"Young Life" shares the transforming love of Jesus with teens by building authentic friendships with them on their turf and in their culture. Ventura's Young Life has been active for 30 years. Weekly gatherings provide youth an opportunity to interact with their peers and leaders to look at the bible, ask questions and see how Jesus relates to their lives. Young Life Ventura also offers an annual camp experience. Both opportunities have tremendous impact on the lives of students.
Dave Afman, Ventura's Director shares a story from a recent camp:
"I feel like all these masks I've been wearing to protect me are just falling off and breaking this week. I feel so free but I'm scared that when I go home it won't be like this anymore!" It was the fifth night of camp. Earlier that evening, the speaker had shared about Jesus' great love and sacrifice on the cross and had given the campers some time to reflect on what they heard, outside under the starry sky. The teen who shared these words with me spent those 20 minutes praying, reflecting and watching shooting stars streak across the darkness. Later he returned to the cabin and wanted to process more, so we walked around the camp. All his thoughts and emotions were spilling out.
When the campers had arrived a few days before, the leaders asked all the guys in their cabins, "Why'd you come to camp?" We got the typical answers: "for the girls, because my friend invited me, to get away from it all.." But this young man was unique. He shared how he felt socially awkward and he really hoped this would be a time for him to break out of his shell. His desires were coming to pass and he was getting more than he bargained for as the God of the universe was working on his heart.
The speaker shared throughout the week how Jesus knows us, knit us together, and offers us abundant life. He shared how Jesus came to tell us who we truly are and that we don't need to hide behind those masks. Not only was this young man hearing this, but he was experiencing it in the community and friendships he was building, the beauty he was surrounded by, and the adventure he was surprised by every day. As we walked, I shared with this teen how I, along with the other leaders, had been praying that the guys in our cabin would experience the abundant life the speaker was talking about. Here he was starting to discover it. He started to connect how the freedom, generosity, confidence and community he was sharing about were gifts from God working in his life that week.
The rest of the week he continued to process the messages, talk with friends, experience freedom, and see Jesus more clearly. On the last morning before a room full of his peers, old friends and new buddies, he stood and shared that this week he decided to start following Jesus. We are so excited to get to walk with him in this new adventure as he discovers all that life with Jesus hold.
Dave Afman Director, Young Life Ventura
Young Life is one of the local ministries that Ventura Missionary supports. To give, note "Missions and Outreach" on your check or online gift.