From the Grapevine

Showing Up

After a particularly rough day, the last thing leader Mike Thornton felt like doing was going to a soccer game at Southern Lehigh. Feeling angry, tired and not in any mood to hang out at the high school, he called fellow leader Kelly Griffin to let her know he wasn't going.

"I called Kelly, explained to her the kind of day I was having and attempted to get out of going to the soccer game that night," said Thornton. To his surprise, she wouldn't hear it. "But, Mike, you really should go tonight." Thornton and Griffin went back and forth for several minutes. She won. "I took the hint and told Kelly I would go, but I wasn't happy about it," Thornton conceded.

Driving to the school from work, Thornton came up with his game plan. "I went to the school straight from work and got there about a half an hour early. There was no one there yet, so I went to the top of the bleachers, sat down, crossed my arms and made sure I looked angry enough that you wouldn't want to talk to me." Little did Thornton know, he was in for a surprise.

The Southern Lehigh mascot is the Spartan who dons a feathered helmet, leather skirt, arm and leg bands, metal chest plate, and carries a sword and shield. Once the game started, the mascot ran up into the student section, where Thornton had unintentionally sat, and started to rally the crowd. He then made a beeline for the top of the bleachers, heading straight for Thornton. "Hey, you're that Young Life guy," he said, "My name is Dan. I came to Young Life club a couple of times and remember seeing you playing the guitar." He went on, "I'm glad I ran into you. Things have been rough at home and I decided to start reading my Bible. I don't understand it all. Do you mind if I talk to you about it?"

For a moment, Thornton was speechless. "I had to pause to pick my jaw off the ground. I honestly couldn't believe it. I didn't even want to be there and God sends me a kid who needs help." As Thornton sat in awe, he thought, "Wow, God is awesome and wow, I am such a dope."

Thornton and Dan spent the rest of the game talking about Jesus, except when the team scored and they had to break so Dan could run the bleachers in all his Spartan gear yelling with the student section.

That night, Mike Thornton showed up and God showed off. Dan heard the Gospel and his life, as well as Thornton's, will never be the same.

– Erika Jay

A Small Town Goes Wyld

Megan Mathews was a freshman when she first attended Young Life at Topsail High School in the small community of Hampstead, N.C. It didn't take long for her to get hooked. "Something just clicked," she said. "I could bring all my friends, even ones that wouldn't go to church with me."

Leaders drove 30 miles from the University of North Carolina campus at Wilmington three times a week for club, Campaigners and other after-school events. As the school year ended, however, lack of funding combined with the long-distance commute made it impossible for the leaders to continue their efforts. For the time being, Young Life was forced to shut down in Hampstead.

The next year, tragedy struck the community when a 15-year-old Topsail student drowned at Cape Hatteras, 200 miles up the coast from Hampstead. In the wake of that awful day, however, the community grew closer together. Megan can still recall the memorial service, where 200 of her peers came to know Christ. "It was like a revival," she said. "It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

By Megan's junior year, the community was ready for Young Life to return. While attending family camp at Windy Gap, Young Life's camp in North Carolina, Megan's parents, neighbors, aunts, and uncles formed a committee. With Megan and most of her friends only a year away from graduating high school, they opted to begin an effort to reach out to middle-school kids. "We wanted to start with WyldLife so the kids in middle school would know what Young Life is," Megan said.

The committee held its first banquet in the high-school cafeteria. Word spread and enthusiasm for Young Life continued to grow throughout the community. All they needed was someone to lead.

"We found this middle-school leader named Doug Maners," Megan recalled. Though he had no prior experience with Young Life, Maners taught seventh-grade math and science at Topsail Middle School. The committee quickly recognized his love for kids. After attending leadership training, Maners turned a fledgling effort into a full WyldLife experience. "All the kids love him," Megan said.

Fifty kids attended the first Topsail WyldLife club. Megan and 15 of her friends came to share the love of Christ with each one of them. "I love them so much," Megan said. "I love hanging out with middle schoolers." As the school year progressed, the club sometimes drew more than 60 kids.

Plans are currently under way to bring Young Life to Topsail High School in the near future. In the meantime, prayer remains Megan's biggest lifeline as she continues to pour out the love of Christ to middle-school kids. "You have people's hearts on the line," she said. "God has to walk you there."

– Travis Johnson

Extravagant Love

Justin Forbes, Northern Palm Beaches area director, knows he hit the jackpot with leaders Jimmy Carrol and Jad Davis. Two years ago, Carrol had been praying about where he could serve in the mission and felt a nudge toward Young Life's Capernaum ministry, even though he had very little experience with kids with disabilities. When a chance meeting at the mall reunited Carrol with his old Young Life leader, Davis, who was currently teaching students with disabilities at Dwyer High School, a Capernaum club was born. The two men have been leading club together since it started last fall, drawing 25 students on the first day.

The following spring, both men were thrilled with the excitement Young Life camp generated among students. They worked hard to convince parents their kids would be well taken care of, and by the beginning of the summer, 20 students and leaders were signed up and ready to go to Young Life's Southwind camp in Ocklawaha, Fla. The day they were to leave for camp, students were beyond excited to board the buses and be on their way. Little did they know, Forbes had been doing some convincing of his own with the bus company to help make this the trip of a lifetime for these kids. Instead of a bus, Forbes asked the bus company to send a stretch limo, complete with sparkling cider, lights and a dance party!

"We wanted to be extravagant, a picture of the Gospel from the moment these kids showed up," he said. The reaction was exactly what he hoped — the students went wild.

Shortly after they arrived at camp, kids were divided into teams and given matching, colored bracelets. Barbara, one of the students from the Northern Palm Beaches area, entered the dining hall and asked where she should sit. When asked what color bracelet she had, she said, "Oh, I'm not on a team color. I'm with the limo group!" The students' experience of extravagance paved the way for them to hear about and experience the extravagant love of Jesus throughout their week at camp. And it's certain they won't easily forget that the road to the best week of their lives was traveled in style.

– By Amanda Kolman