Western Great Lakes Young Life

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Category: Summer 2017 Series

What Kids Are Saying About Camp [Summer 2017 Series]

Camp changed the way I look at life and really made me appreciate this life I have been blessed to live. I loved cabin time because it opened my eyes to the realities of the world.”

—High School Student, Northwest Grand Rapids Young Life

“This week was one of the most incredible weeks of my life! Having the opportunity to experience God’s love and beauty through the new relationships I made and through His creation was truly amazing. It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life, no matter how hard it was.”

—High School Student, Northeast Grand Rapids Young Life

“I know that God can move the mountains, but this week he used the mountains to move me.”

—High School Student, Eastern Ottawa Young Life

This summer was my first time at camp. At camp I learned that just because you did some pretty bad stuff you can always turn back to follow God and he will still love you the same and that just because I am this big strong guy doesn’t mean I don’t have a weakness.”

—High School Student, Michiana Young Life

I’ve learned a lot about patience and being more disciplined in my faith through my time here at SharpTop.”

—High School Work Crew Volunteer, Kalamazoo Young Life

Young Life camp has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Through this ministry I have grown my relationship with Christ and truly felt worth. The dark in my life has been lit by my love for Jesus and my acceptance of Him into my life.”

—High School Student, Grand Traverse Young Life

“I was pretty on the edge with religion and I still had so many questions…I was hesitant to go to camp, but decided to go because of [my YL leader]. During that week, I found God. I felt God pull me into him. [My leader] and I were reading through the Bible and the word “baptism” came up numerous times. I asked him about it and he said, ‘It’s giving your life to Christ. It’s an outward expression of an internal thing.’ I immediately said to him, ‘I’m ready to give my life to Christ!’”

—High School Student, Southwest Michigan Young Life

[Don’t miss what these high school students from Portage Young Life had to say about their week at Castaway.]

 

Learning to Let Go at Castaway [Summer 2017 Series]

Submitted by Maddie Stalheber, Mission Staff with Grand Rapids SouthWest Young Life


Taylor* had signed up for camp early on in the semester and had been eagerly awaiting the trip to Castaway. It seemed nothing would stop her from boarding the bus to camp, until just five days before she was to leave.

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On the Monday before camp, Taylor tragically lost her best friend. Taylor attended her friend’s funeral on Friday yet still boarded the bus to camp on Saturday night. In her grief and sadness, she trusted that Jesus had a plan in this confusing and shocking time.

Our week at Castaway was magical and full of surprises for Taylor, but it was also a time for her to process her deepest loss. All week long, Taylor was pumped about any activity involving water but every time we walked past the climbing wall she would look me in the eyes and say: “Don’t you even dare make me try that.”

0FE8DF85-BCD3-458B-8FD5-B0253F5321E1Eventually, it was our cabin’s turn to do the climbing wall. We sat on the bench looking up at the wall. I begged Taylor to just put a harness on and try climbing up to the green line. (The green line is around five feet from the ground is used as a way to test the automatic belay system.) Finally, Taylor agreed to climb to the green line.

What happened next was a moment only our Father could orchestrate.

Taylor courageously climbed to the green line. Upon realizing she would need to let go of the wall, lean back and gently fall to the ground, she froze in panic. For thirty minutes the summer staff volunteer and I tried to persuade her that she was fully capable of coming back to the ground safely.

At one point the summer staffer said: “Hey, Taylor, you never thought at the beginning of the week when you heard the phrase ‘Let Go and Let God’ that you might have to physically let go of this wall.”

Taylor began to cry and the summer staffer realized something bigger was going on.

Clinging to the wall from five feet above ground, Taylor spoke what was so heavy on heart: “If I let go it means she’s really gone. If I let go it means she’s never coming back.”unknown

The summer staffer and I continued to encourage Taylor through this defining moment and slowly she took her hands off the wall, leaned back and let the automatic rope system bring her gently to the ground.

When she was standing safely on solid ground the summer staffer was able to share with her that he had tragically lost his brother a few years back. He shared: “Taylor you can’t do this on your own. You have to let Jesus in.”

What a powerful moment. It was so evident how that summer staff volunteer was so clearly hand-picked to be working the climbing wall that day, in that hour. As he shared his own experience of losing someone close, his words brought Taylor comfort and a created a moment of divine connection by revealing painful parts in both of their stories.

Thanks be to God for the way He orchestrates moments just like these at camp, and for how He uses our painful stories to encourage and comfort others in their grief.

* Name changed for privacy

East Kentwood Returns to Camp [Summer 2017 Series]

Submitted by JR Roberts

After a decade of not sending kids to Young Life camp, East Kentwood Young Life was back this summer, thanks to community members coming together for the youth.

It was only a year ago that Young Life leaders began walking the halls of East Kentwood High School to rebuild a club there. We passed out donuts, met students, and invited them to come to club on Wednesday nights. Our club quickly grew with many freshmen coming each week. Leaders spent the year pouring into these new friends, playing basketball, grabbing milkshakes, and hanging out with kids in order to get to know them more.

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As summer drew near, we invited our friends from East Kentwood to come to camp with us at Timber Wolf Lake. On July 10th, twelve students and four leaders set off for the best week of their lives.

The group consisted of all freshmen boys, many coming from broken homes. As they hopped off the bus, smiling work crew volunteers greeted them with high fives and the program team began to crack jokes and help them feel welcomed. Bags were thrown on beds and then the exploring of camp began.

The zip line, go-karts, high ropes course, giant swing and the other camp activities simply blew them away. They thought going to camp meant old cabins with spiders, not a resort for kids.

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The first night, our camp speaker shared about the beautiful world we live in and how it began in the beginning with God. Most of the group was very reserved, a couple shared how they were angry at the speaker. Later that night in cabin time we unpacked these feelings and the boys shared their perspectives and then asked us to share why we believed what the speaker had shared.

Each day at camp we had club and cabin time where the boys continued to open up about their past experiences—hurts and joys—and asked more questions about God. On the last day, two of the boys accepted Christ and the others were more open to talking about God and asking questions.

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Hearts are being turned towards God and we look forward to what He has in store for this new area in the next school year!


familyJR and Natalie Roberts both serve Kentwood Young Life—Natalie is employed by Young Life as Mission Staff and JR volunteers as leader and committee member. JR is the Director of Development at Sunny Crest Youth Ranch, a safe home for abused and neglected boys. He also serves as President Elect of Caledonia Kiwanis Club. They share a passion for building relationships with kids from all backgrounds in order to lead them to Christ.