I first felt the call to be a Young Life leader one Sunday at mass, when our priest said kids long to be known, loved, and belong. I remember those feelings, passing by the Washboard at Timber Wolf Lake and remembering the long nights we’d spent jamming while folding for campers, weeknights tucked away in the comfort of the our leader’s living room talking about Christ, experiencing Work Crew with my friend Luke, deciding to go to camp for the first time, and knowing my leaders and anyone else I’ve met through this ministry are there for me. But my love for this ministry didn’t start out that way. Here is my story.
When I was in high school, I felt invisible. I hated public speaking, and when I would walk into a room, everyone would have a group of friends. I would try to attach myself to their circles, but they never lasted. I would come to a Young Life club and stand in the back of the hallway, or purposely be late so I didn’t have to try to work my way into the friend groups.
As a freshman, I had made up any excuse I could find to reject one of the leader’s constant text messages to invite me to events. But when I was a sophomore, a senior began inviting me to Campaigners, Young Life’s bible study. I went because she had a car and would drive me.
The summer after my junior year, I finally joined my leaders for camp at Timber Wolf Lake. I had never experienced so much love from God. It changed the way I saw my relationship with God. The following summer, I backpacked North Manitou Island and served on Work Crew. I continued to meet amazing people. People who care about sharing the Gospel and care about kids.
After leader training I went to a Catholic conference called Seek, where I learned about the beauty of the Catholic church. I was still nervous about leading at this point. But after Christmas break we watched one of my favorite speakers’ talks again. Fr. Mike Schmitz said, “The Gospel can only advance through friendship and families.” I instantly thought about Young Life and high schoolers. When I tried to tell myself I was too busy or had too much homework, God reminded me of another phrase Fr. Mike said. “Love takes sacrifice.”
This is the prayer I prayed at Leadership Weekend while lying on a picnic table as camp glowed across the water. I stared up at the night sky and prayed.
I know there’s a girl like me out there. The quiet one. The one who compares. The one who lacks self confidence. The one who’s lonely or afraid. The one who’s stressed and anxious about what the future holds. She may feel invisible too.
I know I still struggle with these things and I don’t have all the answers. But You do. They say it’s worth it if you impact just one person. I know she’s out there somewhere, in a sea of high school students.
Give me the strength and courage, Lord, to be with her. To be her friend. To meet her in her everyday, at lunch or at a sporting event. To continue showing up for her, even when I am rejected. Give me the courage to invite her to club. Give me the words to teach her that You are loving and good in the Bible. Through You, I want to give her the opportunity to experience the great, overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love I felt from You at camp. I want to let her know who You say she is – worthy, healed, forgiven, valuable, holy, set free, loved! I want to show her the power of serving Your kingdom and watch her gasp at Your creation on a backpacking trip. But even if she doesn’t do all these things, I pray she would experience You. Please remind me that everyone grows differently. Remind me You are still working no matter what. Lord, give me the vulnerability to share my own life with her, so that she can see how You continue to work in me. Lord, she deserves to know You. Let me be a light to her and show her how You are the light of the world. Here I am, Lord. Send me.