Convergence

Sometimes, you’re given a glimpse. A flash of heaven through an earthly pinhole. Last summer, that flash came in the form of a 16-year-old girl who’d just given her life to Jesus at Young Life camp. And the glimpse was given to the couple who helped get her there.

But the story behind that story is what makes their view even bigger and brighter. The faith of this teenager was a miracle nearly two decades in the making. And it began with another 16-year-old girl who had a baby on the way, and decided to turn to her Young Life leader for help.

Walking Through Hard Decisions

Thirty-four-year-old Jennifer Pruitt remembers being 16 at Bayshore High School in Bradenton, Florida. “I was a social butterfly,” she recalled. “I did well in school, and didn’t get in trouble. I had a job and liked hanging out with my friends. I was just a typical kid.”

By year’s end, she was also pregnant with no prospects of marrying the baby’s father and no real support at home. Young Life was a part of her social scene, but had also been faith-building for her.

“My relationship with God and the church really started with my relationships with my Young Life leaders,” Jennifer said. So she turned to Brigit Mustaine, the 22-year-old on Young Life staff in Bradenton whom Jennifer had met during her sophomore year.

“Jennifer had a great group of friends I was pretty close with,” Mustaine, now area director of Greater Lansing, Michigan, said. “She was involved and always at club. But our relationship changed once she was pregnant. She knew she could trust me, that I was someone she could walk through hard decisions with.”

Mustaine immediately connected her with a ministry called CareNet, a local pregnancy crisis center. They helped her with the practical needs a young, unwed mom experiences and encouraged her in her faith walk as well.

But Jennifer was still a teenager. And even with all the adult decisions she was facing, she desperately wanted to go with her friends on the summer trip to Pioneer Plunge (Young Life’s adventure camp in North Carolina).

Being pregnant, there were physical constraints for Jennifer, Mustaine recalled, but money was the main obstacle.

“This was an economically disadvantaged area; none of the eight girls who wanted to go could afford it,” Mustaine said. “So I reached out to some friends.”

This couple, who wished to be anonymous, were longtime Young Life supporters and volunteers, and well known for their generosity. “Brigit would come to us when she had a situation where she needed help financially. If she needed it, we would help.”

Beating the Odds

Before long, all eight girls had scholarships for the weeklong wilderness experience. On the drive to camp through the Blue Ridge Mountains, Jennifer shared her situation with everyone. The other girls and leaders rallied around Jennifer and encouraged her all week long.

“I attribute a lot of my decisions about what kind of mom I wanted to be to the week with those people and their walk with God,” Jennifer said. “When you’re around people who are positive women of God, it makes you want to be that way too.”

Mustaine agreed: “That week was significant in her journey. It helped her choose how she was going to live with her child. Her friendships in Young Life are what made the difference. She didn’t want to be another statistic.”

That fall, Jennifer’s daughter — Kylee — was born. And Jennifer finished high school right on time with her friends the following May. Jennifer worked after graduating, eventually getting into the healthcare field. By the time Kylee was 10 years old, Jennifer had graduated from nursing school.

Mustaine moved away when Kylee was just over a year old, but the friends stayed in touch through the years.

“I’ve not been consistently in Jennifer’s life, but the Lord has,” Mustaine said. “She has come so far. She beat the odds. And the Lord has been carrying her through.”

Thanks to the grace of God through the ministry of Young Life, Jennifer’s story already has a happy ending. But it’s really only just begun.

Beyond a Happy Ending

A little more than a year ago, Young Life came to the East Manatee area where Jennifer and her family now live. When Young Life started at Lakewood Ranch High School during the 2017-18 school year, Jennifer’s “baby,” Kylee, was a sophomore — the same age Jennifer was when she first met Mustaine. And that summer, they were taking kids to SharpTop Cove in Georgia.

“When I found out Young Life was starting at my daughter’s school, there was no hesitation at all,” Jennifer said. “I wanted her there, and I wanted her to go to camp.”

Mustaine soon discovered through social media posts that Kylee was headed to camp and contacted Kelsey Cobb, a Young Life friend on staff in East Manatee.

 “She (confirmed) Kylee was going to SharpTop,” Mustaine said, “and that the people who paid for Jennifer to go to Pioneer Plunge when she was pregnant were going to be adult guests the same week Kylee was there!”

Mustaine immediately contacted the couple and encouraged them to find Kylee while they were at SharpTop. The couple said they were hesitant to interrupt her camp experience that week. But God ended up giving them a front-row seat at the moment it mattered.

The couple connected with one of the East Manatee leaders and asked her to point Kylee out to them. She didn’t get a chance until the last day, when the entire camp gathered for the New Christian Walk.

“We were watching the kids throwing their rocks into the lake (to represent ridding themselves of the old life), and her leader caught my eye and pointed her out.”

The unborn baby who was growing inside her young mom at Pioneer Plunge was now a 16-year-old, throwing a rock into the lake at SharpTop Cove as a brand-new Christian. And the couple who made sure her mom made it to camp nearly 17 years before were there to see everything come full circle, as Kylee began her lifelong walk with Jesus.

“You sometimes wonder, ‘Does what I do count?’” the husband said. “And every now and then, God gives you a little glimpse to show you that you are making a difference. God’s plan is so much bigger than we know, and He’s going to use us in it if we make ourselves available. That’s enough for me.”

Jennifer said she was “amazed” at how all the events converged, and believes God uses people like Mustaine and her generous friends to bring His purposes together.

“God finds these amazing people and puts them in Young Life,” she said, “and they are just what all these kids need. They have a real impact on the person you want to be. God really is far bigger than any of us realize. And He’s always there, no matter what you’re going through.”

A few months ago, Mustaine, now 42, and Jennifer had lunch. It’d been years since they’d seen each other, but the memories — and the love — came flooding back, both feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for the journey they’d been on together.

“There’s such joy in being able to witness generations of people come to know the Lord through this ministry,” Mustaine said. “This is not the way I would have done it, and probably not the way Jennifer would have done it. But God had His hand on her and on Kylee all along, leading them to Him in a way I could not have imagined.”