From the Grapevine

A Great Harvest

When Matt Shepherd, Young Life area director in Wichita, Kan., found out he was losing his office space, Tim Heeren, a local businessman, felt the Lord stirring him to action. The pair cooked up a plan, and since September 2011, Heeren’s Great Harvest Bread Company has been home to the offices of Young Life.

But Shepherd and Heeren know man can’t live by bread alone. That’s why they’re thankful this partnership has also been food for the soul.

Shepherd remembers how the collaboration began: “I had been looking for a ‘store front’ office space for months, but I couldn’t find anything. On a Friday, I received a phone call from the owner of our current office space informing me that they had sold the business and that we needed to find new office space. That Sunday evening after Campaigners, Tim unrolled blue prints of a retail space and said, ‘They want me to take way too much space for this bakery. Could you ever use something like this?’”

Forty-five hundred square feet later, a deli-coffee shop-office space-club room emerged from their conversation — where eternal business is transacted daily and kingdom work is on the menu.

Heeren and his family were introduced to Young Life just two years ago when their son Luke started going to club. They love what it’s done in their family and community.

“It was God’s work putting us together,” Heeren said. “My wife, MariAnn, and I appreciate ministries that are working in our own backyard. We believe in what Young Life does and see fruit in our home and in our business.”

Thirteen hundred customers come through Great Harvest Bread each week. And they can’t miss the 18-foot-high wall with a sign announcing “Home of Young Life Wichita” perched in the top corner.

Heeren introduces Shepherd to folks who’ve come in for a meal, and several have since become donors. Shepherd recruited three of Heeren’s employees to serve as volunteers in WyldLife, Capernaum and Young Life College.

Once the business closes at six every evening, the building becomes 100 percent Young Life. There are anywhere from two to five events a week at Great Harvest — club, leader training and committee meetings, to name a few.

“We’ve become so much more available to the community,” Shepherd said. “People know where to find us. I think that awareness is driving camp scholarships. More kids are coming to camp this summer than ever before.

“Tim has created a window where people get to see into Young Life.”

Heeren said the blessing goes both ways. “The return on my investment has been incredible,” Heeren said. “I hope people feel a difference in this business when they come in. It’s definitely provided an opportunity for financial growth for us. And it provides accountability for me. I have to run my business in a godly way.

“I have no regrets on this decision. It’s been fantastic.”

– Leslie Strader 

A Mom's Perspective

My introduction to Young Life came during Jordan’s freshman year at Piqua High School (in Piqua, Ohio). One afternoon he called to say he was going to the Piqua football game that night — an away game. I asked him how he was getting there. He said, “In a van with Larry and a bunch of other kids.” Of course, my first question was, “Who is Larry?”

Jordan responded, “The Young Life leader.” Not knowing what Young Life was, that wasn’t enough for me! So, after a few more questions, I called the Family of Grace Church and received verification that Larry Butt was a wonderful person who’d been involved with Young Life for years. I felt comfortable with Jordan going. That was the beginning.

Jordan started bringing home many Young Life kids, who were fun and crazy, but also respectful. I was happy Jordan had become involved with Young Life. The summer after his sophomore year, Jordan attended Rockbridge. When he returned from camp, he was so excited! He had something to tell us, but wanted to wait until our big family vacation, which was a week away. He tried to hold it in, but later that day he said, “I can’t wait to tell you.” He had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at camp. Larry was the one who led him to Christ. I was so excited! Although Jordan had been around some good family influence, he had never made a true profession of faith. I noticed many changes in Jordan after that. I wasn’t the only one. My daughter Alex took notice as well.

I really wanted Alex to go to Young Life too. She attended sporadically, but didn’t seem interested in the spiritual aspects of Young Life. However, she decided to go to Saranac last summer where, with Allison South’s help, she also came to know Christ as her Savior. Since then, I’ve seen major changes in her life!

All of this happens because there are dedicated people willing to give their time to befriend these kids, are available to kids at any time and are role models for them. I’m thankful to Larry, Joe and Allison, and all the Young Life leaders, as well as those people who pray and support financially. Not only does Young Life change kids’ lives, but through the changes, others are impacted. Seeing the changes in my kids has caused me to re-examine my own life and to make some changes of my own! This year I decided to help out where I could and joined the area leadership team with Jordan (who has recently graduated). I thank God for this program and what it’s meant to me and my family.

– Sandy Wallace


“I honestly had a time where I was sure that leading wasn’t for me,” Nate Morris said. Two years ago, Morris started volunteering as a Young Life leader at Denbigh High School in Newport News, Va., where he was surprised to find a small club and nonexistent Campaigners group.

While it was difficult, and at times discouraging, for Morris to deal with the seemingly consistent stagnation, God showed this faithful leader and the rest of the Denbigh club His own faithfulness. Fast forward to 2012, where 45 kids came out to the last club and 12 expressed a desire to begin a relationship with Christ after the cross talk.

"Many of these guys were dudes I have been praying for for a long time,” Morris said. “It was incredible to see the Lord work.”

One of those guys, James,* frequently needed a ride to and from club, so Morris had many opportunities to talk to him in the car and develop their relationship.

“To put it mildly, he is going through more than any kid I have ever known — more than any 17-year-old should ever have to — and my heart breaks for him,” Morris said. “But, I got to love this kid, to have a conversation with him about God, and to pray over Him through this. It is a moment I will never forget and one that further strengthened my passion for this ministry.”

Denbigh High is a multicultural, urban school with many struggling students. The kids are quite different from Morris, but he was faithful and determined, said Joe Marks, Morris’s area director.

“Nate helped build it into a viable Young Life club and it will continue to grow,” Marks said. “Nate had a lot of courage under fire.”

While Morris does not know what his future in the mission will look like, he said the past two years have been the best of his life because of Young Life. He learned Young Life is not a formula and the most important part of the ministry is letting God take control of club and relationships. Nothing is more freeing than to put the ministry on Christ and go along for the ride.

“The Lord used Nate to develop consistency and Nate loved the kids well,” Marks said. “The sky is the limit for this club.”

*name has been changed

- Emily Johnston