Growing up in the church was instrumental for me in hearing about God and His love for me. Until high school, I can’t necessarily pinpoint an exact time or place where I gave my life to Jesus. However, there were several real and memorable encounters that moved me more into a deeper relationship with Him.
When I was in tenth grade, I had a friend that invited me to Younglife on a Tuesday night. I went, having no idea what it was. What else was I going to do on a Tuesday? I went, and I loved it. After going for a little while, I became involved in campaigners, went on the fall weekend, and then was swayed into going to summer camp. I will just say that Younglife camp is not camp, it is a five star resort designed for high school kids to have the best week of their lives. At camp, the speaker presented the gospel, and we were able to process it together as a cabin and with our leaders. At the end of the week, they do something where those who responded to the gospel at camp and who decided to follow Jesus with their lives, are able to stand and say so. When I looked out over the club room and saw not only my friends but so many others, I was overwhelmed by the power and grace of God. I sat there and wept, and I mean I really wept. It was at this moment that my eyes were opened to my purpose in life. It was at this moment where I gained a vision for my friends. It was at this moment where the reality of God and his work in my life became my own. I went over to Tim Obrien, my Younglife leader, and hugged him. I said, “This was the most amazing thing I have ever seen!” That is all I could choke out, before Tim said, “I know! Now let’s go get your friends.” And from that point that has been my MO.
So after high school, God expanded what my friends look like. I wanted to serve Christ with my life, and I thought that one of the best outlets for this was Younglife. I soon realized that there was nothing in this area for junior high kids, and since my brother and cousins were in junior high, I gained a vision for them and their friends, and hence Wyldlife was born in this area. And because I desired to be incarnational (this is where I leave the comforts of my world and go into the world of junior high kids) and relational, I started living life with kids. Through spending time with them, I gained the right to be heard and share Jesus. Over the past fourteen years, I have been consistently present in the lives of junior high and high school kids. As a teacher as well, I have watched former students go from death to life. Life is messy, and it has been great to be in the middle of it with them. Of the hundreds or thousands of kids that have come out to Wyldlife and Younglife, God has blessed me with many long- lasting friendships and the opportunity to play a part in their walks with Jesus and their stories.
Christ has changed me, and he continues to change me. I am far from finished. I still struggle with sin, often lack love and devotion for God, and there are times when I place things more ultimate than God in my life. I am a beggar who has found the food. But because of Jesus and his relentless love and pursuit of me, I am a different teacher, a different Younglife leader, a different friend, and overall a different man.