The Ordinary Ordained

Dropping by Bryan Kerns’ math class at Dobyns Bennett High School is part of Scottie Dancy’s regular Young Life routine. But last spring, that ordinary stop turned out to be ordained. And a high school sophomore named Trey Richardson has never been the same.

Accidentally On Purpose

As area director of Young Life in Kingsport, Tennessee, Scottie Dancy spends much of his time hanging out in the lunchroom and walking the halls of the high school, looking to connect with kids. Dancy’s friendship with Bryan Kerns, a math teacher there, goes back to Kerns’ days as a volunteer leader.

Kerns had just mentioned the name Trey Richardson to Dancy one day last January as “a kid who doesn’t have anything in his life and really needs Young Life” when Trey unexpectedly walked in the room.

Kerns introduced his student to Dancy, and Dancy invited his new friend to Young Life. Trey was interested but noncommittal; Dancy didn’t see him again for a month.

“There are 2,000 kids in that high school, and I looked for Trey all the time,” Dancy said. “One day, I was in the cafeteria and I heard someone yelling, ‘Michael! Michael!’ That’s not my name, but I knew it was for me. I turned around and there was Trey, trying to get my attention.”

While Trey had forgotten Dancy’s name, he remembered Young Life. He asked Dancy if he could have a ride to the next club. Club was that night, and Dancy said he’d pick him up.

“On the way, Trey was asking all kinds of questions about Young Life,” Dancy recalled. “He said his grandma wanted him to go because he didn’t hang out with anybody. But from the minute he got there, he was all in. Trey was smack dab in the middle of everybody, soaking it in.”

When it was time for the club talk, Trey bristled.

“I remember I asked Scottie if this was a Bible lecture,” Trey recalled. “I didn’t know it was a Christian club. I didn’t believe in Jesus, but I sat through it.”

But when the SharpTop Cove camp video flashed on the screen, Dancy said Trey was ready to get on the bus.

“He told me, ‘Scottie, I want to go to that camp this summer, but my family is poor. You saw that I live in a trailer. There is no way I can afford to go.’ Then and there, I decided he was going to camp for free. I was going to raise the money for him to go.”

On the way home, Trey opened up about his life.

“Trey just began talking to me about his past,” Dancy said. “How he didn’t know his dad, and his mom didn’t want him; his grandma couldn’t handle him and sent him to his uncle, and his uncle sent him to an institution. It was traumatic for him. He talked about how he didn’t have friends at school. My heart absolutely broke for him.

“There was a lot of deep pain in his life from neglect, rejection and abuse. Trey was desperate for someone to love him.”

The rest of the semester Trey never missed club and hung out at McDonald’s afterward with the other kids. Dancy said Trey’s fun, outgoing personality started to emerge.

“Trey never had any friends before,” Dancy said. “It was amazing to see this guy just blossom. Everybody I knew was praying for him — my committee was praying, some of my Campaigner guys were praying.

“I’ve been a leader for years and been in situations with kids where I thought, “I want this kid to know Christ.” But with Trey, it was always like, ‘When he meets Christ.’ I’ve never so clearly known that in my heart before.”

Trey struggled academically and knew he’d have to attend summer school, which threatened his ability to go to camp. Miraculously, the school’s assistant principal allowed Trey a week off from school so he could go.

“The assistant principal said Trey could miss a week because she knew he needed Young Life more than a week of summer school,” Dancy said. “All of us were anticipating God doing something major in Trey’s life.”

Calming the Storm

When the bus pulled up at SharpTop Cove, Trey — who’d never been out of Tennessee before — was blown away. “It feels like I am going to live at an amusement park this week,” Trey told Dancy.

“Here’s a kid coming from a trailer seeing the grandeur that is Young Life camp,” Dancy said. “He was taken aback from the first moment. And seeing it through his eyes, I was amazed and thankful at the same time.”

Dancy remembered Trey “took camp by storm” — laughing, dancing and singing at club, and listening intently to the speaker. But Trey maintained he didn’t believe in Jesus and frankly, didn’t want to.

“I was angry at the world,” Trey said.

At the end of the week, the camp speaker gave the “sin talk,” presenting the kids with their sin and their need for a Savior. Part of that evening includes 20 minutes under the stars, giving campers time to reflect and pray. This particular night, however, it was raining.

“Two minutes in the club room instead of 20 minutes outside,” Dancy said. “In my lack of faith, I thought, “This is pointless.’”

And while the unwanted rain poured outside, Jesus was calming a storm in Trey’s heart.

“I closed my eyes and saw darkness and sin inside me, and I didn’t like it,” Trey said. “I started bawling and I couldn’t stop. I looked at myself, and I didn’t know who I was.”

Back in the cabin, Dancy watched the miracle he and so many had been praying for unfold.

“I started with the question, ‘So, what do you think about what you heard tonight?’” Dancy said. “Trey answered first and said he saw how dark and dirty his soul was. He knew how much God loved him that He would sacrifice Jesus for him. I asked him if he really believed that. Through tears he said, ‘I do now.’”

Later that night, on the back deck of their cabin, Dancy prayed with Trey to invite Christ into his life.

An Extraordinary Thing

Trey said, “I knew I was different. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. There was a movement in my heart.”

Since camp, Trey, now 16, has stayed involved in Young Life, going to club and digging deeper in Campaigners. The wounds are still there along with his struggles. But now, he has hope.

“I don’t get angry like I used to,” Trey said. “I needed hope in my life. With Jesus I knew I could have that. You can do your life differently with His help. I know I won’t be alone even when I am alone. Young Life saved my life.”

And Dancy, he says, is like “the dad I wish I’d had.” Instead of giving up on Trey, he gave him love.

“God is working in the lives of kids,” Dancy said. “I didn’t do anything special. I did what thousands of leaders do every day. All we need to do is show up and be present. There are a lot of kids out there like Trey who are broken and rejected and need someone to show up and love them.

“I want to reach as many kids as possible. And the day Trey walked in that classroom, it was like God said, “Here’s one.” I was at the right place at the right time. God chose to do an extraordinary thing through an ordinary person.”