Praise God for the opportunity to travel to the Alaska State Young Life Conference this last weekend! It was so encouraging and motivating. Where to start?
First, a big loud shout out to the many amazing people that watched our kiddos while we were gone! Geoff gave them a ride to meet their Uncle Aaron, who spoiled them rotten that day. That evening Auntie Margaret joined in and the boys stayed the night with Grandma Candy and Grandpa Mike. The next evening, Grandparents Kellar met Grandparents Vander Stoep to do a switcheroo. The boys stayed with my folks Saturday night and through to Sunday evening. Then, my friend Madeline took the last shift and watched them from 6:30pm until we got home at 10:30pm, after Geoff once again did airport duty. Whew! That is EIGHT people who teamed up to love our kids and love them well. It was incredible to take the kids with us to Chevak last month, but this time it was better for Nate and I to travel alone, both because of the cost and the format for the weekend.
The weekend really began at 1:30am on Friday morning, when my brother-in-law called to say my sister was at the hospital ready to have her baby! Stay? Go? I wondered for about 10 minutes. Duh, GO! I concluded, and ended up being about 10 minutes late. (Doh!).
Calvin James Stuart, 6lbs 13oz, born at 2:03am on 9/26/14 is a precious, beautiful little boy and was an amazing start to an amazing weekend!
Later that morning, after getting home and getting a little more sleep, Nate and I took off on the direct flight from Portland to Anchorage. Such anticipation in our hearts! Such a wonder to follow the Spirit even when the objectives or outcomes the trip were not perfectly clear.
After arriving in Anchorage and getting keys for the two rental vans, we met a young woman named Jennifer who was on the same flight as us from Portland to Anchorage. Jennifer is a young woman from Savoonga, Alaska and she deserves a paragraph all her own! We first heard about Jennifer about eight years ago when our YL friends came to stay with us in Chevak. At the time, she was attending Mount Edgecumbe High School and taking part in Young Life there. She had written a few poems that somehow or another I got ahold of during their visit. Beautiful poems. Deep and rich and full of the realities of life in a village. I actually ended up sharing a couple of the poems with my middle school reading classes, after trying to get in touch with Jennifer via Facebook with no success. Five or six years later, I heard her name again – as a graduate of George Fox University! The same college Nate and I attended. Long story short, she is now working on her Doctorate in Psychology at George Fox. We were able to spend some time with her this weekend, and hear more of her heart for Jesus and for helping others overcome hardships. All this to say, we now have a new friend.
The first stop of the day was a meeting for all of the Rural Alaska folks, along with Brent and Aaron. We pinched ourselves as we hugged John and Theresa, Nicole and Grant and Morris again, after seeing them only a month before in Chevak! God hand-picked these 5 folks to represent those from Chevak who have a heart for the young people. They were an encouragement to us, to the other rural Alaska folks, and to the leaders from all around the state. We have no doubt that they will be faithful to God’s call on their lives. I would like to return in a future blog post, to describe these individuals in more detail. For now, just know they are awesome, fun, faithful, and lovers of Jesus and kids. They are our friends.
Morris, Nicole, John, Theresa and Grant
The five representatives from Chevak.
We were also blessed to meet this couple and their sweet daughter.
Aaron and Emily Routon
Aaron and Emily Routon have worked with Native Youth for over a decade now. I introduced him before.
Now, I would like to include Aaron’s summary of what was learned over the weekend because he captures it so well. Also, so that those of you who are not familiar with how YL works (like me a week ago), can learn how it works!
1.) It is all about relationships! Young Life is ALL about relationships. Our number one priority in Young Life is for people to have a GREAT relationship with Christ! Our relationship with Christ is foundational to our life and is the key to reaching other people. It is important to work on and invest in your relationship with Christ because our life and joy come from that relationship.
2.) Young Life is a team of people bound together with a purpose to share the greatest story ever told (the Gospel) with young people. Young Life’s mission statement is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and to help them grow in their faith. Young Life is a team of people who each use their gifts and talents to reach out to kids. The team of Young Life has people who pray for kids, people who minister to kids, people who support and organize things for kids and for leaders to do, and people who can pay for the expenses that are required.
3.) Young Life has a few strategies to reach kids:a.) “Contact work”- going where kids are in order to show them that they are valuable and demonstrate how important they are to God…. Each kid is worth it.
b.) “Club”- an event that draws in all kids in… Young Life wants to reach the kids who don’t care anything about God. By hosting fun events and helping to make kids feel welcome we can create a setting where kids are more able to hear about God. At the end of these times, we talk about Jesus and all the wonderful things about him. We pray and trust the Holy Spirit will draw the kids.
c.) “Campaigners” or Bible Study- Going deeper with those who want to know more.
d.) “Camp”- Some shared experience with a leader that is fun and that gives the leaders a chance to share about Jesus. Traditional Young Life camps are AWESOME and it is like “Kid Heaven” with so many great things to do and great food and things that make kids feel special
4.) Adapting the strategies to fit your home community. Young Life principles need to be adapted to each community to fit the people of that community. It is important to remember that Young Life emphasizes that:
Prayer is foundational to what we do
Ministry works best in teams
Going to where kids are and initiating with kids is key.
Great summary, Aaron.
Here are a couple more photos from the weekend. I promise to continue to share more about ALL that we learned and ALL the our great God is up to in the huge state of Alaska.
All of the folks at the state retreat
The Rural Alaska Team. Pray for these folks!