Monday, February 9, 2009

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

Young Life is a wonderful organization that is very near and dear to my heart and since I'm keeping this blog as a journal to myself I wanted to find a way to capture some of the feelings I have in regards to the group known as YL. In many ways YL setting down roots in our International School community during our second year living in the UK completely altered not only my children's experience here, but my own as well. If you aren't familiar with YL you can find out more by clicking here but put simply, YL is a non-denominational ministry that reaches out to adolescents by building meaningful relationships with them, introducing them to Jesus, and helping them grow in their faith with Him.

Young Life was supposed to start small in our school but actually it took off like a runaway roller coaster. We formed a parent committee and got us a leader. Jason was an American who'd been working in the Devon area of England with British youth for a few years. He was heading back to the US but agreed to stay in the UK for a year and get things started in our area. With him came a 19 year old British student, Mark, who worked his gap year with YL in our area that first year. I won't even mention here that that same now 23 year old Britsh student Mark, and his lovely new bride Hannah, are the current YL leaders in our area some 5 years later : )

My husband and I were part of the original parent committee and over the course of these last five years it has been our privilege to know and work beside some of the most caring people you will find in all the world. The weekly Bible Study (Campaigners for those of you who know YL lingo) was held in our home every Thursday night for 3 years. As I've mentioned before there's huge turnover in the International community every year and we feel fortunate to have known so many teenagers who are now living in all parts of the world...a verse in Acts springs to mind here : )

In the US highschoolers attend YL camps in the summer but that isn't easily available to the kids living outside the US. Instead they are invited to participate in a weeklong service project trip each year. The photos at the top of this post were taken on trips where close to 100 highschoolers from international schools around Europe participated. My own kids, through their involvement with YL here, helped dig a ditch (think moat) around a Romanian village called Lupeni that completely flooded every year, built a playground in Petrosani Romania another year, played, danced, talked, and came to love some orphans one week in a village outside of Sofia Bulgaria, and built a playground, repaired windows, painted walls and mended a fence in another Bulgarian town and orphanage. Perhaps most importantly these experiences taught them to look at themselves, at God, and at the whole big wide world in a new and very real way. You know, teenagers can ask the really tough questions (Why was I born in America and xyz was born in an impoverished mining town in the Transylvanian mountians?...just to throw out one off the top of my head). YL has been the springboard for many a meaningful conversation in our house.

I've been thinking alot about YL this week as both of my daughters spent this past weekend at a YL retreat in Windy Gap, NC. My two daughters are both at university in the US. Daughter1 is a Junior and Daughter2 is a freshman and they attend the same school which is wonderful for them (they love being on the same campus) and wonderful for us (logistics are so much easier this way). They volunteer as YL leaders at two different highschools not far from their university and this past weekend was their area retreat complete with loads of highschool kids and all the laughter, music, crazy games and terrific message YL always presents.

It feels like we've come full circle in a way. My kids who have been encouraged, prayed for, loved, and challenged by the YL leaders and volunteers in our little corner of the world are now doing the very same thing with teenagers they are walking along beside in their new little corner of the world. It is also comforting to know that although we are living 4,000 miles away (give or take a few) from our children, there are caring adults serving on a Parent Committee in a town in South Carolina who welcome our girls into their homes, provide a home cooked meal now and then, who pray for our children and offer a listening ear when its needed.

Six years ago when my husband asked, 'How would you feel about moving to England?' I couldn't have even begun to imagine where this road would lead. I'm thankful every day that Young Life was part of our journey. Cheers...Joyce


  1. This is such a God thing. You found me through Kelly's Dad's blog and I clicked on your blog and see your story about YL. I am almost 55, but was in YL in high school and my youngest daughter has been real involved in YL. Is that not amazing? God is so incredible at how he puts people's lives together. And you are across the ocean in the UK. That is awesome!! Please send me your email address and I will email you. I am I would love to hear from you. I have Bible study tonight, so I may be later getting back to you. We are doing Beth Moore's study of Esther. Love & blessings in NC!!

  2. I've heard amazing things about YL. And I hope when my children are older they will participate. These pictures are amazing. You must be so proud of your children for be such wonderful servants for the Lord.

  3. When my girls where in high school, they did a lot of mission work, both here in the USA and abroad. Don't you love the changes it makes in our children. Thanks for sharing your blessings.

  4. Happy Valentine's Day!!! Love your blog look....

  5. What a great post! I continue to be thrilled that daughter 1 & 2 are both still involved in Young Life -- investing in other high school students lives. It really is excited to see the ministry continue to invest in the next generation. YOUR family is such a blessing to this ministry!