In the Spirit of Thanks & Giving…

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As we get ready for this upcoming holiday, our city life family has a Lot to be thankful for…

…our many partners in this mission of reaching at-risk teens & who invest in developing them into indigenous leaders in our community…

…our ministry leaders who sacrifice their time, talents & resources, every single week, to invest in our young people through mentoring, discipleship & quality time…

 

 

…our amazingly generous See the Story teams who provide a meal for our programs each week so our students our provided with a family-style meal around the table…

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Morningside Church is one of many S.T.S. Teams who has provided our young people with a meal this year!

And this week we are especially thankful for providential relationships and the opportunity to give back.

A lifelong friend, Natalie, recently reached out to me, asking for the opportunity to help provide some of our families with the blessing of groceries for a Thanksgiving meal…

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*Stock photos were taken from Google

You heard it!

She said this is her third year of organizing a team of individuals & families who want to provide full thanksgiving meals to families who can use a blessing this time of year.

In the past few weeks, she and I, as well as a handful of incredible members in our community have come together, working to raise the resources to be able to bless 29 families-as well as bless our friends over at Lydia Urban Academy-with complete Thanksgiving meals.

The groceries will be provided to the families on Tuesday evening at Cherry Valley United Methodist Church at 6pm.

A Thanksgiving lunch will be hosted for students and staff at Lydia Urban Academy next Tuesday at noon.

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we at City Life know that we have much to be thankful for and we are grateful for Natalie & her team, for inviting us into this mission to give out blessings to many of our students’ families.

We are also thankful for you…for taking the time to read this and hopefully sharing in the joy of giving back this season. We want to invite you in this mission to impact teens, give back to your community, and be that person on someone’s ‘Thankful For’ list. You can partner with this us by making a contribution at www.statelineyfc.org/give

Bless you this Thanksgiving season & Happy Holidays!

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Camp: Where Everything Changes

The week started with memorable events, like Fortnight battles, zombie runs, cabin costume competitions…

And late night pool parties…

But as the week progressed, things got messy…

J Roach [our incredible speaker for the week] communicated the very real messiness of sin in our lives & our need for Jesus.

He explained that God made a way for us to be in a relationship with Him, by accepting our need for Jesus in our lives. He presented the gospel and the opportunity for students to receive Jesus for the first time, or for those who already believe in and love Jesus, to acknowledge their love and need for him in their lives by shouting out “YES” after having a solo time in complete silence with Him.

One by one, students yelled for the very first time in the darkness of the starry night, “Yes Jesus!”

First Marlee. Then, Queenie, Rahvale, Ryan, Diego, skyler, Judah, Kasoin, Timothy, Jorge, Malachi, Qkristlynn, Kalup…

One by one, young people responded to Jesus’ invitation to Be With them in their mess.

Throughout the week, each of these young people were challenged physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

Here are just a few of their stories…

Marlee, along with her friends, conquered the high ropes. Despite being high into the trees and beyond the scope of her comfort zone, she placed one foot in front of the next and accomplished something she’s never done before.

While everything around her was intimidating, she kept her eyes ahead on her goal. The tree branches shook. The canoe rocked. The ropes slipped between her fingers…but step by step, she kept going.

Judah’s father recently passed away. He lives with his Uncle who has taken guardianship. He is trying to finish school at Lydia Learning academy. Last minute, he signed up for camp and he tried so many new things that challenged him. But one of my favorite things is that made new friends and shared his story with them. He was bright eyed and filled with enthusiasm after yelling “Yes, Jesus” and immediately said he had hope that he would see his Father again someday.

And here’s Kalup. Kalup has such an incredible zeal for life. Throughout high school, Kalup has been very involved in Campus Life Core & Club at Auburn high school and has had tremendous influence with his peers.

He joined our trip as Project serve, with the intention of serving all week. He was able to attend the Club messages and was so moved to say YES to Jesus. Kalup has had a difficult life story. Despite losing his mom, he has had the determination to pursue God in the midst of the pain. He decided he wanted to get baptized while at camp, choosing to entrust Jesus with his life and circumstances, so J- Roach baptized Kalup right there in the Chesapeake Bay, the night before we left. Kalup plans on going into basic training in the near future, as a Chaplain.

We have so many stories like this….of students encountering Truth & Love and diving all in….saying YES to Jesus this week, believing that His spirit is all we need to live an abundant Life. While our circumstances at home may not change, we have changed because of who Christ is within us.

A special shout out to the leaders who dedicated their week to serving these kids and sacrificed things in their own routine/work & family obligations to be here this week to love on & invest in these young people. Truly grateful to serve alongside such incredible leaders: Joel, Nicole, Ryan & Tyrone: This week wouldn’t have been what it was without you. Eternal thanks for you.

And lastly, a huge thanks to every person, family & organization who has partnered with us in prayer and sponsorships to help this incredible group of teens [and leaders] encounter Jesus in such a remarkable way this week.

Every single life was touched and many of our students had experiences that will now carry into eternity.

SO.

Such a little word with such a tremendous impact.

Tonight, we had the privilege of hearing the gospel communicated by one of Youth for Christ’s Juvenile Justice Ministry Staff members, Beth Fontana.

Beth began by reading the well-known verse, John 3:16.

After reading it, she paused. She said “this verse doesn’t just say that God loved the world… It says God SO loved… his love was SO BIG that it was the reason HE GAVE His son for us.

She read a story about a criminal who lived his entire life committing Crimes, only to be pardoned once on death row. He was walking out, towards freedom, when he notices a man walking into the execution room and asks the judge, “what did he do?”

The judge replies. Nothing, in fact he’s the greatest person I’ve ever known…but he knew that you were on death row, and he offered to serve your consequences. He doesn’t deserve it…. I know that, because He’s my son.”

A powerful message spoken to a group of young people who may have a very skewed perception of God; many doubt his faithfulness because of their unanswered prayers. Many doubt his goodness because of their bad circumstances.

But tonight, Beth gave us a clear illustration of Love on Display and it certainly was a night where our young people were SO LOVED.

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ur friends from Northeast Christian grilled out and provided an incredible meal and as kids continued to pour into City Life, they even left to pick up more food. A HUGE Thanks to our See the Story team who really demonstrated God’s love by serving us tonight.

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It was another incredible night at City Life. Stay tuned for our first ever: PROM next week!

Grief and Hope

From time to time, Grief sneaks up on me and kicks me in the gut.

Like today, when creating a Facebook invite for our City Life students to our upcoming prom. And up popped Jamie’s profile.

I think about Him often; his smile and positive attitude. I think about how he’d walk around slouched over and give the best expressions.

And how he won’t get to attend prom this year. Or summer camp. Or graduation parties.

Most days, I am okay. But I am also not his mom, his sibling, his family. I am just somebody who had the privilege of knowing and loving him for a short time. Someone who misses talking with him and greeting him at the door of City Life.

And every single time Facebook pops up his profile, I lose my breath. I feel like I was kicked in the gut all over again and I miss him.

But today I am stopping for a moment to think….

What is Jamie seeing right now? His eyes are more opened to Holiness than mine have ever been. What kinds of things is he witnessing with his King?

His family grieves. His friends still grieve. I grieve.

But he isn’t grieving. He is celebrating with his savior. He is living out what we teach about every week. He is pain free. He is more alive than we can imagine.

He isn’t missing prom or parties, he’s experiencing greater joy than I’ve ever known. He’s feasting better than we ever have.

So even though the tears well up in the corner of my eyes, my cheeks turn red and my heart hurts because I miss our sweet Jamie, there’s something else in me today…

…there’s hope. For tomorrow. For those who haven’t left us yet. And for Beloved Jamie, who left all too soon… there is hope in my heart because of Jesus.

All For Them

As we’re nearing camp season, I wanted to invite you into the journey.

You see, for many of my campers, it’s packing the night before, doing a few fundraisers, and a week of no sleep and nonstop activity.

But for many of the leaders (myself included) the journey to camp is an ongoing process.

It’s a relationship that is formed and sustained by constant interaction, consistent mentoring and intentional investment…. Not in one, two or even twenty kids. For us, this year, it’s almost thirty kids that we’ve been loving on and investing in with the hope that someday they might look back and see Jesus’ handprints in their lives through this relationship.

It’s months and months of planning… Even though all of the programming is done by the YFC national team, that doesn’t mean our team is off the hook. We spend months planning fundraisers, planning pre and post camp activities, building times that will grow the group closer to one another, months of praying and filling out spreadsheets, hunting down parents for forms to be filled (thanks to the few parents who ACTUALLY come to the parent meetings (I love you more than you know!)

And months of working hard to raise enough money that every year, every student who wants to come, has the opportunity and doesn’t miss out on a life changing opportunity because they cannot afford it.

So why YFC CAMP? When there are camps that are closer or more affordable?

Great question. I’ve been taking groups to camp for four years and for four years I’ve been begging for others to see the vision that I see, with YFC CAMP. I could bring my kids to a closer camp, or one that is more reasonable in price BUT YFC camp is intentionally programmed for teens who are far from God, lost in their identity, and may not even have a desire to have a relationship with Jesus…. It’d be pretty challenging to get these kids to sign up for a church camp in Wisconsin [let me be clear, I’ve been to a LOT of church camps, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and they are great and I wholeheartedly support their mission! …But my kids would probably spend the week vandalizing bathrooms and writing naughty words on bunk beds].

But YFC CAMP goes the extra mile to provide an incredible experience for the teenager who would never otherwise step foot in a church… all with the intention to introduce them to the Life Changing truth of the Gospel throughout the entire week.

They don’t spend hours planning a crud war just to wreck the premises or destroy my teens’ only pair of tennis shoes… They plan the crud war to set up the speaker for the week to communicate the unshakable truth that Jesus sees our mess and He still loves us.

I really don’t like asking people for money. Ive worked for as long as I can remember and understand that we work hard to be able to provide for our families and to make a difference in things that matter to us.

That’s where I’m at on this journey…asking people, sometimes daily, for money… Not for me but for those that are important to me.

For Angelica, who spent her life in and out of foster homes, who needs to know that she has been Adopted as a child of God.

For Chloe, who was adopted as a baby, but instead of seeing that adoption as a gift, feels rejected and abandoned and needs to know that Jesus Christ will never leave or forsake her.

For Trinity who has experienced unimaginable pain as a young child and needs to know that Jesus can redeem and restore. That she is worthy of love and He calls her by name.

I could list thirty names and thirty truths that I DAILY hope will penetrate my kids hearts and minds and I will do whatever it takes to help provide an experience that will lead them to the life changing love of Christ.

Sometimes, I know its true, they can be open to a relationship with Jesus while at home and engaging in community but a lot of times, CAMP is the open door, the beginning to an introduction that can change the trajectory of (not only their lives) but their eternity.

So yes, I’ll ask you…even beg you for money… Because ultimately it’s all God’s anyways. But also, because one of the greatest joys in life is generously impacting someone’s life… But the main reason? Because each and every one of my kids is worth it. They are worth the planning, the preparation, the form-filling, parent-chasing and money-begging. Their eternities are worth it. Their identity is worth it. They’re hope is worth it. They are worth more to me than my pride.

Besides, who knows who these teens will grow up to be?

They can be your children’s teachers, mentors, politicians…They are our future leaders and this one week at camp really does have the potential to change everything.

Thank you to those who have already helped us sponsor some of our teens…you are THE REAL HEROES in my book. And for those of you, who want the great responsibility of impacting a life for Good…even the life of someone you may never meet, you can partner with us here:

https://youth-for-christ-camp-2018.funraise.org

Making Waves

As City Life draws to an end for the summer, it is so important for us to gauge where are students are emotionally, socially, mentally, physically, and spiritually. After all, it is part of our mission to help students grow in these areas all year long through our creative programming and intentional discussions.

Well, recently, one of our teachers, Nicole, spoke on the importance of CommitmentWe believe it is so crucial to follow through your words with actions. In fact, it is Biblical; Matthew 5:37, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

So as Nicole spoke on the importance of committing to things, opportunities, and personal growth, she shared a worksheet with the students to help cement this idea in their minds. A copy of the worksheet we used can be found here: Q4 03.2 EXPECT MORE – COMMITMENT WORKSHEET

As I was reading over these, I was blown away by some of the responses of our students. They are actually taking this challenge seriously.

One student writes: “I should read more. I can monitor the amount of television I watch. I will be more focused. I should develop a skill. I can eat healthy. I will exercise more. I should pray everyday. I can read my Bible. I will go to church more. I should have family time. I can hang out with supportive friends. I will treat people better.”

Another simply writes, “I should read books. I can read two books at a time. I will beat my book level.”

And one of my favorites, “I will research an issue that is important to me. I should eat healthy. I will sleep more. I should read my Bible. I can serve. I will pray.”

 

Sometimes, more often than not, ministry can feel like you’re pushing back the waves of the ocean with a broom.

Other days…days like today, when I can reflect on the words of these incredible kids, it feels like we are the ocean. 

God is not finished yet…

What happens when you get BAD NEWS?

This was the topic of conversation last night at City Life.

It started when we picked First Time City Life Go-er, Marshawn, to join YFC Board Member, Tyler Crosby, And another student, Trinity, on a tarp in the center of the room for a little round of Egg Roulette.

One by one, we watched as they grabbed an egg to smash on their head, only to discover if it was raw or hard-boiled.

But the BAD NEWS didn’t stop there.

Next, Angelica, David, Skylar, Diego stepped right up to the wheel of sauces. They had to spin a wheel loaded with condiments like hot sauce, ranch dressing, spicy mustard, apple sauce, pickle juice, Worcestershire and so many more.

Each person spun the wheel three times, blended their results in a pixie cup and hoped for the best.

None of the students know, going into the night, what games they will participate in and sometimes…they end up with a raw egg on their head.

But that is just like life. As Reverend Kevin spoke last night, he quoted the ever famous Forest Gump: “Life is like a Box of Chocolates; You never know what you’re gonna get.”

He then gave an illustration by calling up four ‘spades’ players, reminding us that we are all dealt a hand. Sometimes it feels better or worse than our neighbors’ but it is ours to live out and learn from.

He finished with these encouragements:

Bad news is done to you; Good news has been done for you. Jesus Christ offers us hope in the midst of any bad news we can receive, because He is the Good News that redeems, restores, and ressurects.