Weathering the Test of Time

On the outside of the folded manila card, there’s a vintage hand-drawn sketch of Windy Gap’s Hoedown Barn.

The inside features a Scripture passage from the Gospel of John along with the Windy Gap banquet dinner menu: grilled ribeye steak, broccoli with cheese sauce, whole wheat rolls, baked potato with sour cream and beverages.

None of that, however, explains why Cassandra Shed still owns the tiny place card she received in 1984. Nor does it explain why it remains one of her most prized possessions three decades later.​

It wasn’t the card itself. It’s what was written on the card. Affirming, live-giving words penned by her Young Life leaders.

Words like:

“You are a leader.”

“Your smile is so bright that it lights up a room.”

“You are kind.”

The words spoke life to her.

“They were words that would make anyone smile,” Shed said. “It was vision-casting; helping kids see who they could become. They spoke about some characteristics of me that propelled me beyond myself. That was inspirational."

And so the card became a keepsake, just like her first Campaigner notebook, which she still has in her possession.

“When I look back some 30 years ago, and I think about that trip, there’s not much from it that I don’t still have and that I can’t go put my hands on,” Shed said. “To me, those are memories that have made me and shaped me. I dare not get rid of them.”

Memories are crucially important to Shed, the area director of Southwest Dallas County. The date June 21, 1984, for instance, is forever etched in her memory. On that day — during the 20 minutes of silence at Windy Gap — Shed started her relationship with Christ.

Not only did the Windy Gap trip have a huge eternal impact on Shed, it also set a course for how she would live. What started with Young Life leaders like Lola Steward pouring into Shed has led to Shed pouring her life into the students at Duncanville High School.

“If I could give to someone that one thing given to me,” Shed promised herself, “then I want to give my all to that. I want to be connected to that.”

Understanding Religion and Relationships
Early in her teenage years in Oak Cliff, Texas, much of Shed’s life centered around religious activity.

“I really thought — as naïve as I was at 13 — that the Christian walk was something old people did,” Shed said. “I didn’t know the God of the universe wanted a relationship with me.”

At Windy Gap, Young Life leaders helped her process the Gospel, and for the first time she understood clearly that Christ desired her more than her behavior. One leader helped crystalize the personal relationship aspect of salvation to her.

“He explained to me that giving my heart to Jesus was like a house,” Shed said. “Jesus wasn’t asking me to clean the house first. He was just asking me to let Him in the door. One by one, He would go in each room and help me clean it up.”

It’s a message Shed has shared with countless teens as a Young Life area director in Southwest Dallas.

As a teenager, two things really struck Shed about Young Life: the way leaders built meaningful relationships and made Jesus seem so personal.

In Shed’s case, relationships with leaders like Steward that started back at Windy Gap in the 1980s have weathered the test of time.

“Lola is the one I would say just poured into me,” said Shed, then added remarkably, “I still meet with her every two weeks for Bible study.”

The Young Life leaders helped Shed connect to Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church, led by world-renowned author and Gospel communicator Dr. Tony Evans. Shed is still a member of this church.

“The relationships I’ve built with my Young Life leaders have withstood the test of time,” Shed said. “You talk about going to college, coming back, getting married, having children. All of the journeys and things you have in life. They have prayed for me, loved me, watched me fall and get up, look healthy and not so healthy. Through all of life’s ups and downs, these people have been in my life.”

The Connections Continue
Relationships aren’t the only thing Shed knows well. She also knows her pizza.

And in the same way her Young Life leaders built relationships and introduced Jesus over steak and potatoes at Windy Gap, Shed connects with Duncanville students over Serious Pizza in Dallas, Texas.

The entrée may have changed. The method has not.

With an enrollment of 4,000 students, Duncanville High School is one of the largest and most innovative high schools in the nation. Here, kids can earn “Panther Points” to have their nails done at school, or get their car’s oil changed at the school’s automotive department. Resource officers patrol the campus on bikes and Segways.

Although high school has changed a great deal since Shed graduated, the greatest need of high school kids has not.

“They’re still confused about who they are and where they belong,” Shed said. “Sometimes you can become a number. Sometimes you can get lost in the school. Peer pressure is still peer pressure, and you can still feel disconnected.”

One of many students Shed has helped feel connected is Shay, a junior at Duncanville.

“She’s a good Young Life leader,” Shay said. “She’s very good with kids. She tries her best to understand any situation they come to her about. She lets them know that it’s OK to have fun with God. She’s very, very cool.”

Shed’s ability to connect — the same way leaders connected with her 30 years ago — is what makes her a treasure to the Young Life mission and “very, very cool” to countless kids in Texas.