Why Young Life?  

It’s easy to be discouraged about teenagers by looking at the headlines. Depression and suicide rates are on the rise. Church attendance rates are dropping and too many teenagers enter college and abandon their faith.  It’s easy to be alarmed and wonder how the next generation is going to choose to follow Jesus.

Right here in Bellevue are 35 adults investing time and energy to introduce teenagers to Jesus and help them grow in faith.  Those 35 adults are Young Life (YL) leaders living out the Great Commission: going directly to middle and high school kids and “sharing not only the Gospel of God but (their) very lives as well.”  1 Thessalonians 2:8

Over the last 2 years, a YL leader Greg has been invested in the life of Russ, a high school sophomore.  They met at a Young Life summer camp where Russ attended with quite a few of his friends.  At camp, there’s always a lot of fun and adventure during the day and a message of Christ every night. And Russ was a challenge for Greg.  He wasn’t interested in hearing about Jesus and even made fun of the kids who were.  Russ’ attitude made it almost impossible for Greg to have real, authentic conversations with the others in the cabin because Russ mocked anyone for any ideas or thoughts they expressed.  Greg was discouraged and felt like a horrible leader.  Camp ended and Russ’ attitude hadn’t changed.  For Greg, it seemed like a wasted week.

But Greg stayed with it.  He continued a friendship with Russ.  He went to Russ’ basketball games, texted Russ to check-in and then, invited Russ to bible studies. Slowly, Greg started to earn Russ’ respect.  Russ didn’t attend many things Greg invited him to, but he saw Greg keep showing up in his life.  Without pushing or being annoying, Greg just stayed consistent.

This last summer, Russ went to Young Life camp again.  Greg was excited to have Russ back but was hesitant to have him in his cabin.  He didn’t want a repeat of two summers ago and he didn’t want the week ruined.

This time, Russ was a different person.  Because of the hard-earned friendship, when Greg talked, Russ listened.  When Greg asked questions, Russ responded.   When Greg asked Russ to be respectful of others, Russ was.  Before the week was over, Russ decided to follow Jesus.  Because of God’s grace and Greg’s consistent caring, it was a huge first step in a faith journey for a challenged teenager.

Young Life works when a leader shows up in the life of a teenager, sharing not only the gospel but their very lives as well.  Whether at Camp, a monthly Club gathering, a Campaigner group bible study, or a kids’ basketball game….Young Life leaders just keep showing up.

Thank you to all at BelPres who, by your support of our staff and our leaders, allow us to keep “showing up” in the lives of teenagers, bringing them the hope of Jesus Christ that can change lives forever.

We are grateful!

Scott Didrickson, Area Director

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Young Life leader in Bellevue, please email  bellevueyloffice@gmail.com.  To financially support Bellevue Young Life, please go to younglife.org

Transformation Stories–King County Youth Chaplaincy

Editor’s note: Here are two stories recently shared by the King County Youth Chaplaincy folks, who have their annual benefit on Sept 29. Both are really powerful, but I wanted to call your attention to the second: From Gang Member to Peacemaker, because we’ve been sharing prayer requests for Victor in the ENews, and I thought it would be fun for us to have a fuller picture of the young man we’re praying for. May these stories encourage and challenge you today. –Nan

From the Streets to the Path of Righteousness

DeSean was known as “Hot Boy” because of his quick temper and his notorious street activity. When I met him in the detention center a few years ago when he was a 15-year-old boy, he wore an angry look on his face. His reputation and behavior from the block followed him into juvie as he got into fights and other trouble, letting his inner rage get the best of him.

DeSean shared much of his upbringing with me: his move from Chicago to Seattle, his unstable home life, and his undertakings as a gang member. He often expressed thanks to still have breath as he recalled times when death got very close. I remember asking him, “Why do you think God still wants you alive?”

“Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that.” Even at 15, DeSean was a deep thinker.

In subsequent conversations, he expressed a desire to change. “I don’t want to be ‘Hot Boy’ no more,” DeSean stated. He then began to transform. Just before he was sent to a long-term prison, he achieved honor level, the highest tier in juvie that allows for privileges, such as extra snacks and going to bed later.

I eventually lost touch with DeSean, but never forgot about him. I put a daily reminder in my phone to help me remember to pray for him.

A few months ago, I reconnected with DeSean at a group home while I was visiting another young man. I didn’t know if it was DeSean at first–it had been over two years since I last saw him. But we soon recognized each other and got to catch up.

As I visited him over the following months, I saw no signs of “Hot Boy”. Conversely, I saw and still see one of the kindest and most generous people I know. One afternoon, when he brought some pizza back to the group home, he made sure all the other youth got a slice, even though it meant fewer slices for himself.

A few weeks ago, DeSean saw a distraught youth with a broken CD player. DeSean approached him, put his hand on his shoulder, and said with genuine compassion, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy you a new one.”

When I asked DeSean if he would want to perform a rap at our fundraiser, without hesitation, he replied, “Yeah.” Because he had to work that night, we shot a video of him and played it at our event.

It feels good knowing God loves all
cuz all the stuff I done I shouldn’t have love at all.
Thank God that I found you . . .
my life ain’t perfect,
but one thing I know for certain,
is that I’m worth it.
Don’t be a follower,
be a leader . . .
guide yourself into the path of righteousness.

As I watched the video, I was reminded of God’s power to transform. I praise God for transforming DeSean from “Hot Boy” into the man he is destined to be.

 

From Gang Member to Peacemaker

As chaplains, we get to witness God do some significant, transformative work in our youth. One such youth is Victor, an intelligent, friendly, and very humorous 17-year-old. Though he has been incarcerated for over ten months now, he generally maintains a positive disposition. Victor is a completely different person now than the one who was wreaking havoc as a gang member.

In his words: “I used to think I was God. I thought I had it all. I thought I was invincible.”

“But when I came into juvie, I lost it all, I was broken. I had to put my pride aside and ask for help. I turned to God. I read the Bible, specifically the story of Job, and it moved me. I really appreciate talking with the chaplains and really like the church services; I look forward to it every week.”

“Now I have faith and hope. Me and God, we’re rockin’.”

Additionally, Victor now sees himself as a peacemaker and has taken to heart Matthew 5:9, where Jesus states:

 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

He often stands up for youth who get picked on and also prevents guys from getting in trouble by helping them keep their cool. Victor recently recounted how after talking another youth out of fighting, the other youth said, “Because of you, I won’t fight that dude.” Victor recalled, “I was so happy and proud when he said that.”

God has transformed Victor. “I wasn’t even thinking about Jesus before this. Now, I know he is here for me, and I’m putting all my faith in him.annualbenefitdinner

Back to School, Back to Whole

I recently posted an entry to my Facebook page: “Back to school task 1,573,826…hair braided…” Getting your kids, and let’s be honest ourselves, prepared to return to school after summer can be a monumental task. I am a mom of many, and several of my own cherubs have special needs. Already, in the month of August, I have been in perpetual meetings and conversations with talented school professionals, mental health professionals, and support teams. As a result, I have become all the more grateful for the ministry I get to be a part of at Eastside Academy.

Through my own parenting journey, I have recognized that accessing services for a child with special needs can be overwhelming and time consuming. For the courageous and beautiful families we serve at Eastside Academy, we have tried to eliminate some of that struggle. As a wholistic school, our goal is to address as many needs as possible in one place.  While we are a high school, we have recognized that challenges outside of the classroom can frequently interrupt progress IN the classroom. Thus, our students are provided with mental health care, recovery services, and a mentor, all in one location. In addition, we have eliminated what is notably one of the most frustrating tasks for parents/caregivers/guardians everywhere…school supply shopping. (I feel like there should be looming music playing every time those words are uttered. Ugh.) Every one of our students are provided with the school supplies needed to enter their classes; if a child needs one, we also supply backpacks. While this may seem insignificant, as a mom I can tell you, if I could eliminate this task in my own family, I would be singing the hallelujah chorus!

And honestly, that is how we try to approach everything at Eastside Academy: How would we want our own children to be treated? What support would I want or need walking through the situations our students and families face? While we are not perfect, this is definitely the heart to our approach.

I have shared with our team before that no one walks through the doors of Eastside Academy for the first time without having experienced some type of hurt or loss. Students and families come here because something didn’t work out the way they had hoped and dreamed. Our goal is to remind them, or sometimes tell them for the first time, they do not have to carry this heavy burden alone. We have a God who sees every need and has equipped His people to respond. By wrapping our arms around the educational, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical needs of our students, we desire to model the love we have each been shown through our Savior. A love that knows no boundaries. A love that makes sacrifices while speaking truth. A love that pursues, forgives, and seeks redemption and reconciliation for all.

I am amazed that even after 10 years of working here, that there are still so many times this ministry just takes my breath away. We are so grateful for the support and investment that this community puts into our students, families, and the work that God is accomplishing at Eastside Academy. Could we ask you to join us in prayer for the precious lives that will walk through our doors this year? Additionally, Eastside Academy’s Dinner and Live Auction is being held on October 22, at the Meydenbauer Center. We invite you to join us as we work to provide everything from backpacks to counseling to housing for our amazing students.

If you would like more information about enrolling a child, getting involved with this work, or attending our auction, please contact us at 425-452-9920 or visit our website at www.eastsideacademy.org

 

Milestones

Before either of my kids turned thirteen, I’d begun to hear stories of how other parents had marked such special milestones in their kids’ lives. Some ideas overwhelmed me, but one idea seemed perfect for our family. About three months prior to the day Nick would become a teenager, I sent out requests via Facebook and email to family members, friends, and a group of camp staff that both my kids grew up with. 

This request simply asked them to reply back with a short note, story, or some sort of art that I could include in a photo book I was going to have made by one of the numerous companies online (Shutterfly, York, etc.). I encouraged the writers to speak into Nick’s life, offer him some advice, share with him a favorite song, passage of Scripture, poem, etc., to help celebrate his foray into the teenage years. I wasn’t really sure what the response would be, but I figured it was a worthwhile cause. (more…)

MS/HS Denver Mission Trip

This past Spring Break, the BelPres Middle School and High School Departments sent a team of 10 people on a mission trip to Denver, Colorado, where we partnered with Center for Student Missions (CSM), an organization that facilitates urban missions and service experiences for various church groups.

As they guided us throughout the week, CSM was a mission tour guide of sorts for us—helping our group get to know the city of Denver and walk alongside its people. Even more, CSM helped us see the unique issues and problems in the city and allowed us to see firsthand what God is doing to foster and further His Kingdom in the city of Denver. (more…)

Dodgeball and Duncan

The Adventures of the High School Spring Deeper Retreat

Back in March, the high school department had the privilege of taking a group of about 35 students down to Gig Harbor for the spring Deeper Retreat. Early that Friday afternoon, four student leaders and two staff members drove down to the lodge and prepared the space.

Lights were hung, goodies bags were made, and snacks were purchased, all to ensure the space was ready for the students’ arrival. (more…)

1 Great Hour of Sharing: A Lenten Practice, An Invitation

“Three million refugees is not just another statistic. It is a searing indictment of our collective failure to end the war in Syria.”

In August 2014, the actress Angelina Jolie made this statement about the crisis in Syria in her role as UNHCR Special Envoy (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). On February 4, 2015, Amnesty International published statistics showing the refugee population to be nearly four million people, with half the refugees being children. The statement made by Jolie found its way into the consciousness of the American public and is now finding its way to us at BelPres. (more…)