Kevin Bennett, Matt Rao and Pocahontas County Young Life Staff Associate David Moore, along with 94 other students from Nicholas and Webster counties, recently made their way to Goshen, Virginia, for the best week of their lives.
Located in the Shenandoah Valley just fifteen miles west of Lexington, Virginia, Rockbridge Alum Springs is a hidden gem nestled in the mountains.
“Camp is a really horrible name for what we do in Young Life,” Moore said. “We kind of took the youth camp model and fed it steroids. Young Life operates around thirty-five summer camp properties nationally and internationally, and essentially, they are $25 million resorts with everything a teenager could want or imagine.”
A high ropes course, horseback riding, mountain biking and ziplines are just a few of the activities Rockbridge has to offer its campers. In addition to the planned activities, campers have a lake at their disposal–complete with a blob, inflatables and water slides–as well as frisbee golf, a game room, a fully-operational ice cream shop and a camp store filled to the brim with a variety of souvenirs.
“Kevin and Matt really took a leap of faith with me,” Moore said. “We had a special grant for kids to go this year, and it was a big help since they had never heard of Young Life or Young Life camp before.”
What struck Moore the most was how Bennett and Rao filled their days with blobbing and ziplining but at the end of the day, what they thought about the most were the talks.
“Like with everything Young Life, at the end of the day, it all focuses on a fifteen minute talk about Jesus,” Moore explained. “Having Kevin and Matt linger on that made it easier to continue to grow our friendship/relationship and talk about Jesus. We tell kids that camp will be the best week of their lives, guaranteed, and I truly think they had the best week of their lives.”
Young Life, a Christian youth ministry geared for teens, was founded on October 16, 1941 in Texas by a man named Jim Rayburn. As Young Life’s history reads, Rayburn–a Presbyterian youth leader and seminary student at the time–was approached by a local minister who offered him a “challenge” – to develop ways to reach high school kids who had no interest in church.
Rayburn began hosting weekly clubs, which featured singing, skits and a simple message about Jesus Christ, and soon saw a dramatic increase in interest and attendance.
Since Rayburn’s first clubs, Young Life and its mission–to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith–has grown worldwide and is in all 50 states, as well as 95 countries internationally.
When asked how he came to be involved with Young Life, Moore gave thanks to West Virginia’s State Director of Young Life, Scott Berg. “He moved into my neighborhood when I was in high school,” recalled Moore, “and he was genuinely interested in my life and hanging out with me. He took me to Rockbridge the summer after my senior year. I heard the gospel, in its entirety, in a way that I understood for the first time, and I was sold after that.”
Following his camp trip, Moore went on to attend West Virginia University with the intention of pursuing a degree in Criminology. Young Life, however, had other plans for him.
“I became a volunteer leader with the Mountaineer Area up in Morgantown,” said Moore. “Through leading, my heart has continually broken for kids, especially kids in rural areas just like I was, and I would say that it [Young Life] has been pursuing me as much as I have pursued it.”
In Young Life, there are a number of facets in any given area.
“To start off, we can have different specializations within Young Life,” explained Moore. “WyldLife is for middle school teens, Young Life is for high school teens, Young Life College is for those who are in college, Capernaum is for teens with special needs and YoungLives is for teens who are expecting or have already become mothers.
“Here in Pocahontas County, we currently have one WyldLife club in Marlinton Middle School and are pursuing another WyldLife club for Green Bank Middle and Young Life for Pocahontas County High School.”
While each specialization of Young Life is different, four aspects remain the same throughout – leaders, contact work, club and campaigners.
“Leaders are Jesus-loving adults and young adults who pour into kids,” Moore said. “Most of what we do is done through what we call contact work. Contact work is essentially hanging out with kids on their turf – the student section at games, shooting hoops at the Wellness Center, or playing video games with a kid at their house. Programmatically, we run what we call club and campaigners. Club is a party with a purpose–featuring live music, skits and games, but boils down to a structured talk about Jesus at the end–and Campaigners is a small group bible study where kids can ask questions, and we center it all around Jesus.”
When asked why he took on the job of bringing Young Life to the county, Moore credited the kids.
“Pocahontas County is arguably one of the most rural counties in West Virginia due to its geography. It makes it hard to get everyone in the same place, but just because the kids that live here face different circumstances doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to hear about God’s love in a way they can understand. This place will be hard to figure out strategically but the people here are wonderful and worth it.”
According to Moore, bringing Young Life to Pocahontas County will involve three different aspects– leaders, professional supervision and Young Life committee members–which he hopes he will be able to find.
The first focuses on leaders – adults and young adults who have the desire to be present in the lives of Pocahontas County kids and love them as they are, as well as share the Gospel at any opportunity.
The second, professional supervision, will come in the form of Moore and his Area Director Brian Shirak of Nicholas County.
“We are the people who are here to serve and are going to help this mission succeed,” Moore said.
The final aspect will involve a Young Life Committee.
“Basically, adults in the community who have hearts for kids and want to get involved – but on a more behind-the-scenes level,” explained Moore. “These adults organize prayer strategies and help us with fundraising, among other things. With all of this, we hope to create local ownership – the people of Pocahontas County reaching the youth of Pocahontas County.”
Through Young Life, Moore hopes to see a unified community.
“We often focus on our immediate community, but there is no way for us to stay connected with our larger community as a whole,” he said. “We hope to have adults from different denominations involved from all over the county. It’s one of the unique things we can do in Young Life because we focus our ministry on Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection – which nearly all Christians agree upon.”
By bringing Young Life to the county, Moore hopes that every teen will be given the chance to hear about Jesus Christ in a way they can understand. He knows that Young Life will not move PCHS students to instantly fill the local churches, but he holds out hope for the possibilities in the future.
“Young Life is nuts – too much to describe, really,” Moore said. “It’s something you have to see.”
A joint interest meeting for WyldLife and Young Life will be held Monday, August 17 at 7:07 p.m. at the Marlinton Wellness Center, and Moore would like to invite the community to come.
“They can hear about what Young Life is and decide for themselves if it’s something they might want for the community.”
For more information regarding WyldLife and Young Life in Pocahontas County, Young Life Staff Associate David Moore may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 304-619-6983.
The email address in last week’s article on WyldLife was incorrect, so please redirect any inquires to the email listed above.