Living for More than Himself

For outgoing high school senior Jefferson Cody Derbonne (also known as Cody or Jeff Cody to his friends), Young Life was the perfect reprieve from his grown-up responsibilities. With his dad imprisoned since Cody was a child, he went to school and worked two jobs to help his mom and sisters make ends meet at home.

After climbing off his motorcycle when he arrived at his first Young Life club, Cody dove right in. “I remember him paying full attention to everything, laughing and smiling,” said Young Life leader Greg Haskell.

By the end of that night, Cody had signed up for the upcoming Young Life ski trip. He continued to attend club regularly – usually showing up early. “He really wanted the community around him because he’d never had that,” said Silicon Valley, Calif., Area Director Bree Haskell.

He became a regular at Campaigners which met on Wednesdays at 6 a.m. “He was so intrigued with who Jesus was,” Greg said.

The Haskells were determined to get Cody to summer camp at Woodleaf. So they told Leslie Rodericks, who regularly prints out Young Life prayer emails and keeps them in her car to “pray and intercede for Young Life leaders and kids” as she’s driving and waiting at lights.

As Rodericks prayed for Cody, he saved up for Woodleaf, somehow managing to set aside money after he helped with the bills at home. But then he got into a fender-bender in his mom’s car, and thought camp would be impossible. The Haskells assured Cody they’d find a way.

Each week, Cody handed them whatever cash he could. But thankfully, God was prompting the Rodericks family to give to the area’s campership fund, to make camp a reality for him and others with financial need. When kids from Silicon Valley left for camp, Cody was on the bus, headed for an amazing week where he began a relationship with Jesus.

At camp, Cody met Rodericks and her husband, Garth, who were there as adult guests. “He hugged us, told us thank you and started crying,” she said. “He knew the value of money because he was a hard worker, and he appreciated it a lot. What we gave seemed small, but I’ve learned it’s what God does with small things that makes them big.”

After camp, Cody plunged into his new faith, started going to church, and brought his family with him as much as he could. He was baptized that summer and became like family to the Rodericks. “Cody continued changing,” Rodericks said. “You could see God working on his anger  and hurt.”

As a college freshman, he worked three jobs to pay tuition; outside the classroom he learned a lot about forgiveness, taking every chance he could to spend time with his dad who’d recently been released from prison. “Cody saw how Jesus forgave people,” Greg said. “It allowed him to forgive his dad, and build a beautiful father-son relationship, too.”

Out of gratefulness for how God changed him through Young Life, Cody saved enough money to send three kids to camp last summer. On June 29, 2012, about two weeks after those kids returned from Woodleaf, Cody was killed when his motorcycle was struck by another vehicle. On the motorcycle was his Bible with one verse highlighted, 2 Peter 1:5-8:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord  Jesus Christ.

“Jeff Cody was always ready for the next adventure,” Greg said. And he’d found the greatest one in his quest to know Jesus more. “It’s amazing to think what his faith had become in such a short amount of time. He was living life for so much more than himself.”​