From the Grapevine

A Wyld Night on Cowboy Turf

In the land of Friday Night Lights, every Texas schoolboy knows “football is life.” But at 10 o’clock on one November Friday night, 800 middle school kids from across North Texas heard about something more. After being ushered onto buses in their areas, kids arrived at Cowboys Stadium with brightly colored T-shirts declaring, “WyldLife Takeover. One night. One stadium.” Upon arrival, the kids (100 at a time), entered the field the same way the Cowboys do — running out of the tunnel. Immediately they began a scavenger hunt which Julie Clapp, director of alumni and events, explained, “let them go all over the field level. They were leapfrogging on the field, kicking field goals, taking pictures in front of Tony Romo’s locker and singing Taylor Swift in the Cowboys tunnel. I loved seeing middle school kids running around being kids!”

Then the kids rushed to the stage set up on the 50-yard sideline (which, of course, did not cover the hallowed lone star in the middle of the field). After club and a talk, the crowd that somehow fit between the 40 yard lines and the center star split up around the field for a special cabin time. Many leaders felt this was the best part of the night — kids were truly engaging with the message and appreciative of the time to talk about what they had heard. But the fun didn’t end there. At 12:30, the WyldLife Takeover brought pizza and drinks onto the field, giving leaders even more time to pursue kids. One area director remembers a student who came to the stadium as her first-ever WyldLife event. She spurned invitations by leaders, but after being welcomed by other WyldLife girls attended her first club the next week and took home a camp flyer.

By 2:30, the field was empty and the kids were now on the upper levels of the stadium watching a movie on the Cowboys’ giant HD screen. The 6:00 a.m. breakfast, cartoons and departure came too soon after what one Allen WyldLife kid called the “Best Night Ever at Cowboys Stadium!”

After the WyldLife Takeover, leaders commented on how excited kids are about camp because of the fun they had at the overnight. One of Carlos Flores’s kids from a new Latino WyldLife club in Dallas said Nov. 30 was the best night of his life. Flores replied, “If you thought this was fun, just wait until camp!”

– Bailey Wolford

"Good Job, Jacob!"

If you were to attend a Young Life Capernaum club, you may notice some differences from other Young Life clubs, but what you wouldn’t miss are the unmistakable similarities — students laughing and playing silly games, interacting with leaders who love them, and hearing the Gospel. And just like any other Young Life club, an ordinary night may just result in something extraordinary.

On one ordinary night at club in Bellevue, Wash., kids were playing games, laughing and hearing about Jesus. One student, Jacob, who has been diagnosed with Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, a speech and comprehension processing disorder, stood off to the side and bounced a basketball back and forth with his leader, Christopher Hill. Hill began volunteering a year ago and found himself spending more time with Jacob at club. “He has trouble participating in some of the group activities, so I try to spend one-on-one time with him,” said Hill.

As club was wrapping up, Jacob and Hill
continued to bounce the basketball back and forth. Suddenly, Jacob began to count, one number for each bounce of the ball. When Jacob’s dad arrived to pick him up, he stood and listened as Jacob began counting further than he ever had before. “Good job, Jacob,” he said over and over as Jacob counted higher and higher. Encouraged by his dad’s enthusiasm, Jacob counted all the way to 30. Apparently, the kinetic motion of bouncing a ball, coupled with using his verbal skills, turned a light on in Jacob’s mind.

When he was finished, Jacob’s dad told Hill that this was the best counting Jacob had ever done. Jacob was beaming with pride. “Jacob had a win in his struggles with his disability, all because he was at Capernaum that night and it created a place where Jacob and his dad could share a special moment,” said Hill. “One of the things I love most about Capernaum is watching kids with disabilities have small victories in an environment of love.”

The power of the Gospel begins with the fact that Jesus entered our world and lived among us. He situated Himself in the very midst of our
struggles. In Bellevue, Christopher Hill has placed Himself in the very midst of students who struggle with disabilities. God is using Him, not only to help those students overcome obstacles, but also to know that the One who conquered death is the very One who loves them just as they are.

– Amanda Kolman

Back Behind Bars ... By Choice

What’s the natural next step after teaching in a prison for 31 years? For Gary Camp it was taking the short walk to the cell block to continue caring for the kids there.

In 2001, with retirement nearing, Camp began to dream about the next phase of life. As someone with a lot of energy, he couldn’t envision just taking it easy. His daughter, Amy Heater, who works in Young Life’s Mulitcultural/Urban office, asked, “What about Young Life?” Camp replied. “Everybody I know in Young Life is 25 to 30 years old — what do they have for someone in their 50s?”

So Camp met with Ken Webster, the area director in Kane County, Ill., to brainstorm. Webster asked Camp, “Why can’t we have Young Life there in the prison?”

“I can do Young Life there?” Camp asked.

“I don’t know why not!” Webster replied.

The next step involved talking to the administration at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles. The superintendent responded: “Now, let’s figure this out. You know the system. You’ll work alongside the chaplains. As often as you want. For free? Yeah, you can do it!”

With that affirmation, Camp immediately came on Young Life staff and has worked outside the facility’s classrooms ever since. While his ministry doesn’t look like a typical Young Life club — there are no volunteer leaders, guitars or pies in the face — Camp’s enthusiasm comes through loud and clear for kids like Daniel.

“Daniel was such a gift. He caught my attention when I saw him on his knees in his cell, elbows propped up on his bed, reading his Bible. Over time I befriended him and noticed his kind, gentle spirit. One morning after club, the Holy Spirit prompted me to share the salvation message with him. He made a decision for Jesus, and I’ve had the privilege of helping this new brother grow. Daniel said, ‘I’ve wondered what the Lord could do in the life of an ordinary person like me.’”

Camp’s presence also enlarged the vision of Matthew, who said, “Since I started with Mr. Camp, he’s been teaching me that a prisoner isn’t what I’m destined to be.”

While Camp’s faithfulness over the decades has encouraged the kids, his presence has also raised eyebrows among the staff, most notably the guards. Camp laughed, “I know they’re thinking, ‘Why does he keep coming back after 31 years?’”

Camp smiles because the answer is simple: he has a heart for hurting kids and longs to hear them say, “I don’t want to continue in this lifestyle. I don’t want to die before I’m 20 or be locked up for the rest of my life. I want to go in a different direction.” And he’s honored to be the man to point them there.

Have questions about Young Life prison work? Contact Gary Camp at

– Jeff Chesemore