In November 2003 my husband and I flew into town to interview for his current job. As we enjoyed dinner in his future boss' home, we inquired about various aspects of the community. I specifically remember where I was standing in their kitchen when I asked, "Is there a Young Life ministry here?"
The answer was No.
When my husband and I learned that there was a group that had been meeting and praying off and on for a few years, we joined them. Within one year, the four couples who were working to establish a Young Life presence were all pregnant. With six newborns between us our meetings became less frequent.
In the midst of our pregnancies we were informed that there were openings at a weekend outreach camp if we wanted to send any students. A member of our little group was a middle school teacher. She handed out fliers and in one week's time we had a busload of 30 students signed up. At that point, we had raised less than $5,000 toward the lofty $40,000 goal needed to hire a staff person and have a 'real' Young Life ministry. The decision was made to send all those kids to camp (most of them required full scholarships) even if it exhausted our funds. It required almost everything we had saved, but kids made first time decisions for Christ--so it was worth it.
One of those kids now serves as a Youth Intern at our church. God chose to use that weekend camp and the follow-up discipleship one of the men on our committee invested in him to make the difference for eternity! Now I. is evangelizing and discipling young men. Amazing!
When our trio turned one we received a card notifying us that friends had contributed to Young Life in their honor. Because they had only lived in our town for a few months and YL had no local presence, we were surprised they knew to contribute to that particular ministry. They didn't know. They had their own connection to the ministry of which we were unaware. Suddenly they joined our group, as did three other couples. With renewed momentum and enthusiasm, we raised an entire annual budget for the ministry (double the original goal) in less than a year.
In March 2007 God brought Sweeney and Cabell here to serve. Under his leadership more than a dozen volunteer leaders were trained, we took kids to weekend camp, established weekly club/outreach meetings. In October 2008 he was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma. In March of this year cancer took his Earthly body.
Yesterday our new Area Director and his wife moved to town and assumed leadership of this ministry...just in time to take our very first group of kids to weeklong Summer outreach camp in Colorado.
So many twists and turns have happened in the journey of Young Life being established here. There have been a great many times I have been so confused about why God would allow it to be so hard. I mean, after all, we are trying to bring the Gospel to disinterested kids! What could be wrong with that?
I am constantly learning how God always has WAY more in mind that what our feeble brains can grasp. That kitchen I was standing in when I inquired about YL almost 7 years ago changed owners a few years back. It is now the home of my accountability partner and dear friend (who also serves on Young Life's local governing committee). We interviewed Sweeney in her living room three years ago.
There were only 4 couples at that initial dinner. One of them was my friend, Emmy, who is now my next door neighbor and the Mom of two of the students who will be on that bus tomorrow. In the morning, Emmy, Cabell and I will have the honor of driving 7 high school students and 4 leaders (plus their luggage) to an exit off 75 to meet a bus from another area. We will drop them off for a trip that will undoubtably be one of the most incredible weeks of their lives.
Oh, and the bus they are taking to Colorado will 'ironically' be shared with students from my hometown (where I came to know and love this ministry). Their recently appointed area director was Sweeney's very best friend.
I have so much emotion over this milestone in this ministry. I am so sad that Sweeney isn't going to get to see this tomorrow. Yet, I cannot deny the dozens of things that point to God's Sovereign hand being ALL OVER this.
So, I wait with bated breath to see what He will do next.