Anytime. Anywhere.

Sometimes, in the midst of contact work, club, Campaigners and camp, it’s possible to lose sight of the fact that God can reach kids absolutely anytime and anywhere.

Young Life banquets are fundraising tools, and often associated primarily with numbers, donors and donations. Yet, a banquet can be so much more.

Emilee, a middle schooler in Rocky Mount, Virginia, had never been to a WyldLife club. Holly Zabloski, a WyldLife leader and Emilee’s English teacher, hung out with the eighth grader and talked to her about life and what the Bible says about it. “She kind of knew about WyldLife,” said Zabloski, “and she seemed mildly interested in it.” Then one day a friend invited Emilee and her mom to the Franklin County Young Life banquet. “It’s unusual for a kid to come to a banquet,” said Zabloski. “It’s usually parents or teachers or other interested community members.”

At the banquet, college freshman and WyldLife leader Ben Campensa stood in front of the 200 people there and, for the first time publicly, told his story of a broken home, years of drugs, drinking and partying in high school, and feeling like he didn’t deserve to come to Christ. He was one of the first kids Franklin County Area Director Isaac Nagle and volunteer leader Ben Brodin had made contact with four years before. Ben said, “Ben [Brodin] was my leader and constantly going after me. But I was still going to parties and drinking and doing all sorts of stupid stuff.” He went on to share about his 2 a.m. conversation with Nagle in the cabin at Rockbridge, Young Life’s camp in Virginia. That very night he gave his life to Christ.

“After that,” he said, “the weight of everything I’ve done, everything I’ve been through, came off of me. Yeah, I still struggled, but having Ben and Isaac with me and just pursuing Christ even more made those temptations subside and gave me the strength to overcome all that.”

Ben’s words caught Emilee’s attention and struck her deeply. His story “related a lot to mine,” she said. “The cutting, his family issues, everything — it seemed like my past. It surprised me how much God had changed his life and everything. So, I realized that’s what I wanted.” At the end of the banquet, she went to Zabloski in tears, and told her how moved she was by Ben’s story. “Monday, I went to school and told her I was ready to give my life to Jesus. We prayed that morning.”

Nearly a year later Emilee is a different young woman. “My grades have gotten really good, and I feel like a lot of stress has been relieved,” she said. “I used to be really stressed, but I feel like now I can talk to Jesus and He can help a lot.”

As for the leaders, they’ve realized they each have a story to tell of God’s love, and He can use that story to create another testimony in someone else’s life. “We started ministry five years ago,” said Nagle. “It was just Ben Brodin and me. Ben invested in and ran after Ben Campensa, and it’s now gone beyond the two of them. Ben’s testimony was so powerful that this girl wanted what he had. And one day, she’ll have a story and maybe share that.”

They’ve also been reminded God is not limited by programs and expectations. “I had become focused on the money that keeps our ministry growing,” Nagle said, “but the Lord pointed me back to what that money goes towards: His daughters and sons coming back to Him.”

How fitting, then, that at a banquet where we invite people to invest in kids, a middle schooler came in touch with the One who’s completely invested in her.