Monday, October 3, 2011

Kickin' It Off Right

There is no better way to kick off WyldLife than with a club where getting messy is the goal.

For some reason, kids just love throwing stuff at each other and smothering their leaders' faces with gunk, like shaving cream. And so that's exactly what we did last Friday.

If you had seen the week I had, attempting to pull off what we had originally planned for our first club, you probably would have told me to chill out. We had created the ultimate paint war, and all of the high school leaders were so excited to do it. Unfortunately, the county parks department was less than thrilled at our plan, and they adamantly told us that ABSOLUTLELY NO PAINT was allowed at the park. It made no difference that we are a non-profit organization dedicated to kids.

And so, after briefly considering how much better it would have been to just do the paint war without talking to the park people and kicking myself for calling them, I realized I had done the right thing, and we had to respect their request. I was forced to come up with Plan B: colored water and shaving cream fight. 

It didn't quite work out the way we had planned, but it was far and above my expectations. About 50 kids showed up, and after the privilege of introducing the leaders and talking about Jesus raising a 12-year-old girl from the dead, we had an all-out shaving cream brawl.

In spite of all of my worrying and fretting and freaking out, God pulled through. Car-fulls of kids I had never even seen before showed up, and those kids heard about the love of Jesus.

Pray for us as we follow up with these kids! Can't wait to continue telling them about Jesus!

Monday, September 26, 2011


Well, it has officially started. Fall clubs are in full swing, and I have to say it's been a different start to a new year of ministry.

I felt a little off, coming home from assignment and adjusting to so many changes in the area, and it took me a few of weeks to get back to a balanced schedule.  While everyone else in the area was on the same wavelength, I had been gone for more than a month, and it was a bit overwhelming at first. So many new ministries and opportunities for new ministries have popped up recently, and I had to wonder how we could do it all - Capernaum, College Life, new clubs at Coronado HS and James Irwin Charter School... But the Holy Spirit operates on His timing, and according to the Father's will, and even when something seems impossible, He makes it happen.  Capernaum is up and running, College Life is springing up out of nowhere, and God is clearly up to something at both Coronado and James Irwin.  I consistently have to stop and allow the Spirit to remind me that He is faithful, and He is sovereign, and my doubts don't change that.

I had another reminder of his faithfulness and sovereignty last week. While at leadership camp last weekend at Frontier, my sister and I received the devastating news that our grandma had passed away.  We knew she was going to leave us soon, having just been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer.  Her heart was in rough shape, she was having problems with her kidneys, and she had been experiencing tremors for a couple of years.  When we visited her in Minnesota over Easter, we knew that was likely the last time we'd get to see our Grandma.

Erin and I had planned to fly out to see her this month, thinking we'd have at least another month or two to spend some more time with her. As aggressive as pancreatic cancer can be, we didn't think she'd pass away so suddenly.  Last weekend, she ended up in the hospital because her kidneys were failing, and the doctors told her she wouldn't make it passed Sunday. The next morning, she was gone. Painlessly and quietly, without having to endure cancer.

Erin and I drove straight to Steamboat the next day, having left Frontier Ranch the night before, to spend a couple of days with our mom and brother. We flew out to Minnesota last Tuesday, and went right out to the Bodnar farm, where my family settled many decades before. My grandparents lived there for more than 60 years after my grandpa inherited it from his parents. It's where my mom grew up, and it's the picture that comes to mind when I think of my grandma Lorraine.

My uncles had just installed a sliding glass door in the kitchen so that Grandma could look out on the farm, with the fields lined by thick forest. They had just finished installing it the morning they took her to the hospital, so she got to enjoy it for about half an hour. It was strange walking into the farmhouse and not seeing Grandma sitting at the kitchen table with her Coke, bag of Cheetos, and cribbage board in front of her. She hated cheese, but she loved Cheetos. (We actually buried her with a bag. A snack for the road, I suppose.)

The next day was the wake, and somewhere around 600 or 700 people showed up. It was overwhelming, standing in the funeral home, meeting people I didn't know, talking to relatives I haven't seen in years, and realizing how vast an impact my grandparents had on the community of Elk River, MN. Their legacy extended far beyond our big Hungarian-German-Irish family.

The funeral was emotional and well-attended, just like the wake. After burying her next to my Grandpa Joe, about 200 folks went straight to the Elk River Golf Club, where they drank, ate, and played cribbage in Grandma's honor. She would have approved, I think. (The priest at the funeral joked about her Thursday night bible studies at the golf club, a.k.a. her weekly poker game. She loved playing cards.)

I can only hope that my life will be as blessed as my grandma's was. She loved and served people so well, and she never lost her sense of humor. Right up until the end, she was teasing her doctors or making snarky comments to my aunts and uncles. I am honored to be her first granddaughter, to have a part of her in me, and to have learned from her. Her legacy will continue, I have no doubt.

To those of you who prayed for me and my family over the last week, thank you. I am so grateful, and your prayers are a gift.  We have our first Cheyenne Mountain WyldLife club this Friday, since I was gone last week, so keep praying that it is a success! We'll be doing a paint war, and I can't wait to post some photos!

On a sidenote, I've decided that I need to find some friends who know how to play cribbage. Let me know if you're game. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mobile Madness

I think our culture is obsessed with technology. More specifically, we're obsessed with our cell phones.  And I mean OBSESSED.

I was out to dinner with my mentor a couple of days ago, and something suddenly struck me: EVERY person waiting for a table was looking at or talking on their phone. One guy even had his iPad out. Even people sitting in their seats -- at tables, with their friends or families or dates or whoever -- were using their phones.  Across from me, two middle-aged couples sat next to one another, and each of them was silently looking at their iPhone or Blackberry. Clearly, something is wrong when people who are out on dates won't even talk to their spouses because their smart phones take a higher priority.

I was guilty of it, too. My mentor had to take a call (don't worry - it was actually a legitimately important call!), and so I sat at my table for about 20 minutes, just waiting. And what did I do to pass the time? Cleared my text inbox and sent a few texts out myself.  If the Orthodox priest at the next table was looking at his phone during dinner, surely I could take out my phone and take care of a few things.... It was almost like a safety blanket, like a comfortable distraction that made me look a little less pitiful as a sat in a crowded restaurant alone for 20 minutes, like I actually had friends because they were corresponding with me via satellite.  That's what we do when we feel awkward or out of place or bored or distracted, right? We pick up our cellular device and check our Facebook or email or inbox, hoping that someone was actually trying to communicate with us, when there is someone right in front of us just dying for some face-to-face interaction.

At least, that's what I've found to be true with kids. And they are more cell phone-obsessed than any generation before them.  At Young Life and WyldLife camp, we ask kids to turn in their cell phones at the beginning of the week because we know what an isolating distraction they can be.  We want them fully present, fully engaged, so that they don't miss what the Father would have to say to them.  Some kids get in your face about it. Many of them pretend they already turned it in and secretly keep it with them all week.  Without fail, when we return their phones at the end of the week, kids shout for joy and say things like, "My baby!",  "I missed you!" and "Oh, civilization!". The second they press the power button, their inboxes are barraged with texts from their friends, calling them back into the worlds we as leaders work so hard to get them out of, even for just a few days.

Usually, I can't even get a kid to respond to me unless I send them a text. Texting is their preferred method of communication. Half the time I can't even understand their text language because everything is written in acronyms or spelled wrong on purpose (which drives me CRAZY as a English major). I'm still the lame adult who texts full words and uses punctuation. But when I can spend face time with a kid, I find that they are hungry for a real conversation with a person made of flesh and blood.  They want to be truly heard.  And they want to listen. Don't we all?

Yet we still resort to a less personal mode of communicating. We break up over a text or by changing our relationship status.  We tell someone we're mad at them or that we love them with a simple text. We do business over text messages and email. We establish our identity by creating an online profile and check it obsessively on our phones.

It's sad, really. I think we're missing something when our most valuable appendage is a phone. Cell phones are clearly here to stay, and they only seem to be getting more complex.  Don't get me wrong - they're not all bad. They're extremely helpful in many situations, and I've found myself grateful for our society's technological advances more than once. I just can't help but feel that a giant communication black hole has been created because of cell phones. So what can we do about it?

Perhaps one of the reasons that I love the ministry of Young Life is that our highest priority is being with people. Spending time with kids and leaders is how we share life with them, because that's how Jesus lived. A cell phone can't replace a face-to-face conversation or a shared experience. That's where relationships are built and that is where they are maintained -- in the "withness." I hope we never lose sight of that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hope for This City

I'm back in the Springs!!!  After being gone at camp for more than a month, I am happy to be home.  I was the only staff person in our area to have a summer assignment (serving at a Young Life camp for a month), and the Father has been up to a lot. So many changes have occurred in our area during my absence, including the official joining of Southern Colorado Springs and Central Colorado Springs Young Life. We are now one powerhouse area, newly named PIKES PEAK YOUNG LIFE.  This is exciting stuff, people!  It's good to be home!

My assignment at Crooked Creek Ranch was nothing short of exhausting, but I saw the Father move in powerful, and often extraordinary, ways.  My role at Crooked Creek was to serve as a head leader, which included everything from caring for volunteer leaders and staff to making sure kids were where they needed to be.  Three other incredible folks made up our little team of head leaders, and I was truly blessed to serve alongside of them all month.  We attended every event, ran leader meetings, hosted meals in the dining hall, took care of emergencies, prayed and cried with leaders over their kids, checked in with every cabin at night, and were glued to our walkie-talkies at all times. If kids got caught with drugs, we handled the discipline. If kids were sneaking out at night, we swept the camp to find them.  If leaders were stressed out or exhausted, we encouraged them to keep fighting for their kids.  If a kid was throwing up in the middle of the night, we showed up until the camp doctor arrived. I was stretched and challenged in every way possible, but it was a beautiful month!

One of the beautiful pieces of being a head leader was having my fingers on the pulse of what was happening in the lives of kids and leaders while at camp.  I saw lonely, abused, broken, angry, and even defiant kids experience the life and freedom of Jesus Christ each week.  And I watched their leaders experience it with them.  I am changed because of my month at Crooked Creek.

I now have a rejuvenated perspective on the year ahead, as well as an intensified passion for the kids in the city of Colorado Springs.  While at Crooked Creek, I read this quote from Henry Drummond:

"Believe in your city. What else? In Jesus Christ. What about Him? That He wants to make your city better; that that is what He would be doing if he lived there. What else? Believe in yourself -- that you, even you, can do some of the work which He would like done, and that unless you do it, it will remain undone. How are you to begin? As Christ did. First He looked at the city; then He wept over it; then He died for it."

I have been ruminating on this quote for the last several weeks as I've thought about what this year will bring.  To believe in this city -- in the leaders and staff that God Himself has assembled to share His love with hundreds of high school and middle school kids, to believe unswervingly in the power of Jesus Christ, and to believe in myself and what the Father has called me to -- that is my hope for this year. 

Friday, June 17, 2011


Well, I'm home from my eighth WydlLife summer camp, and this year was truly spectacular.  Too many holy moments to include in a few brief words here, but there is one unforgettable experience I'll share.

I had the joy of leading a cabin of five energetic, hilarious, and beautiful seventh grade girls, two of which attended a bible study I led second semester. All of these girls are familiar with the Gospel, most of them have church-going families, and all of them were hungry for an encounter with the Living God. And encounter Him they did.

On the third day of camp, kids were confronted with the truth about sin, and it struck these girls hard. As difficult as it is to process the reality of our separation from our Creator, they got it. They understood, after a very lengthy cabin time, how much they need Jesus. When it was time for the message of the Cross that night, they were anxious to know how to have a relationship with the God who loved them enough to conquer the power of sin Himself. 

The next day, the girls kept telling me during our one-on-ones (leaders try to spend one-on-one time with each kid in their cabin to help process the talks and the week of camp) that they had never heard God talked about that way, and they wanted to know more.  The entire camp went on a grueling (but short) hike that reached a peak with beautiful views of Pike's Peak and the surrounding mountains.  And, as we gathered in our group with the Father's masterpiece as our backdrop, the girls all agreed: they wanted to be sure of their salvation and begin a relationship with the God of love.  I led them in prayer, and that morning, the Kingdom of God was greater because five beautiful young girls gave their lives to Jesus.  Whether they had prayed this prayer before, or for the very first time, that morning marked the start of a journey of faith for each of them, and I was honored to be present.

This photo is of the girls at the top of the hike, just after they entered the Kingdom! Praise God for calling His sweet daughters to Himself this week! Now the real work begins: after I get back from my summer assignment at Crooked Creek, we'll be starting up Campaigners bible study again and working through the book of John.  Can't wait to show these girls how to follow the King!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

I had the gift of heading home to Steamboat over Memorial Weekend for the wedding of one of my best friends from high school, and I was reminded of how much I adore that place.  And not simply because it's one of the most beautiful places in the country, or because it's a resort town, or because the people are so laid back and easy-going. Steamboat is where I grew up, where I learned about faith, and where God laid the foundations of who I would become.  Steamboat is home.

When I first left for college, I would have laughed in your face if you told me I'd want to move back someday. I couldn't wait to leave small-town life and discover something new. Moving to Colorado Springs was an act of God itself, since I was utterly convinced that I wanted to leave Colorado and go to a private Christian college in Minnesota. Instead, the Father led me here, where I went to a smaller state school, got a degree in English, and became a WyldLife leader at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High. And here I am, three years after graduating from college, on staff with Young Life because God whispered a calling into my ears, and I answered with a "Yes." And, truly, I am convinced that there is no better way to spend my life than loving kids and welcoming them into the Kingdom of God. I am so grateful for the way the Father has orchestrated the events of my life, so humbled that He would choose me for this. 

Thinking of my journey on staff has caused me to remember those experiences and relationships that He used to form and shape my heart around His own, and so many of those are because of people in Steamboat.  When my dad passed away, our church and friends cared for us and, I've no doubt, spent many hours in prayer for us.   My life is dedicated to following Jesus because so many people, from my youth pastors and leaders to family friends to my peers, taught me how to read Scripture, how to pray, how to love people, and how to trust steadily in the Father's deep, unfailing love for me.  Because they loved Jesus so deeply and loved me so well, I love Him too, and I am able to teach Young Life leaders and kids how to do the same. I owe many of you a great deal of gratitude for that, because I don't think I'd be here without those prayers, conversations and discipleship.  Thank you, Steamboat friends, for that gift! You are a part of what the Father is doing here in the Springs, and your legacy of faith continues on. 

As my sister and I were driving up Rabbit Ears Pass on Sunday afternoon, leaving a day early to make it back in time for Cheyenne Mountain High School kids' graduation parties, I couldn't help but feel a tinge of sadness. It's always hard to leave home, but I left knowing that I was coming back here to the Springs, to continue to follow the Spirit's voice and to give to others what Steamboat gave to me.  Steamboat will always be home, but I know that God Himself has called me here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

We Have an Area Director!

That's right, folks! The wait is finally over. As of last week, our area has a new Area Director: Eugene Luning! The wonderful thing about Eugene is that he has been on part-time staff in YL Southern Springs for the last three years, leading the Cheyenne Mountain High School Young Life club. I really believe the Father has confirmed that He has chosen Eugene to be in this role, and I'd love to invite you to pray for him and for the area as we enter this new season. Praise God for his faithfulness!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Aaah, Transition....

Last week, as I was sitting with the Lord, doing my favorite devotional, I was confronted with this simple phrase:

is here to stay.

No kidding.

Other than God Himself, the surety of change is often the only constant we can count on in life.  People change. Seasons change. Jobs change. Relationships change. Finances change. Location changes. We change. A friend once told me a few years ago that without change, things die. Indeed, change itself can feel like a death. We have to mourn the way things were in order to make way for the new. It's how we grow.

Young Life in Colorado Springs has seen season after season of transition, particularly in the five years I've been on staff.  During my second year on student staff, we were without an Area Director. When we did hire Josh as our AD in the spring of 2008, I was transitioning from college and part-time ministry to a full-time job in Young Life.  That was also the time that our small region of 12 staff joined the Front Range Region of 50+ staff (which, I must say, has been a significant blessing to me! Much love to all the FRR!). We added a few more staff members during my two-year internship with Young Life, and then at the end of last spring, we joined forces with Central Colorado Springs YL as their former AD transitioned into a new position in the organization. We hired Brit (my roommate Hailey's fiance) and Dan to lead clubs downtown, and our volunteer leadership doubled in size. We went from 5 club minstries to 12, including WyldLife, Young Life, and YoungLives. God is doing such a mighty work in this city, and we are simply trying to keep up!

Then, last fall, Josh resigned, and we have been without an AD for the last six months. I learned so much from Josh during the two years that he was my boss, and I am a better minister of the Gospel for it. His departure has been difficult for all of us on staff, to say the least, but the Father has proven Himself faithful time and time again.  I am so grateful for the way He cares for us.

Even though I know that God is present in every season, and that He is sovereign in spite of whatever is surrounding me, I always find myself resisting transition and change.  I get comfortable. I get used to working out of my own strength (or, oftentimes, the lack thereof).  I prefer safety, security, and routine.  When circumstances shift or new opportunities spring up, I find myself wishing things could simply stay as they were.

But if things remain stagnant, they will wither away and die.

I am learning to lean into change these days rather than running from it. To press in, to be fully present in the here and now, and to leave the past where it is requires a painful release to the Father. I have to loosen my tight, white-knuckled grip on the way it was and let the Father produce new life. 

New life is a process, and a painful one at that.  But through the loss that accompanies the transition into the new, I gain Christ Himself. I can't say I enjoy it, or that I don't still find myself tightening my grip every now and then, but I find peace in knowing that God is with me through it all, and that He is making me more and more like His precious Son.

At a team leader meeting over the weekend, a Young Life veteran shared some wisdom: that to follow Jesus simply requires that I abide in Him. The Greek word for abide is meno, which means to make a permanent home in something. As we make a home in Jesus, He promises to make a home in us, and through it new life is produced, as in John 15:4:

"'Abide in Me, and I in you. 
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself 
unless it abides in the vine, 
so neither can you 
unless you abide in Me.'" 

The greatest mystery of all is that Jesus Himself makes us His dwelling place.  He is not only with is; He is in us.

And so, as we prepare to hire a new Area Director* in Colorado Springs and enter a new season of change, I will make my home in Jesus and trust the painful process.  

*Pray for us and for our committee as they narrow the list of AD applicants down to the top 3 this week!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

WyldLife Moments

I wanted to post a few photos of some of my favorite WyldLife moments this year. Enjoy!

High school leaders getting the giant banana split ready at Banana Club in the fall:

Enjoying the banana split!

Leaders hanging with kids at Cheyenne Mountain JH:

Bigger or Better club winners who traded for a mail truck:

Boys at Winter Camp last November:

 Winter Camp skit night. This is from the WyldLife rendition of "Twilight." 
From left to right: Edward (Michael G, leader at Russell/Jenkins WyldLife), 
Jacob (Jacob C. from Russell MS), 
and Bella (Katie T. from Cheyenne Mountain JH)

Russell/Jenkins leader Ashley (left) and girls:

Erin (my sister) and a few of our high school leaders.
They make WyldLife what it is. Couldn't do it without them!

CMJH boys:

Hope you enjoyed a little taste of what I do. :)

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Welcome to my very first blog post! It's hard to know how to begin this process of sharing my heart and life with the world at large via the blogosphere, goes nothing!

I suppose I can't help but begin by sharing an unexpectedly wonderful experience I had last week. A celebration in honor of Bob and Claudia Mitchell was held at a hotel in downtown Colorado Springs last Thursday, and a few of us Front Range Young Life staff had the honor of helping with the event. For you readers who don't know, Bob was one of the original Young Life club kids back in the 1940s, then went on to join Young Life staff as an adult. I don't know the Mitchells all that well, but every experience I have had with either Bob or Claudia has been undeniably accompanied by the Spirit's presence. Whether listening to both of them share stories about the beginnings of the ministry with summer staff and work crew at the Totem Inn at Malibu Club, or Bob sharing his passion for the Word via lectio divina at a regional staff retreat at Crooked Creek, or Claudia envoking us to understand that the language of God is silence while sitting in a living room by a fire during Advent season, my heart has been pierced by the passion for Jesus that is on display in the lives of the Mitchells. To have been in a room filled with more than 300 people whose lives have been equally - and many much more so - impacted by Bob and Claudia, and by Young Life, was an indescribable joy!

Even more so was the realization that the hallmarks of Young Life's ministry are the same today as they were 60 years ago.  Every person who got on the stage last night was cracking jokes, telling ridiculous stories, or singing nonsensical but hilarious songs that they used to lead at club decades ago.  The laughter in the room was infectious, much like what I've experienced at club or camp with kids. They still had incredible charisma and commanding presence, and I was in awe of these Young Life greats, these saints whose names would surely be in the hall of faith had it been written a few thousand years later.

And, as I sat at my table of staff friends, I took a moment to glance around at the hundreds of lives that Jesus had grabbed hold of through Young Life over the course of several generations. The Kingdom is greater because of them, and because of what God has done in and through them.

This truly is the best job in the world.