From the Grapevine

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​What I Bring as a Trip Leader to Camp

Editor’s Note: This summer, leaders all over the world will take thousands of kids to Young Life camp. Before they step foot on the bus, they think through every aspect of camp and plot out what they’ll bring to help make it the best week of kids’ lives. Sean McGever, Young Life area director in Phoenix, Ariz., shares his list below from his many years of wisdom making the annual trek with campers. The article originally appeared on his blog, YLHelp. 

Tomorrow we leave for our summer Young Life trip, including the 15-hour (hopefully, not longer!) bus ride. Here are a couple of things (in addition to the normal stuff) I bring as a leader:

For the Bus Ride

All of the camp health / insurance forms (of course) 
• Blank camp forms (just in case) 
• Pens for camp forms 
• An “inverter” for the bus (plug it in a car socket and then you can plug a normal 120V plug into it) 
• Bags, tape, markers, etc., to collect electronics (Kids’ electronics are collected and stored upon arrival at camp, so as not to distract kids from the program)
• A head lamp for late-night spot checking for various things on the bus 
• DVDs of fun animated movies 

While at Camp

​• Pocket spiral notebooks for all of our leaders to take notes in leader meetings
• More pens for the notebooks
• Extras of everything campers need, since the leaders will end up giving their stuff to the kids
• If possible, money for a tab at the snack bar so leaders can do one on ones there (Leaders meet with kids during the week to see how they are processing the message. The tab would help leaders buy kids a milkshake, etc., while they’re meeting.)
• Video camera (my phone) to video individual kids after Say-So for a 30- to 60-second clip to show committee and donors 

P.S. Two-sentence soapbox moment? If you lead in a club and are coming to camp, please do not come just to be the video/camera person. You need to LEAD while at camp … be involved in the middle of every activity and lead by example.
— Sean McGever

In This Together

I am a wife, a mom of three, and a YoungLives leader. I had a particularly bad day at work today. See, I am also a funeral director. Today I helped one of our girls bury her baby. I walked her into the chapel and held her tight as she wept at the sight of her son in his little white casket. Tomorrow, I will lead her family in procession to the cemetery where she will say goodbye. Right now she is asleep on my couch because she can’t bear to go home. This is the second time we have been through this with one of our YoungLives girls.

I was struck by an epiphany as I watched Mandy today; her knees knocking and body shaking, trying to simply have the power to stand up. Blue Converse don’t match caskets. Rite Aid pink hair dye doesn’t match a cemetery. Low-slung jeans don’t match an arrangement office. These girls don’t belong in my office and I’m mad they’ve been there! I’M SO MAD. I want to scream, and maybe did a little ... “This isn’t what I signed up for!” I signed up for park dates and club. I signed up for ice cream runs and camp. I signed up for play dates and earning the right to tell Mandy about Jesus. Not this. Never this. Her family thinks I’m just so wonderful for loving on her and taking care of her and inside I am screaming and clawing and wanting to run away. This is too real. This is too ugly and raw. I am not equipped to be all she needs me to be. 

And then when my tantrum is over, in the quiet I hear, “Yes, you did sign up for this.” Really, as unbearable as it is, who would run away from this? Haven’t we all been forced into the uncomfortable places in life just to find God more present there than anywhere? Of course He is here. As surely as He knit Mason together in Mandy’s womb, He also planned his homecoming. I know there is peace and rest in the understanding that God’s will is perfect and there are no accidents. I did sign up for this. I know, just as surely as I know my heart is beating, that God knit me together in my mother’s womb to be here, today, tucking Mandy in tonight, guiding her tomorrow, and showing her Jesus every moment I can. Yes, I signed up for this. I was made for this. 

Our team here in Henderson, Ky., is amazing. They led the girls in a time of counseling. The girls have been rocked to the core and needed a time of sharing memories, talking and just being together. They all wrote encouraging letters to Mandy and then participated in a balloon release. The girls rallied around her today, forming a literal hedge of protection around her. This is bitter and we are all undone, but we are together. 

— Melanie Harrah

A Meeting of the Hearts

Mark Thannisch had never seen such a little bit of money go such a long way. 

A businessman from Austin, Texas, Thannisch likes to see the difference his charitable giving makes firsthand. 

Even if it means hopping on a plane to Nicaragua. 

And that’s where Hermes — the student Thannisch sponsors through Young Life’s Developing Global Leaders initiative (DGL) — is pursuing a business administration degree. 

The DGL program helps students involved in Young Life in developing countries receive a college education that would otherwise be unaffordable. Each year, 100 students from around the globe are chosen for DGL based on leadership, academic ability, involvement in Young Life, spiritual maturity and financial need. 

Hermes is one of six children in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. He met Christ at a Young Life camp in 2007 and has been involved with the ministry, known locally as Vida Joven, for the past six years. Hermes said, “DGL was the biggest opportunity of my life.” 

Although Thannisch’s Spanish was as limited as Hermes’ English, their first face-to-face encounter was a conversation Thannisch will never forget. 

“I asked him what he was up to,” Thannisch said. “You would expect answers like, ‘I’m studying hard’ and all that kind of stuff. He said, ‘What’s going on with me is that I’m trying to put together a Christmas party for the kids in the barrio.’” 

Hermes explained that for $150 he could feed the 300 kids in his barrio, and he already had $20 toward that goal. 

Although Thannisch had already helped sponsor Hermes, he felt compelled to reach into his pocket again. 

“I had some cash on me. I said, ‘Go have your party,’” said Thannisch, who watched Hermes’ eyes well up with tears in response to his generosity. “He was able to take care of all those kids. He sent me pictures after. With the extra money, he said he was able to buy them all presents. This was the first time many of them had gotten a present in their lives.” 

Thannisch is involved in lots of charitable youth work in Texas, but he gets most passionate about ministries he can see. That’s why he accepted Curtis Olson’s offer to fly to Nicaragua and check out Young Life’s work in Latin America. 

“Once I got down there, I started looking for ways I could get involved,” Thannisch said. “And Curtis put me on to the DGL program. You’ve got to be passionate about what you support, and this is a real passion I have.” 

Having been to Nicaragua, Thannisch wanted to pick someone in a place he had visited personally. And, as a businessman, Thannisch also wanted to support a student who was interested in business. Hermes, who is in contact with Thannisch several times a month, was the perfect fit. The interaction is important to Thannisch as a donor, because his charitable giving tends to follow his own heart. 

“The [charities] you really get passionate about are the ones you get to see run on the ground level,” Thannisch said. “Quite frankly I get irritated when charities say, ‘Give me your money and trust me.’” 

That wasn’t the case with Young Life. “They opened up everything and let me go down and see,” Thannisch said. 

And what he witnessed changed him forever. “Seeing what Hermes did was the greatest Christmas present I could have had,” Thannisch said. “I think I get more out of this than he does if you want to know the truth.” 

– Chris Lassiter​​​​​​​