By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March 10, 2016
Published: March 10, 2016
GROWING up in Ontario, Nathan Bayne attended the church but somehow always felt like an outcast. He grew up with great friends but he always felt like the ‘church kids’ were judging him. Being part of Younglife has made him realise that it wasn’t the case, but it was rather his own insecurities that were keeping him from forming positive relationships. When his friends invited him to Younglife, they told him that it’s not a typical church youth-group but rather a nationwide organisation of people trying to live out who they believe Jesus to be.
“I joined because I want to show that love in my life. I want to be available to kids in need at critical times in their lives. Sometimes it’s hard to tell close friends or even family certain things for fear of being judged or misunderstood. I want to inspire young people and show them what I’ve learned in my journey and that they can do anything they want to if they try,” he says.
Younglife is a not-for-profit international Christian missionary organisation for teens but it inspires kids to mentor and develop positive relationships rather than merely talk about Jesus or the Bible. At a recent meeting at the Ledge Café, teenagers stream in to play games and listen to music but it’s not the typical teen get-together. At the end of the ‘party’, the teens get to know about Jesus in a non-preachy way and in a lingo they are familiar with.
“Some weeks there are close to 75 or more kids at each night and they have the opportunity to hear about Jesus. It is likely that most of these teens would never have heard this message if it was not for these weekly Younglife nights,” says Irma McNeil, the chairperson for the Squamish Younglife adult committee.
Jessica Stone first heard about the Younglife mission at a BBQ hosted by Matt Chamberlain at his house. For Jessica, Younglife was a great way to volunteer and mentor other teens, but it was until her first year at camp that she fully gave herself to the mission. “The camp is so intentional about communicating the love of Christ in tangible ways, from being served every meal to jumping off a giant telephone pole with a dear friend. It really hammered into my heart the need for all people to know his grace and love and how deeply it affects the whole course of life.”
The club is for all teens but it’s not just about meeting more than once a week to play some games. It’s about building strong bonds among teens but also to be more giving and to establish a stronger relationship with God. “Younglife has forced me out of my shell time and again. In Younglife, you are constantly exercising humility whether it is through sharing your faith or lip-syncing ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ on stage in a fur coat. But the more I keep the perspective of serving others, the more I grow and have to give and Younglife has pushed me to be much more confident,” Jessica says.
Younglife was founded in 1941 in Texas by Jim Rayburn, a youth leader who started a weekly club for high school students which eventually became Younglife. In Squamish, it’s led by Matt Chamberlain, who has been doing outreach among local teens for the last five years. Matt acts as a mentor to the teenagers, helping them deal with the challenges of growing up as a teenager, and guiding them to be a positive influence on others by rooting them in the Christian faith.
“We tell kids about Jesus in a way that they can understand. We do give them presentation of the gospel in eight talks. At the end of every night, there is talk about stories of Jesus and the stories of the Bible. It’s about being a part of your faith and to be in love with Jesus,” he said.
Matt and the volunteer leaders spend time getting to know the teens at Don Ross and Howe Sound school and then invite then to “club” nights, which vary from games and music to nights around a campfire, swimming at the pool or even heading to Whistler to go skating to name a few. Each club ends with a leader sharing their story or testimony that explains in a way that teens can understand the gospel story.
One such leader is Sabien Roose, who was born with two chambers in his heart and without a spleen and with full situs inverse, which means all his organs are on the wrong side. He has had three heart surgeries and has suffered four strokes and three seizures due to a blood clot on the right side of his brain. “The doctors weren’t sure if I would make it out without being a vegetable or if I would walk or know who my loved ones were. But God brought me through it,” he says. He first joined Younglife four years ago when he met Matt at Squamish Baptist Church. He organizes Game and Epic Meal nights with other leaders and shares the gospel and talks to them about love of Jesus.
Younglife has two separate clubs: Don Ross meets on Monday nights and Howe Sound on Wednesday nights. Over the five years, as many as 400 kids have been involved in one way or the other with Younglife. Every year, the program also invites kids to go on a camp at the Rockridge Canyon near Princeton.
Younglife is organising its fundraiser on February 26 at the Eagle Eye Theatre at 7 pm. The evening will consist of stories and videos about its success this past year, desserts and a performance from Trace Bundy. Matt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org