From the President

To Protect and Provide.

Area Director Lise Green was closing up the South Valley fundraising booth at the Gilroy, California, Garlic Festival on July 28 when a young man with an automatic rifle began spraying the crowd with bullets. Lise heard the shots, hit the ground, then grabbed the high school girl crouched beside her
and started running. The two fled into a nearby trailer and huddled with other Young Life volunteers and kids as the horrific scene unfolded. All of Lise’s team physically survived the shooting, and she continues to walk faithfully with adults and kids as they heal from the grief, pain and trauma.

Lise’s first thought as she ran from the gunfire that day was, “Which of these kids has not yet heard about Jesus?” In the urgency of the moment, the calling of her life was crystal clear.

As I travel, I meet men and women daily who remind me of the biblical leaders God raised up to protect and provide for His people, while revealing His redeeming love. Lise reminds me of Queen Esther. God has prepared and placed her in this strategic position “for such a time as this.” I thank God for raising up courageous leaders like Lise.

In San Diego, you will find a wild man on a motorcycle who reminds me of John the Baptist. Randy Giusta has been sharing Christ with kids for almost 50 years, sometimes from a surfboard. Like John the Baptist, you cannot put Randy in a box, but if you could, it would have to be a refrigerator box, because Randy is a big man. Shaking his hand is like gripping a catcher’s mitt, yet you will not meet a gentler soul. Years before we labeled it “WyldLife,” Randy sat in the football stands befriending middle school kids, making a way in the wilderness for Jesus to reach this tender population. A big man with a warm smile sitting by little people who need Jesus. I thank God for raising up leaders like Randy Giusta who create a safe refuge for kids.

In Liberia, God has raised up another leader who reminds me of Joseph, second only to Pharaoh when famine struck Egypt. James Davis, our new vice president of Western Africa, led the Young
Life team in Liberia through its own natural disaster, the devastating Ebola outbreak in 2015. James said at the time, “We have lost family members and friends. We’ve lost our Young Life clubs and camps. We’ve lost our schools and our jobs. We’ve lost hope.”

Yet James kept leading and serving others in the midst of searing loss. He and his team made such an impact, they were invited to join the national Ebola Task Force as they gathered survivors together to talk about their needs. When James and his team walked into the meeting hall, 800 survivors began chanting, “Young Life! Young Life!” I thank God for raising up leaders like James who lead us through all-consuming darkness until hope dawns again in Jesus’ name.

Finally, in Central Asia you will find a bright light with a big heart named Zhanna Velilyayeva. Zhanna reminds me of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is a woman who lives the prayer of Mary daily, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be done to me according to your Word.”

Zhanna has faithfully shared Jesus with kids with disabilities for 18 years. Today she is the divisional coordinator for Capernaum in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), and her work is generating growth of non-Capernaum ministry as well. The kindness of Zhanna and her team toward kids with disabilities is bringing about the birth of Jesus in the most unexpected places in the FSU. I thank God for raising up humble servants like Zhanna.

Everywhere you look in Young Life, God is raising up leaders who embody His heart and Spirit. The Psalmist reminds us, “He who watches over you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3, NIV). Clearly the Lord is wide awake today, protecting and providing for kids everywhere through His servants. Let’s continue to move forward in confidence in this mission, knowing “the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.” Thank you for your partnership in Young Life.

Newt Crenshaw
Young Life President