Friday, July 25, 2008

What does Young Life have to do with Leaders 4 Life?

Twenty years ago, a young Texan girl named Bonnie went to a Kanakuk summer camp. This was a transformative week for Bonnie, as a Young Life staffer named Stacy had the opportunity to pray with her as Bonnie gave her heart to the Lord.

Fast forward about 10 years. Although Bonnie had lost touch with Stacy, she continued growing in her faith. She attended Baylor University where she charmed a guy named Steve Mason with her dance moves. Besides both being avid dancers, they had in common the fact that Steve was also introduced to Jesus through the ministry of Young Life. Steve and Bonnie married and after seminary, Steve felt that a Ph.D. in theology was the next step for him. Bonnie, being the fervent prayer-warrior that she is, was excited about the venture. So they packed up and moved to a quaint little town in Scotland called St. Andrews (where Steve resisted golf long enough to complete his degree).

It was in St. Andrews that Lisa and I met Steve and Bonnie and instantly became good friends. But it was as the Mason's were leaving St. Andrews, that something amazing happened in our relationship with them. (If you've already heard this story, keep reading ... its better than the first time you heard it!) As Steve was applying to teach at LeTourneau University back in Texas, we learned that LeTourneau has a L.E.G.S. program which designs low-cost prosthetics legs for people in third world countries. And even though we'd known Steve and Bonnie for a couple of years, oddly enough we hadn't told them about our amazing calling to Sierra Leone involving prosthetics. When we finally sat down to talk about everything on our way to the airport for Steve's interview, we realized that this was a God-thing! After Steve got the position, we found out further that the next country LeTourneau's L.E.G.S. programe wanted to focus upon was Sierra Leone. Pretty amazing stuff. But it gets better ...

Back in St. Andrews, I had an inkling. For three years since we had moved to Scotland, I kept hearing church leaders talk about the dire need to reach the lost youth of St. Andrews but I never saw a comprehensive outreach to kids get underway. So I got this inkling from the Lord to help bring Young Life to St. Andrews. (And keep in mind, at this time I didn't know Steve and Bonnie had come to Christ via Young Life.)

I got in touch with a fabulous guy in London named Tom Hammon who has worked for Young Life for over 35 years. Tom worked to bring his good friend Randy Nickel, who is currently serving in Tanzania, to oversee what is happening with Young Life in Scotland. (Randy is on the left in the picture below, with Graham from Holy Trinity, St. Andrews.) Now here comes some more amazing bits ...

Tom and Randy suggested I get in touch with their friends doing Young Life in Liberia, next door to Sierra Leone. So I begin praying that Young Life would start in Sierra Leone and commit myself to help Young Life get started there when I become more active in the country. Low and behold, a couple of weeks later I get an email from James Davis of Liberia who had recently travelled to Freetown, Sierra Leone to hold a Young Life club meeting. Wow. I guess God beat me to the punch, but He did answer my prayers! Here are some pictures of the Freetown meeting below ...

Not amazing enough you say? Okay, how about this: As Randy contemplates shifting his focus from Tanzania to Scotland, he receives an email from his good friend "Stacy" who is praying for him. Here is some of the ensuing email correspondence:

Stacy: In the midst of praying for you, I get a call from an old Kanakuk camper that was in my cabin 20 years ago. I was able to pray with her to receive Christ, and so as a result, she talks about me every time she gives her testimony. Just this week, she was giving her testimony and decided to hunt me down. Through a long, strange course of events she was able to find me. We obviously talked for hours, but when she told me that she and her husband had lived in St. Andrews from 2002-2006, I couldn't believe it. I shared with her your story, and realized what a huge affirmation this could be for you. Her husband became a Christian through Young Life in San Antonio, and still remains very close to Tiger Dawson.

Me: This brings tears to my eyes ... Steve and Bonnie are close friends of ours from St. Andrews. When Steve finished his Ph.D. here in St. Andrews, he applied to teach OT at LeTourneau Univ. in Texas. In the process, we learned that LeTourneau's engineering department (called L.E.G.S.) is developing a low-cost prosthetic leg for people in third-world countries and that the next country they decided to focus upon is Sierra Leone. Steve and Bonnie are big champions of our work in Sierra Leone and an important part of the story of how God has been bringing everything together for us ... Randy, this is a nice confirmation for us both that God is indeed working not only in Africa, but also in Scotland!

Bonnie: WOW! Isn't God amazing...this is an Ebenezer for sure. Praise the Lord that Tiger Dawson and Stacy Santen heard the call to share Christ with Steven and Me many years ago....and now for his kingdom, things continue to grow and come full circle so that others may know him...awesome God indeed.

Randy: Chris that is crazy how God works. Stacy leads Bonnie to Christ at camp, Stacy and Matt become our great friends, Bonnie and Steve become your friends. This is what heaven will be like.

I've said many times before that Leaders 4 Life is about bringing heaven to earth. I cannot yet tell you specifically what Young Life has to do with Leaders 4 Life. What I can say is that it is amazing to watch God work and it is encouraging to see the Body of Christ work the way it should--each part functioning to help the other build the kingdom. What does Young Life have to do with Leaders 4 Life? The only answer I have is, "This is what heaven will be like!"