From the Grapevine

Parading His Love

 
 
WyldLife leaders at Jefferson Middle School (in Midland, Michigan) met Jamie* the fall of her seventh-grade year. She sat by herself in the lunchroom, seemingly invisible to all the other students. Not invisible, however, to our leaders who asked if they could sit down next to her.
 
The more they learned about Jamie, the more they knew her need for God’s love. Daily her family told her, “We wish you were never born” or “Our life would be so much better without you around.” Jamie was ostracized at school and home, and knew nothing about being included, loved and valued.
 
Desperate for a place to fit in, Jamie dove headfirst into WyldLife. She came to everything, hearing about Jesus and seeing Him up close through her leaders’ lives. At winter camp she told me, “I’ve decided I’m going to be like my leader, Grace, not my family, in the way I treat people. I’m going to be someone who encourages others and stands up for them.” Suddenly Jamie started caring for others who were being left out or put down in the school lunchroom.
 
“I just wish there was some way we could help Jamie truly get how loved and valued she is by Jesus,” Grace said. We prayed right then that somehow God would make His love clear to her in a deep, unforgettable way.
 
On the final day of camp, the program team held a raffle at breakfast. Jamie looked like she’d won the lottery as she held up the winning ticket. She proceeded to the stage and learned her prize was a parade that was about to come through camp, in her honor. I’ve never seen anything like it — hundreds of eyes were on Jamie as she was celebrated with a “Jamie parade.” I wept as I watched.
 
After the parade, I encouraged the camp staff and her leaders, “I can’t believe you all did this just for her. She was the perfect choice and for just a few moments, she felt like the most important person on the planet — the way God feels about her all the time. Thank you for choosing her!”
 
“We actually didn’t plan who would win,” the camp staff said. “It wasn’t planted. God must have chosen her!”
 
We all walked away from that moment changed. Jamie, because she saw how loved and valued she is by God. Grace, the other leaders and the camp staff, because they also had a glimpse of Jesus showing up. And me, reminded that as we pray, God truly is in every detail and answers prayers in the most unexpected ways.
 
*name has been changed
 
—​ Jill Rainwater

Small Conversations
 
Two years ago, Josh and Breanne Powell left Seattle with their three girls to start Young Life in Hong Kong. “It’s a pretty unique place,” said Powell from his 42nd-floor apartment. “People call it the ‘New York of Asia.’ It’s western, and yet it’s China.” Well, last summer, Powell’s two worlds collided when 60 of his Hong Kong friends came to the Pacific Northwest for Young Life camp.
Grace was a junior at one of the first schools in Hong Kong to have Young Life. “There’s a video of me taking my first steps out of the airport in which I say something along the lines of ‘Wow it’s so cold! And it smells like barbecue!’ Although that may have been due to my hunger,” said the spunky 17-year-old.
 
The plan was to spend four days in Seattle before heading up to Malibu Club. Home stays had been coordinated by Kelly Wotherspoon, a longtime friend of Young Life and the Powells. “Grace caught my attention right away,” Wotherspoon said, “especially when, during a game that included hot dogs being tossed from our deck, Grace literally ‘nailed’ three in a row with the spike on her bike helmet!”
 
The next morning, Wotherspoon said, “I got up at 6:30 to start coffee and there’s Grace, already having run around my neighborhood. Now, I’m a runner, too, so conversation flowed easily.”
 
“Ms. Kelly shared about her time at Malibu; I shared parts of my own life. Every morning we talked just the two of us, and over those small conversations we became friends,” said Grace.
 
“My house was so quiet after they left!” Wotherspoon remarked. “But when I was cleaning up, I kept discovering thank you notes all over my house. Grace wrote one in Chinese. She said a second note would translate it for me. I literally looked through my house all day until I found it. Translation: ‘Thank you for your love.’”
 
Grace and Wotherspoon stayed connected through email. Three months later, a surprise business trip reunited the two at a Starbucks. “Yep, Starbucks in Hong Kong,” quipped Wotherspoon.
 
“It was very nice to have a piece of summer come home to me,” said Grace. “Ms. Kelly is truly an amazing individual.”
 
The feeling is mutual. “I love Grace’s positive energy and spirit. She is so full of life and her enthusiasm for Young Life is contagious.”
 
The beautiful collision of worlds thrills Josh Powell. “I never imagined when we left Seattle how God would use the relationships we built there to bridge the Pacific and touch the lives of kids across the world.”
 
— ​Ned Erickson

 


In Honor of Emily Aultman, My Beloved Young Life Leader

Editor’s Note: The following is a tribute from a high school student in Florida to her dear friend, Emily, who passed away last July.
 
A few years ago, I was deeply lost and wondered how God fit into the cracked formations of a human heart. My soul had no music and no melody. I dug my way into a pit of bleak darkness and had the scars on my wrist to prove it. However, the sound of Jesus’ name being praised with every breath Emily Aultman took, forced my doubt of God to be reconsidered. 
 
On July 20, 2014, Emily passed away in a car accident. She was and is my Young Life leader.
 
When I met Emily my freshman year in high school, I felt utterly and hopelessly unloved. She not only listened to my soul pour out its sadness, but resolved to help it sing. She took every opportunity to show me I was truly and passionately loved by a wondrous, miracle-working Father in heaven. Whether it meant late-night ice cream runs, jamming to Katy Perry, stuffing our faces with Moe’s burritos or going on hammock dates, Emily helped my soul come alive. She did her absolute best at reflecting a glimpse of the love Jesus has for His children.
 
I would like to emphasize I am under no misperception that Emily saved me. Jesus saved me because Jesus is my Savior; but I have never met anyone like Emily who was so ready to be used by Jesus in any way she could to spread His love.
 
The past months have been some of the hardest of my life, but every moment of every day I can feel Jesus whispering to stay strong in His love because God is a God who never fails. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is hard to believe, but it is impossible for me to deny His presence. I can only wonder what this period of grief would have looked like if Emily had not come into my life and convinced me of the ultimate power of the cross.
 
The vision Young Life has on their website is this: “Every adolescent will have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and follow Him.” I watched Jesus use Emily Aultman to help fulfill this vision in my friends’ lives and in mine. Young Life was more than just a club she hung out at during her free time; it was her passion.
 
Young Life has changed my life and I am blessed to have been a part of something so extraordinary. It has given me sweet friendships that never fail to put a smile on my face, it has given me an opportunity to love Jesus like no one else is watching, and it has given me leaders, mentors, and role models who have pursued me relentlessly so they could introduce me to Jesus Christ.
 
“Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV). 
 
Sincerely, 
A Truly Blessed Teenager
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