Western Great Lakes Young Life

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Category: Get to Know Someone (page 1 of 2)

Get to Know Sara Webb, Regional Capernaum Coordinator

IMG_5628We introduce Sara Webb as the new Regional Capernaum Coordinator for the Western Great Lakes Region. Capernaum is the branch of Young Life that reaches students and young adults with disabilities. In Capernaum, life-long friendships are formed in a fun and inclusive environment where friends feel loved, welcomed and celebrated while learning about the best friend of all, Jesus Christ. 

Lyn TenBrink, who leads Capernaum Young Life for the entire Midwest Division, has such a big and beautiful vision for every Young Life ministry to grow in diversity and care for kids with diverse abilities.

She says, “It is so thrilling to be part of a region that backs up that value by having a vision for Sara’s full-time role as Regional Capernaum Coordinator.  Having known Sara for a very long time it almost feels like her life experience has been building toward this position. She has so much knowledge of Young Life, passion and vision for kids with diverse abilities that it really feels like she was made for this!”

We think so too and encourage you to get to know Sara in this little Q&A below: 

How did you first get involved with Young Life?
My two older sisters were involved in YL at South Christian. If I wanted a ride to school on Fridays, I had to go to Campaigners with them at 7:00am. I am almost sure I never missed a single Campaigners meeting all four years. I also went to club and am thankful for my leader Jocelyn.

Tell us about your career background.
I have worked at Wedgwood Christian Services for the past seventeen years, the last fifteen of those years I was leading Young Life there. That job prepared me for my new role with Capernaum Young Life.

What is your role as Regional Capernaum Coordinator?
In my new role, I will be training and walking with our YL Area Directors to grow Capernaum Young Life in this region. We want to have a Capernaum YL club in every area. Our goal is to have eyes for every kid in our community. I will also be supporting the existing Capernaum clubs. We have discipleship as a goal for our Capernaum friends. I want to help find and connect them to ways they can grow and serve as co-laborers in the mission of Young Life.


You’ve been involved with Young Life for many years, what are some favorite memories?
I have many great memories. At Wedgwood, my favorite moments were always at club—watching kids laugh, let go of everything else in their messy lives and just be kids. It was always a holy moment to see joy and laughter return to kids who had been robbed of those gifts, even if for only an hour every week.

What do you love about the mission of Young Life?
Young Life is about loving kids the way Jesus loves them, right where they are, in the midst of the mess. I love the way Young Life gives kids the opportunity to grow in their faith and have a relationship with Jesus.  

Tell us about your family.
I have been married to my husband Jahan for fifteen years. We have an almost thirteen-year-old son, Malachi. Jahan works at Harrison Park (GRPS) as a College and Career coordinator and in partnership with the Challenge Scholars Program. Malachi is a 7th grader at FHN. We also have a five-year-old Boston Terrier named Thor (who is sometimes my favorite). He loves me a lot and is almost perfect.  

What do the three of you do for fun?
We love road trips. Our son is a train fanatic and we have been to almost every train museum or park in a four-hour radius. We love visiting big cities. We have a list of all the big cities we would like to explore; Philly and Boston are next on our list.  

We all know Young Life isn’t the only thing that defines you. What else would you like us to know about you?
I am left handed (lefties are always right). I am a book nerd without any shame. I have over 40 first cousins ranging in age from 10 to 45. (My mom has nine brothers and sisters and my dad has six brothers and sisters. My grandma does not recommend having 10 kids.) I am a U of M fan—as part of my marriage vows. I love documentaries. I love my hammock. Did I mention how much I love my dog? 



Central Grand Rapids Young Life Announces New Area Director

Meet Jenna Perkins. Jenna is the new Area Director for Central Grand Rapids Young Life, an area that has active clubs in the East Grand Rapids Schools and Grand Rapids Christian Schools, as well as a YoungLives ministry for teen moms in the Godwin Heights, Wyoming and Kelloggsville schools.

Jenna comes to this position with over ten years of experience on Young Life staff, in addition to a lot of passion, vision, and creativity.

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Jenna (third from left) with a group of Young Life leaders

Matt DeHoog, the Associate Regional Director for Greater Grand Rapids shared this: “Jenna is a proven leader who has a unique drive to connect with people. She is caring, engaging, and a team builder. She will do well sharing the story of what God is doing through Young Life with people in these communities. She also has the capacity to build strong leadership teams to go out into the world of middle school and high school students. I think she’s a great fit for what this area needs.”

Jenna’s passion for connecting with others goes back to her time as a high schooler in Champaign, Illinois. She remembers Young Life leaders investing in her by taking her out for lunch, hanging out at her house, and opening God’s Word with her in Campaigners. It was so obvious how her leaders exuded the love of Christ in all they did. These relationships made a lifelong impact on Jenna.

This is what Young Life is all about. Caring adults stepping into the world of adolescence and doing pretty basic (though often intimidating) things like eating lunch, hanging out and showing up. And they do this never really knowing what the outcome might be. Chances are, Jenna’s Young Life leaders never imagined she’d go on to join Young Life staff one day.

Following High School, Jenna moved to Indianapolis to attend Butler University to study Elementary Education. She remained involved with Young Life throughout college. After graduation, instead of pursuing a career in teaching, Jenna decided to join Young Life staff, which, according to her, was the best decision she ever made.

Jenna’s first role was running WyldLife (Young Life’s ministry for middle schoolers) for Carmel Young Life, and later went on to serve as the Area Director there.

Two years ago, when Jenna and her husband Kyle moved to Michigan for his job, Jenna joined the Eastern Ottawa Young Life team where she was involved in training and developing leaders and also led Young Life at Grand Valley State University.

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When asked what she loves about Young Life, Jenna reflected on the relational approach to ministry: “I have so many memories of important, life-changing conversations with kids which took place over meals, at camp or at Campaigners. I love that Young Life creates deep and important community among kids, leaders, and committee. It’s this community and the lifelong relationships that help kids meet Christ.”

“I am honored and eager to join the Central Grand Rapids Young Life team,” shared Jenna. “I hope to make Young Life and WyldLife a place that all kids feel welcome, secure and loved no matter what state they are in. I want to be reaching kids that won’t be reached any other way.”

When Jenna dreams about the future of Young Life in the Central Grand Rapids area, she sees a ministry that reaches all kids, but especially disinterested kids. She dreams of Young Life being part of high school homecoming parades. She sees kids proudly wearing Young Life t-shirts around town. She envisions Young Life club outdoors at Collins Park and people opening their homes for regular Young Life lunches.

Will you help these dreams become a reality by praying for Jenna in her new role as Area Director and for the entire Central Grand Rapids Young Life team of staff, leaders, and volunteers? And if you live in the Central Grand Rapids area, please contact them to get involved.

Please join us in welcoming Jenna Perkins to Central Grand Rapids Young Life!


PerkinsFamily2017A little more about Jenna and Kyle Perkins—
Jenna met Kyle when he was a volunteer YL leader in Indianapolis. Their first date was a blind date set up by some mutual friends. The rest is history. Kyle is a guidance counselor at Forest Hills Central High School. They have two adorable little boys, Luke (5) & Bennett (2), who keep them busy, laughing & filled with joy. Jenna takes delight in being outdoors and near water, especially if it’s on a boat or water skiing. She also enjoys reading and being creative with home projects, decorating, crafting. Kyle and Jenna enjoy gathering people around the table in their home for dinner, whether it’s a good home-cooked meal or pizza. And lastly, Jenna’s claim to fame is that she grew up next door to Jimmy John—Yes, THE Jimmy John subs. :)

Get to Know Mike Bredeweg

We are thrilled to introduce the newest member to the Western Great Lakes Regional YL Team—Mike Bredeweg. Mike is our new Associate Regional Director for Southwest Michigan. He is no stranger to the Southwest Michigan Area, having previously served as Area Director there for thirteen years. 

We asked Mike a few questions so you could get to know him a little better. See what he had to say below…


Mike, when did you first get involved with Young Life?
The first thing I ever did with Young Life was go to camp the summer between my Sophomore and Junior year; that was the summer of 1983. I had heard my friend Todd Brooks tell me how much fun he had at camp the summer before. I decided that I wanted to go. I still have life-long friends from that first trip. That next year I got in involved in club and Campaigners.

Can you tell us a little about your family?
I have been married to Lynda for 22 years. We actually met at Castaway while we were both on assignment. She was a head leader and I was a work crew boss. She works as a Social Worker at a local hospital and also is a counselor at a practice near us. We have three kids: Noah is a sophomore at Calvin College, Hannah is a senior in High School, and Sam is in 8th grade. We have been very involved as a family in Young Life. Lynda helped start the Capernaum club in our area and Noah and Hannah have both been WyldLife leaders. Sam actually got to be on Program Team for our 2015 Leadership Weekend as a 7th grader.

What will you do as the Associate Regional Director for Southwest Michigan?
Great question! I am helping to start Young Life in new communities. I will be specializing in working with smaller communities that will probably never have a full-time staff person. We are working together in these towns to identify the key people and resources that can help us start Young Life ministry in their town. I am also trying to work with communities that have a culturally diverse population. I believe that if we can involve adults that best represent the demographics of the kids we are trying to reach, we can better develop a ministry that will more effectively reach a wider group of kids. It has been fun to see who God is calling to live out their lives reaching kids and connecting them to Jesus.

What do you love most about Young Life?
I love that people are drawn closer to Jesus. Kids are drawn to Jesus as they are introduced to him and learn what it means to follow him. Adults grow closer to Jesus as they trust him enough to step out of their boxes and be faithful to reach out to others. I am drawn closer to Jesus as I hear the stories of others and I have to put my faith into action and trust God beyond my fear.

Tell us about one of your favorite Young Life stories.
I have been doing this a long time! I have enough stories to fill an entire book. It is really hard to pick a favorite. I love seeing lives changed. I am very grateful for the chance to take my family down to Nicaragua and be involved with Young Life for a couple weeks there. It reminded me of the beautiful simplicity of this ministry. I saw leaders set up a couple soccer nets and a sound system in an open field in Matagalpa and the next thing you know, hundreds of kids come pouring down to the field. As I heard the stories of kids, so many of them talked about Jesus giving them a purpose in their lives. So many people feel like they have no purpose and nothing to contribute to the world around them. It is one of my favorite stories because I saw an incredible change in some of my favorite people in the world…my family.

It’s evident that you love Young Life, but what else do you love to do?
Two things that I love to do are counter-productive. 1) I love to ride my bike in the summer. It is the best way in the world to see things at a perfect pace. It is not as slow as running and you miss too much by car. I have discovered that I love the same thing about checking out the world by kayak. I get to see familiar places in a new light and go places I have never gone before. 2) I love to go out to eat with people and talk. This is the part that works against the biking and kayaking, but it sure is not going to stop me from enjoying great friends and great food.

What is a little-known fact about you?
I love to dance.


Mike and Lynda with their Capernaum friends this past Thanksgiving.

Is there a question you have for Mike? Comment below or connect with him via Facebook or his Blog.

A New Chapter: NW Grand Rapids Young Life Hires First Area Director

Do you remember the amazing story we shared earlier this year about Kenowa Young Life? How in just a few months time, a volunteer-led Young Life club at Kenowa Hills High School had tripled in size from 55 to 175 kids? It was the kind of growth that only God could orchestrate. (If you missed the story, be sure to read it here.)

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Kenowa Hills YL

Since we first highlighted what God was doing in Kenowa, things haven’t slowed down. Interest in Young Life has sparked in the nearby communities of Comstock Park and Sparta. This continued growth led Kenowa Young Life to recently change their name to Northwest Grand Rapids Young Life and take an exciting step to hire their first-ever Area Director, Jake Wielhouwer.


“My favorite Young Life story is the one unfolding every day in front of my eyes in Northwest Grand Rapids,” said Jake Wielhouwer, just a few weeks into his new role as Area Director for Northwest Grand Rapids Young Life. [Tweet this.]

Jake is no stranger to NW Grand Rapids or to Young Life. Jake grew up on the northwest side, attended Westside Christian School and has loved YL ever since being involved as a student at Calvin Christian High School in Grandville.

Prior to becoming Area Director, Jake spent several years in the auto and real estate industries and most recently worked at a non-profit youth center. He was also a key player in forming and chairing Kenowa YL’s committee.  

Jake and his wife Tory have three kids: Tessa (5), Heidi (3.5) and Jack (6 weeks). He loves spending time with Tory and the kids, playing hockey, working out, boating and cheering on Michigan football. Did we mention he likes hockey?

Jake shared, “Since I broke my ankle two years ago and am not able to play sports like I used to, I explored other options and found that ice skating doesn’t hurt my ankle. So I now play hockey as often as I can.”  

In addition to these things, Jake is very dedicated to the mission of Young Life.

He attended his first YL club as a high school freshman and still remembers watching kids race to eat a banana through a pantyhose. The following summer, Jake went to Windy Gap; it was there that he accepted Christ.

“Young Life changed my life because I was able to truly grasp for the first time God’s unconditional love for me,” Jake shared. [Tweet this]

After that life-changing summer, Jake became a student leader and continued leading Young Life for three years following graduation. Coaching football was another way Jake continued to make connections and build relationships with kids.


Jake (far left) with Kenowa Hills students and Kenowa YL leader, Spencer Vanderheide (far right).

“I love how Young Life brings something authentic and real to disinterested kids,” Jake shared. “We are building genuine relationships with kids that are crying out for our help. And in a programmatic society, where kids oftentimes don’t have consistent relationships, Young Life leaders show up to be Jesus to kids on a regular basis.”

When asked about his hopes for Northwest Grand Rapids Young Life, Jake replied, “My prayer is that God would grow our new area and build strong ministries in our area schools (Kenowa Hills, Comstock Park, and Sparta) so that all students will have the opportunity to hear of Jesus’ unconditional love for them.”

“Just like Jesus chose unique people, God started Kenowa Hills Young Life in a unique way through unique people,” explained Jake. “We have experienced incredible growth over the last year and have been embraced by parents, the administration, and the community. God is at work and I still can’t believe I get to be a part of it! I am continually amazed at how God shows up faithfully and in new ways. I look forward to watching Him write the next chapter in this story.”  [Tweet this]


>> Please join us in welcoming Jake Wielhouwer to this new role. We also look forward to watching God write the next chapter in the unfolding story of NW Grand Rapids Young Life.   

>> To get involved with what God is doing in and through NW Grand Rapids Young Life, be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram or attend their upcoming banquet on Monday, November 7th. See details below.


Introducing 3 New Staff Members

Over the past month, the Western Great Lakes Region had the privilege of welcoming three new Staff Associates to our growing regional team. We’d love for you to meet them, so without further ado…

INTRODUCING, Andrew Collins.screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-8-53-20-pm

  • ABOUT ANDREW: Andrew grew up in Fountain, MI and came to southwest Michigan in 2003. He met his wife Krissy in 2004 and has been married to her for 11 years. They have an amazing 10-year-old daughter Kiya who gets to go to WyldLife at Lakeshore this year.
  • HIS POSITION: Staff Associate II for Southwest Michigan Young Life. Andrew will work at building relationships with students, staff, parents and donors at Lakeshore Middle and High Schools. You can read more about Andrew or contact him here.  
  • HIS GUILTY PLEASURE/HOBBIES: I like vanilla ice cream with chocolate topping stirred into a delicious soft mixture. I enjoy physical activity like basketball and running. Family time is a must.”
  • HIS YOUNG LIFE STORY: While Andrew is brand new to Young Life, he says, “[Young Life] has broadened my view of how Jesus met us where we are at, stepped into our world, didn’t try to change us with words but with witness. We get to do that with kids.”
  • HIS PRAYER:That we would reach kids in ways that we’ve never thought possible in the past. That God would open our eyes to what is working well with Young Life and what may need tweaking in the future.”

INTRODUCING, Mackenzie Frederick.img_5907

  • ABOUT MACKENZIE: Mackenzie grew up in Grand Blanc, MI with her parents and older brother. She attended Lake Fenton Community Schools. She’s been part of Young Life since her first WyldLife club 10 years ago. Mackenzie moved to the Eastern Ottawa area to attend GVSU.  
  • HER POSITION: Staff Associate for Eastern Ottawa Young Life. Mackenzie will focus on overseeing and advancing the ministry of Young Life in Hudsonville. This means she gets to continue leading at Riley Street WyldLife, and will begin leading at Hudsonville Young Life. She is also the Middle School Ministry Intern at Jamestown Harbor Church. You can read more about Mackenzie or contact her here.
  • HER HOBBIES: All things outdoor: going for hikes, exploring new places and sunset chasing.
  • HER YOUNG LIFE STORY: “Young Life introduced me to a relationship with Jesus and helped me find joy in life. During High School I attended Young Life club, camp, and campaigners. During my junior and senior year of high school, I became a volunteer WyldLife leader. In the summer of 2011, I volunteered at Timber Wolf Lake on Work Crew. During college, I served on Summer Staff at Timber Wolf Lake and had the privilege of being a leader, team leader, and Student Staff member at Riley Street WyldLife … There’s something about Young Life that keeps me coming back, the invitation to experience the Gospel in a new way, the life-long relationships, and the way that God works in a community. I love Young Life and leading because I know what it is like to have a leader walk beside me through thick and thin, pointing me to Christ throughout the way.”
  • HER HOPE & PRAYER: “My hope is to encourage kids and leaders specifically in the Hudsonville community in their relationships with Christ and listen to their stories, just as others have done for me.”

INTRODUCING…Caleb Ellens.screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-10-49-11-am

  • ABOUT CALEB: Caleb grew up in Jenison, MI. He’s the son of Tom and Lonna Ellens and the youngest of four kids with three older sisters.
  • HIS POSITION: Staff Associate for Michiana Young Life. Caleb will be working at Penn High School (Mishawaka, IN). You can read more about Caleb or contact him here.
  • HIS YOUNG LIFE STORY: “I was involved with YoungLife for three years in high school. I became a leader my sophomore year of college and have been active with Young Life ever since…I love the relationships we get to build with people that can last a lifetime.”
  • HIS GUILTY PLEASURE/HOBBIES: “Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon are my happy place.”
  • HIS PRAYER: “My prayer is that we can make a significant impact on the Penn community that can be an asset to the students and staff.”

Please join us in giving a warm welcome to Andrew, Mackenzie and Caleb! We are confident God will use them to do great things for the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth.

A New Area Director for Michiana Young Life

Growing up in West Michigan as a pastor’s kid provided Caryn Schierbeek with opportunities early on in life which fostered her spiritual growth and prepared her for a future in ministry.

“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the middle and high schools that I did and to have friends around me who stretched my world view. I believe God was shaping my heart for multicultural ministry even back then.”


Caryn Schierbeek (center) along with some Michiana Young Life friends.

Caryn first learned about Young Life from her college roommate at Grand Valley State University. “I attended my first club at Lee High School (Wyoming, MI) and was hooked! I became a volunteer leader in 2005 and also served as part-time staff with a focus on urban WyldLife for a little over two years.”

Caryn now lives in South Bend, IN with her husband Brent and their dog Woodson. Together they enjoy biking, walking and spending time with friends. Caryn enjoys reading and knitting, but also craves quiet spaces. She adds, “Even though my voice is loud, my spirit needs quiet.” 


Caryn and Brent are still proud Michigan fans even though they live in Norte Dame territory. (Maybe someone needs to get them some ND Fighting Irish apparel. 😉 )

Having been on staff with Michiana Young Life as Staff Associate since May of 2014, Caryn is now stepping into a new role with the area as Michiana’s new Area Director. She follows the great leadership of former Senior Area Director Brad Sytsma, who now serves as Associate Director of Young Life’s Centurion Project.

When asked what she loves about Young Life, Caryn responded, “Young Life demonstrates the joy of Jesus Christ to kids better than anything I’ve ever seen or experienced. I remember my first trip to Timber Wolf Lake in 2005…I was overwhelmed with the sense of joy and freedom that I was able to feel and that kids were displaying. I knew Young Life was something great.”


This sense of joy and freedom is something Caryn wants every kid in her area to have the opportunity to experience.

“Last summer I struggled getting my high school friend Maddie on the bus to Young Life camp. After much convincing she ended up on our trip, but was hanging on to a lot of problems back home,” Caryn recalls.

“Our first three days at camp together were tough. As the days progressed, however, I saw her open up. The freedom and joy seemed to wash over her and she began to come to life. Day 4 was ropes course day—my least favorite day every year! Maddie and I were set to go together. We made it to the end of the course through blood, sweat and tears and Maddie was afraid to jump at the end. After time passed, we jumped off the end of the course together. Once our feet hit solid ground, we looked at each other and Maddie had tears in her eyes. She said, ‘I was praying and I felt God saying to me, Maddie, it’s time to let go. So I jumped. And I think God is telling me to let go of stuff at home, too.'”

“The Lord changed Maddie’s life at Young Life camp last summer, and now she is leading alongside of me in Michiana,” shared Caryn. 


Michiana Young Life—what a group!

Caryn’s hope and prayer for Young Life of Michiana is to be a kingdom-focused area that remains faithful to God’s calling, trusts in God’s timing and grows in pursuing middle school, high school, and college-aged friends from all backgrounds.

Let’s welcome Caryn Schierbeek to her new role as Area Director of Michiana Young Life and celebrate the kingdom work already being accomplished in South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger and Niles.

To find out what’s happening in Michiana Young Life, be sure to follow them on facebook or their blog.

Meet Grand Rapids Urban Young Life’s New Area Director

It is a time of growth for Grand Rapids Urban Young Life. Lateefah Gofoe has been named the new Area Director of Grand Rapids Urban Young Life. Lateefah is no stranger to the Grand Rapids community, having been born and raised there, and a proud product of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

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Lateefah and Joe Gofoe with their son, Joe.

“I’ve carried this community with me in every city that I’ve lived in,” says Lateefah, an alum of Ottawa Hills High School, Howard University in Washington, DC (Business Administration), and Grand Valley State University (Masters of Public Administration). After living and working in New York City for a time, Lateefah returned to Grand Rapids in 2008.

Once back in Grand Rapids, Lateefah married her longtime friend Joe Gofoe, who is responsible for introducing her to Young Life. Joe has been involved with the mission for fifteen years.

Since 2010, Lateefah has served in various volunteer Young Life roles and finds great joy and fulfillment taking kids to Young Life camp each summer.

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Lateefah (pictured center) with leaders from Wedgwood Young Life—including her husband Joe Gofoe (pictured far right) and Wedgwood YL Coordinator Sara Webb (in between them).

“I love that every single year we get one kid on camera dancing like no one’s watching and it’s always the most unexpected student! They just get swept up in the pure joy of camp,” reflects Lateefah, who is energized by music and dancing herself.

When asked what she appreciates most about Young Life, Lateefah responded, “I love the fact that Young Life is accessible and relevant to all young people…I think of Young Life as a fellowship along the way, encouraging a boldness in a young person who might otherwise be bashful.”

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Lateefah (right) with Kendra, a student athlete from Ottawa Hills High School.

Lateefah’s vision and prayer for Grand Rapids Urban is to get out there and connecting with the young people. “We are tasked with introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith, but we know that God will be the one to truly transform them and make them new (Luke 5:36).”

“Time is not our greatest commodity—it’s energy,” remarks Lateefah. “As leaders, we must bring energy and passion to our mission. My hope is to be the most excited person in the room—I’m excited and encouraged by the greatness of God and all of the young people that He wants to get to know more deeply.”

Lateefah and Joe share a passion for Christ and for young people. But they are also proud parents of two young sons—Joe who is 4.5 years old and Oak who is 4 months old.

“We are surrounded by an amazing village of family and friends who help us instill God’s best in our boys.”  Lateefah and Joe are also active members of their church, The Edge Urban Fellowship.

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Lateefah and Joe with their son, Joe.

When thinking about her love of music and dance, Lateefah says, “God answers my prayers by putting a song on my heart. He knows how to get my attention. In my spare time in an ideal world, I would be taking voice and dance lessons. But as a mom of two small children, I don’t always have the opportunity. I’ve learned to see my time with the boys as a gift—a God appointed time to experience the freedom and exploration of childhood. It’s awesome!”

This fall, Lateefah will officially join the Young Life ministry already led by a supportive and active YL committee and by Community Director, Quentin Henry, who has 15 years of experience serving Grand Rapids Urban YL.

Please join us in welcoming Lateefah to this position and praying for her and for Grand Rapids Urban Young Life. You can follow what God is doing in Grand Rapids Urban YL here.

Staff Spotlight: Casey Blair

We’re pleased to introduce another new Young Life staff member in the Western Great Lakes Region. Casey Blair serves as Staff Associate for the Grand Rapids SouthWest area. Let’s take a moment to get to know Casey and welcome him.

During his freshman year in high school, Casey Blair became involved in Young Life. The summers that followed brought him to camp two different times—once to Windy Gap and then to Castaway. “My trips [to camp] were the first time I really heard about having a relationship with Christ, and I eventually realized I wanted that. Thanks to Young Life and a couple of older guys from my high school, I am still following Jesus today.”


Casey grew up in Wheaton, IL with a set of pretty amazing parents, an older brother and a younger sister. After high school, Casey moved to Michigan to attend Western Michigan University. “I came up to Western for the Aviation program, but graduated this past December with a degree in Organizational Communication after realizing I didn’t really have a passion for flying.”

WMU helped Casey hone in on his interests. Aviation wasn’t one of them. He’d always liked reading books handed down from his dad. And sports also topped his interest list—whether watching or playing them. But at WMU Casey also met and became engaged to Rebekah. They are planning a wedding for this coming August after she finishes at WMU.


Casey also had a growing interest in Young Life, which led him to become a YL leader at Mattawan High School during his four years at WMU.

One fall at Mattawan, Casey and the other leaders felt like they had done everything possible to get kids signed up for Fall Weekend. After some persistent prodding, they had eight guys agree to go—half of them only because their parents made them. They were expecting an awkward connection with the guys since some of the group hadn’t even met until that weekend.

Despite a rough start, they had a blast hanging out together at Fall Weekend. The next Monday morning, Casey and two other leaders got a text from one of the kids that read: “I haven’t seen you guys in 12 hours, I miss you.”

They all just looked at each other, smiled and said, “This is what it’s all about.”


Young Life is all about authentic friendships. Take a group of eight guys who barely know each other, put them together for a life-changing, whirlwind-of-a-weekend at Timber Wolf and they end up friends. They shared an amazing experience; they had a mutual encounter with God. They’ll never be the same. This same group of guys and leaders plans to go backpacking together this summer and will experience Jesus in a whole new way.

“I love that Young Life is all about relationships,” Casey remarked. “Young Life leaders make it a goal to love everybody equally whether they have a relationship with Christ or want nothing to do with Him. The way YL works, every time a kid experiences the Gospel it is truly an invitation into something beautiful, with that invitation coming from a good friend.”

God had been preparing Casey during his years at Mattawan for a new role as Staff Associate for Grand Rapids SouthWest Young Life. Casey now leads the YL team at South Christian High School and hopes to continue building a dynamic ministry there, comprised of students, parents, faculty and other members of the community.

Casey also works with Area Director Eric Zoodsma to strengthen and grow their entire area and develop healthy ministries so that kids in the Grand Rapids SouthWest area have the opportunity to meet Jesus.

“My hope is that adolescents would experience a love like nothing they’ve experienced before,” Casey shared, “and that that love would transform into a desire to get to know Jesus more for the rest of their lives. I hope that we as an area can continue to grow in supporting leaders in their own relationship with Christ, so they can’t help but be excited about inviting kids into the same thing.”

Please join us in welcoming Casey to this position and pray for him and for Young Life in the Grand Rapids SouthWest area.

You can follow Grand Rapids SouthWest on facebook here.

Have You Met Matt DeHoog?

We are pleased to announce that Matt DeHoog has a new position for the Western Great Lakes Region. He is the new Associate Regional Director for Greater Grand Rapids (Kent County). Matt has been involved with Young Life in this area for fourteen years and previously served as Area Director for Northeast Grand Rapids Young Life.

Below is an interview we did with Matt—take a moment and get to know him better. 

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How did you first get involved with Young Life? Growing up, my good friend’s dad was the Director of Training for Young Life, so I always heard of the cool camps that my friend Will was attending with his dad. In 6th grade, I was able to go to Windy Gap with them on a family camp weekend. I loved the food, clubs and the gorgeous property. At that time, my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina didn’t have WyldLife—Young Life’s ministry for middle school students—so I needed to wait until high school to get involved.

In high school, a really cute senior girl that lived down the street offered to pick me up for Young Life club. I met Bill that night. Bill would become my leader, and was deeply involved in my life throughout high school.

Can you tell us a little about your family? There are currently three of us in the DeHoog family, but soon there will be four! My wife Molly is pregnant and due in August. We have a 16-month-old daughter Coby, who has a bubbly personality and keeps things fun. Molly is from Hudsonville and is a Play Therapist at Wellspring Counseling. She specializes in working with young kids and adolescents. We bought our first house this past summer in Forest Hills. It’s the perfect neighborhood for taking long walks and hanging with friends.

What will you do as the Associate Regional Director for Greater Grand Rapids? I will be supporting and helping lead ministry in the Greater Grand Rapids Area. I will come alongside Area Directors as they lead their area ministries and help start new ministries in Kent County. I hope to use the gifts God has given me to sustain and nurture staffed areas while growing the number of ministries we have in Kent County.

What do you love most about Young Life? I love the relationships and the transformative nature of Jesus. Watching leaders go where kids are, sharing life with them, and accepting them unconditionally with the love of Jesus—it’s an incredibly powerful thing to witness.

Do you have a favorite Young Life story? My second year on Young Life staff, I was asked to help out in the ESL classroom each day as a teacher aid during 1st period. My only responsibility between 7:45am-8:55am for an entire year was to help Juan—who is from a small farming community in Guatemala—learn English.

I was also coaching soccer at the school, and I asked Juan if he wanted to be on the team. Many days Juan didn’t have a ride home, so I would give him a ride. Juan and I spent a ton of time together throughout each day. Through this interaction, Juan started to ask me in Spanish about my faith in God, and what I believed. I had the opportunity to share my faith in Jesus and how He daily impacts my life.

God changed both of us through our daily interactions with each other. I think that’s Young Life at its best—faith-based friendships and authentic moments of sharing life together.

What is a little known fact about you? I’m a licensed therapist and work a few hours a week at Wellspring Counseling.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your daughter: I love dancing with Coby. She will ask me to turn on the music by making a swinging dancing motion with her arm and pointing to my phone. I’ll put some tunes on and scoop her up and do some wild dancing and movements with her. She laughs the whole time and just says “daaadddaaaa!!!!” over and over. It’s the best.

What’s one of the best parts of your day? Two parts stand out. I love cooking eggs in the morning for Coby and Molly, and then ending the day with a bowl of ice cream with Molly, which is usually some flavor of New Era ice cream.

Are you a sports fan? I’m a huge sports fan. Being from North Carolina, I cheer for the Carolina Panthers and the UNC Tar Heels. It has been a rough road being a Panthers fan, but we finally turned the corner this year! I can’t wait for the Super Bowl.

Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to tell us a bit about yourself. May God bless you in this new role for the WGLR!

Welcome Christy Eifert, Zeeland’s New Church Partner

Western Great Lakes Young Life is pleased to welcome another new staff member in the region: Christy Eifert, church partner at First Reformed Church of Zeeland. We wanted to share a little bit about Christy so you can get to know her and welcome her.

[Note: This article was first posted here and is printed with permission.]


Christy Eifert[First Church] is pleased to announce that Christy Eifert has accepted the Young Life Church Partner position and started on Sunday, January 17.

Christy comes to Zeeland from Mason, Michigan (southeast of Lansing) with a rich history of involvement in Young Life, both as a student and a leader. WyldLife and Young Life have shaped and molded Christy’s life. Christy’s relationship with Christ began as a result of her involvement in WyldLife as a middle school student, and her time with Young Life as a high school and college student has shaped and refined her faith. She attended Hope College for two years before transferring to Michigan State University, where she recently finished her degree in psychology.

While in college, Christy volunteered with WyldLife at Holland Christian for a semester, and then was a WyldLife team leader at Williamston Middle School after transferring to Michigan State. Christy has recently been an active member of Riverview Church in Holt, Michigan. In her spare time, Christy enjoys being outside, hiking, reading and watching movies.

christy with YL kids

Christy with a group of YL students.

The Young Life Church Partner position is a new one for First. This position will include a combination of Equipping and Evangelism ministries; Christy’s time will be shared between ministry to students who are already active at First and outreach to students in the Zeeland community through the WyldLife program. Christy looks forward to getting to know the youth at First and in the community, sharing Jesus with them and walking alongside them as they grow in their faith.

Please welcome Christy warmly and be in prayer as she moves to the Zeeland area, begins her new role, and becomes an active part of First Reformed Church.

Zeeland is part of Greater Holland Young Life. They shared this recently: “We are excited to welcome Christy…She will be a great addition to the church staff as well as work with kids in the area through Zeeland WyldLife!” God bless you, Christy, in this new adventure.

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