From the Grapevine


very Mother’s Dream

Brenda Rankin’s own story was what softened her heart toward the ministry of YoungLives.

She was never a teen mom, but in her early 20s, Rankin gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Ciara. A volunteer YoungLives leader in central Virginia, Rankin understands the struggle of being a single mother.

“When the girls talk about wanting to be able to provide for your child on your own, I feel those same feelings coming back,” Rankin said. “I understand some of the things they go through as a single mom."

Rankin’s life is further proof God can rewrite a story: She now has a healthy marriage and a wonderful family. Her daughter, Ciara, recently received her master’s degree from Virginia Tech, is also happily married and is now a first-grade teacher in northern Virginia.

One of the coolest chapters in Rankin and Ciara's story involves YoungLives camp.

Last summer, the mother and daughter served side by side at Rockbridge Alum Springs. While Rankin was leading girls in a cabin, Ciara volunteered as a childcare worker.

“It was really special to see how God brought our story full circle, and how He used both of us in serving young moms together," Rankin said. "I think it gave girls hope when they saw my grown daughter there with me, and the relationship we have with each other and Jesus."

Professionally, Rankin is a successful hairstylist. Ciara knew her mom was completely invested when she allowed her hair to get messed up on several occasions.

“When I saw that, I knew she was passionate about these girls," Ciara said. "Every time I saw her with one of the girls, I couldn’t have been more proud. She humbled herself that week many times in order that girls would feel the love of Jesus. From late-night conversations to taking care of babies to participating in a mud fight ... she let Jesus love them through her selflessness."

Being together made each of their first experiences at YoungLives camp unforgettable.

“It was awesome," Rankin said. "It was tiring and really stretching for me at times, but I loved getting to know the girls better in a different setting, seeing their faces light up during the special activities we did, and just giving them a fun experience as a teenager. That was really cool for me."

Because her mom was leading at camp, Ciara had the additional privilege of getting to know one cabin of girls a little more closely. She even did the ropes course with one of the campers.

Ciara came to camp with the intent of helping young moms have the best week of their life.

It proved to be one of the best weeks of her life as well."

It was such an honor to care for their children while they heard about how much Jesus cares for them," said Ciara, who helps organize childcare for YoungLives in the Fairfax area. "They trusted us with their children, and in turn, some trusted Jesus with their own life. It was a rewarding and humbling experience to love the moms in such a practical way."

15-Fall-Grapevine-Hope-for-Haiti.jpgHope for Haiti

It was literally love at first "site."

That’s how Art Edras "Darsen" Bon Ari describes his first experience walking into the Young Life office in Port-au-Prince. Like many high school graduates, Darsen had left his hometown of Saint Louis du Nord to head for the city to continue his education.

For many reasons, the transition to a new environment wasn’t an easy one. In fact, an invitation to attend a Young Life club could not have come at a better time.

"I never have been to paradise, but my first club felt like paradise," said Darsen, reflecting back to his introduction to Young Life in 2003. The site for club was actually the Young Life office. “We had fun like crazy. Even if it’s your first time, you feel like you have known them a long time. It felt like I had found a new family."

For Darsen, that feeling was irresistible.

“I knew I could not miss another Monday," he said.

The impact Young Life had on Darsen went far beyond fun.

Thirteen years later, he can still remember the story about a boy looking for his lost boat at sea, and how the Young Life speaker made a correlation between that boy and the boat and how Jesus came to save the lost.

“Young Life is the best thing I’ve ever had in my life," Darsen said. "It’s the best thing, because today I can be closer to Jesus because of Young Life. You can’t give what you don’t have. If I need to share the Gospel with kids, I need to know my Bible and how to be friends with them, so I think this is the best thing in my life."

From his first experience, Darsen had a feeling Young Life would be something he’d be involved with for a long time. He asked Chedreus Caneus, the national director of Young Life Haiti at that time, how to get Young Life started in his hometown.

"I wanted the people in my hometown to enjoy the benefits of Young Life," said Darsen, a linguist who speaks French, English, Spanish and Creole.

He’s now seen the dream of Young Life in his hometown become a reality. Saint Louis du Nord now has two Young Life clubs. Darsen is pleased, but he still wants to see Young Life impact more kids in Haiti. It’s easy for kids in Haiti to be drawn toward a negative path, but he hopes Young Life can be part of the solution.

"My dream is to see more kids know Christ," Darsen said. "I would like to see Young Life in every city in Haiti one day. We are now in eight areas, and we have two more that need Young Life. We want to see a generation of kids know Jesus. Young Life is like a bridge to kids from the society to the church, which helps them grow in the faith."​​​​​