Saturday, May 14, 2011

YoungLife: A changing of the seasons

Everything on earth has its own time and its own season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

This past Thursday night was my last YoungLife club as a volunteer leader. It was a very strange thing to think about and definitely emotional, and yet it seemed very right. Because Solomon was right in the Scripture above. It was a great season, and a long one (I became a leader as a college freshman - if you know me, you do the math). But as I have prayed about this, it has become evident that God has other roles for me in his kingdom, both outside and inside YL.

I don't know of a ministry that portrays God's pursuit of us any better than YoungLife. Jesus came into our world and lived on our terms, showing us unconditional love and hanging out with all types. He then gave his life for the very people who rejected him. A YL leader is called to take the same approach - to sacrifice his/her comfort and enter the world of the teenager, loving them in all their imperfect glory. I still can't believe God chose me to be a part of his work through YL, but I am so glad that he did.

How big has it been in my life? Well, the picture at the top of my blog page was taken with friends at Windy Gap, a YoungLife camp. (As I look back, memories rush upon me like a flood. In no particular order:
  • Countless crazy skits and songs both meaningful and silly.
  • The fear that takes over when I would walk into a school cafeteria with no idea where any kids I knew were. And going anyway.
  • So many 30+ hour bus rides to ski camp in Colorado (and rides nearly as long to camp in Michigan) that I literally don't know the number. Not comfortable, but there's no better way to really get to know people.
  • Scores of friends, many of whom I've lost touch with but so many that I'm still very close to. Both former YL kids and fellow leaders.I don't know what I'd do with out them.
  • The fear I was felt when embarking on the ropes course at camp. I'm not much for heights, but it was always fun to conquer with the kids we brought.
  • The simplicity and power of the basic message that Younglife proclaims: God created us and loves us, all of us have turned our backs but he loved us so much he sent Jesus to bring us back to him by his death and resurrection.
  • Countless weeks at camp. (Again, literally countless - I don't know how many.) Nobody does summer camp better than YL. It is crazy fun, and I have seen so many lives changed there.
  • Musicians like Allen Levi and Drew Holcomb, whom I would have never known about apart from YoungLife.
  • I could go on and on. But I can't end the list without mentioning the one that means the most to me personally. I have seen YL play a major role in the spiritual growth of my nieces and nephew. I got to be a leader at camp with some of them, got to lead a Bible study group that included my niece Macy, and watched as College YoungLife in Tuscaloosa was a major part of Macy and Haley's growth. At the top of my list for life goals is being an influence for them to grow in Christ, and I am forever indebted to YL for how it has been a part of that.
So what now? Well, I want to always be a part of the ministry, it's just time to move on from volunteer leader. Maybe as a part of the Committee (the support structure for local YL), maybe as a mentor for any leader who wants advice, definitely through prayer. And as a reader of this blog you know the passion I've developed for international ministries and orphan care. I am very excited about the future and what the Lord has in store for me.

But now, as Ecclesiastes 3:1 becomes a reality for me, is the time to pause and look back. Thank you, Jim Rayburn for founding such an awesome ministry. Thank you, God, for letting me be a leader for so long. Thank you, friends, for, well, being my friends. And thank you to everyone in YoungLife for shaping my life and the lives of people I love.

My work is not over, just changing. I'm ready - bring it on.


  1. Wow. Donnie is no longer a YL leader! What next? I guess he'll announce that he no longer is a fanATIC of the Univ. of Alabama. One of my fondest memories of being the AD in Montgomery was serving alongside Donnie and learning how to do friendship evangelism from a pro. I sure hope you'll join the committee and help them understand the role of a YL leader. Job well done good and faithful servant. Ron Rowlett

  2. Thank you for loving young people. I have never been apart of YL really, just from the sidelines. But I have seen the impact you have had on countless lives, including mine. It's next to impossible for me to believe that you are moving on, and yet knowing you, I know that God has led you to this decision. I can't wait to see what is next. Well done indeed.