26 Years Ago Today at a Young Life Camp

FontierranchToday the Holy Orthodox Church’s daily scripture reading comes from 1 Corinthians 10:12-22 and Matthew 16:20-24. It is funny to realize that I memorized 1 Corinthians 10:13 while a 16 year old high school junior. (No temptation has come your way that is too hard for flesh and blood to bear. But God can be trusted not to allow you to suffer any temptation beyond your powers of endurance. He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will be possible for you to bear it.) I was serving on the work crew at a camp and we all memorized it. This was the same camp where my life changed direction in a profound way the summer before. Here is a brief account of what happened July 28, 1983.

I spent my first 15 years sleepwalking through life. I woke up from this sleep 26 years ago today near the end of the best week of my life at Frontier Ranch, a Young Life camp in Colorado. My father’s alcoholism had led to my parent’s divorce. Their divorce had only been final for a few months. And the previous October I had been arrested and kicked out of my Catholic college prep school. After leaving Jesuit I transferred to a public high school with very few friends and I was continuing to get into some trouble. I was doing what I could to keep myself asleep. Some of the kids (the “cool kids”) that were into what I was into got involved with Young Life during my sophomore year. That next summer, I found myself heading off to Young Life’s Frontier Ranch.

Man, was I ever primed for some good news! It was there, for the first time, that I heard that the God, who had created the universe out of nothing, was good. Not only was He good but He loved me and all of His creation and had sent His Son to reunite, redeem and resurrect us to Himself for relationship. The Bible that I knew so well from my childhood was being read like it was actually true. Hearing about Jesus’ life and miracles was like having jumper cables connected to my heart.

Tom Wilson, the camp speaker, spoke of how Christ had laid down His life in sacrifice. Tom sent us out into the cool Colorado night for 15 minutes to ponder whether we believed in Jesus and if we did if we might consider some sort of response to His love and sacrifice. I had a great 15 minutes of solitude. I went back to my cabin of guys and told them that I had committed my life to the Lord. I expected a round of high fives or something. But my Young Life leader, Joel Edwards, instead of getting sentimental asked me a life-changing question. Joel simply asked, “So what are you going to do now?” And, you know, to this day I am still answering that question.

While I am no longer involved in Young Life I will always give thanks to the Lord for Young Life because I not only met the Lord at Frontier Ranch but I also met my wife there 22 years ago. I am so thankful for the time I served on Young Life staff before heading off to Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and my subsequent ordination to the Holy Priesthood. I am thankful for Joel Edwards, Tom Wilson, Jim Carmack and all Young Life leaders for what they personally sacrifice so that high school and junior high kids might hear about our Lord Jesus Christ in a language that they understand. I will always be thankful for that week at Frontier Ranch.

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7 Comments

Filed under A Good Life

7 responses to “26 Years Ago Today at a Young Life Camp

  1. peterlemieuxagency

    I enjoy your writings. They are down to earth and inspirational.

    Peter Lemieux

  2. Rowe

    Fr. James, I enjoyed reading about your special “anniversary” regarding Young Life. Thanks for sharing.

  3. buffalopine

    Our God is an awesome God. I love your blog.

  4. Glory to God! Fr. James, I love your writing.

  5. Diane Reis

    So cool. It always amazes me how God used Young Life in so many peoples lives. I have great memories and the discipleship that took place had a profound impact on me and how I spend my time today. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Without the element of teenage delinquency, I have a remarkably similar testimony to yours, also from the summer of my 16th year (that is, the year I was 15).

    I’ve been downplaying this “born-again” experience for the past several years, for some reason a bit embarrassed by it when interacting with “cradle” Orthodox, or other Orthodox who did not come from an evangelical background like I did.

    Thank you for sharing your story publicly, and reminding me that my own experience was a very real and dramatic episode in my development, and that I should remember and celebrate that I was called to DO something.

    I, too, am still figuring out what to do.

  7. Joan

    Awesome and inspiring, sounds like my son’s experience.
    blessings,
    Joan

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