Change

Change takes different forms. Seasons change. Moods change. People change. At Southwind (Young Life’s camp in Ocklawaha, Fla.) we see a lot of change. Every summer, kids from around the country change there. They leave transformed after experiencing this God who is head-over-heels in love with them. But the change in Allen, Bernard and Tirus Seals took everyone by surprise.

In June, the three brothers went to Southwind with Greater Athens (Georgia) WyldLife (Young Life’s ministry for middle schoolers). Allen, the leader; Bernard, the thoughtful; Tirus, the boisterous — they came from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Athens. They were like many other kids from their neighborhood: growing up with no father, living with their grandmother, their mother having gone away to find work and start over.

Two years ago, John Yasenchok, a college student at the University of Georgia and a WyldLife leader, met them outside their apartment. He was picking up one of their friends for club and invited them along. They came without hesitation. “When you go to the inner city to pick up kids for WyldLife, everyone wants to come!” laughed Yasenchok.

Coming across town to WyldLife was one thing, going hundreds of miles to central Florida was another. However, Yasenchok had earned their trust and, after some work, he was able to reach their mother by phone to ask her permission.

When he called, “She stopped me mid-sentence,” recalled Yasenchok. “She told me she had become a Christian. She had been praying for those boys since she left — for someone to rise up in Athens and walk with them.”

At Southwind, the boys had the week of their lives. They had endless fun engaging with the program, playing basketball and shooting down the 250-foot waterslide. They were blown away by speaker Julie Clapp’s creative talks. And over the week, change took place.

It happened in a quiet moment for Allen. “We were sitting in the room after hearing Julie tell us about the cross. Allen went off by himself. He was so solemn,” remembered Yasenchok. “It was like I was watching transformation happen before my eyes.”

Bernard’s change took on a different form. Jessica Condit, the area director for Greater Athens, watched, astounded: “He was out with the work crew. Of all the things he could be doing, he was laying sod! Later, I asked him about it. He just told me that he wanted to help.”

“I remember Tirus distinctly,” said Yasenchok about the third brother, “he was helping put bags on the bus. During the ride, he asked me if I wanted a Capri Sun. When he came back holding two, he asked me which one I wanted. He gave me the grape. It was things like that. Something had changed.”

For Allen, Bernard and Tirus Seals that change took on different forms. One brother cried; another served; a third put others before himself. Each responded to a God who was and is and always will be head-over-heels in love with them.

For more information about WyldLife, please go to wyldlife.younglife.org.