege to see her go to the new Christian seminar on the last day, smiling from ear to ear.

– Steve Rawls, area director, Rockbridge County, Va.


The Tentacles of Young Life

Recently, during a “meet and greet” time at church, I met an older gentleman named Jim. Jim noticed my Young Life shirt and said, “Young Life, oooooh!” This is not uncommon as people either know about Young Life, or they think I’m a life insurance salesman. I didn’t question his response, I just moved on to the next person to meet and greet.

At the end of the service, as I was gathering my things to leave, Jim leaned in close to me and said, “I don’t know what your involvement with Young Life is, but you are involved, correct?” I said that I was. Jim went on to tell me that he and his wife were married 20 years and raising four kids without God in their family. Then, Young Life got ahold of two of his kids when they hit high school, and they eventually gave their lives to Jesus. After that, his other two kids accepted Christ and not too much longer after that, he and his wife also accepted Christ. With a proud look on his face, Jim added that their kids are fully grown and he is thrilled that his grandchildren are being raised in homes that love and honor God.

He looked at me with all seriousness and reverence as he said, “Young Life’s tentacles are long and far-reaching. I just thought you needed to hear that. Don’t give up. Don’t quit!”

As I thanked this man with tears welling up in my eyes, I knew God sent Jim to give me that pep talk, with our upcoming camp trip to Woodleaf (one of Young Life’s camps in California) fast approaching. We continue to pray that the “tentacles” of God’s love and forgiveness will wrap around these kids as well as their families at home as the Lord’s “faithfulness continues through all generations.”

– Brian Orlovich, area director, NW Valley Phoenix, Ariz.