Making An Impact

 
By: Shelly Phillips

Bringing up kids in this world today can be difficult. Especially difficult for those who may be bound to families built upon generation after generation of dysfunctional behavioral patterns. For me, it seemed like life was always centered on my family’s dysfunction. I was determined that my children would be different, that the chain of destruction would be broken.

Four years ago, the oldest out of my four children, Dave, started getting into trouble in and out of school. His grades dropped dramatically, he was arrested twice and got suspended for fighting. Then we found out my son was smoking cigarettes and getting high. My husband and I tried talking to him. We tried disciplining him. We couldn’t believe this was happening.

As a mother, I felt weak and powerless. I felt like a failure and, yes, I even felt ashamed. I worried about what my friends thought and what my neighbors thought. The feelings were so overwhelming. I was scared, so scared at how out of control my son’s life had become. I would lie in bed at night and try to pray, something I was not familiar with.

As a child I did not have any religion in my life. We did not attend church. I probably heard God’s name more in vain than any other way. I remember crying out a lot in my mind but never consciously praying to God. I went to church regularly as an adult with my family but never got much out of it. I put my kids through religion classes because it was required at our church to be a member. Still, I did not know who Jesus Christ was or anything about Him, let alone apply Him to my life or to my worries.

...A Friend Offers Hope

Well very soon after, Dave did get himself into another situation. We sought the help of a psychologist and soon after that my son met Tony, a police officer at the high school who is also a Young Life leader. One day he came home from school and told me that Officer Tony asked him to go on a weekend camping trip with Young Life to Lake Champion in New York. I asked Dave what Young Life was. He wasn’t totally sure himself but he told me that it was like a youth group and that he only wanted to go because Tony said he could go for free.

A few days before the camping trip, Tony and a boy that Dave used to be best friends with, came to talk to me about Lake Champion. I asked Tony why he wanted to take Dave. I shared with Tony a little bit about the negative things that happened to Dave in the past, and Tony said it did not matter. He just told me that he talked with Dave at school a lot and thought he was a really good kid and would like him to go to camp. He also promised me that Lake Champion would change Dave’s life. He told me that Dave "would not be the same person when he returned." I remember laughing and thinking, "I don’t think he knows what Dave is like." Little did I know that Tony and Dave’s friend had been praying for Dave for a long time. Dave did go on that trip to Lake Champion with Young Life, and I must say, it not only changed Dave’s life but it changed my life as well.

...Changes and Questions

In the weeks to follow, I noticed a change in Dave. He starting hanging out more and more with the kids from Young Life and started to attend club and also Campaigners. We also noticed he was reading the Bible. When I questioned this, he told me that while he was on that weekend camping trip he had given his life to Christ. Gave his life to Christ! What did that mean?

I was confused. I didn’t know what to think. One part of me was so relieved for Tony coming into Dave’s life and rescuing him from all the "trouble" and another part of me was thinking, "Is this a cult? Is my son safe? Why did it have to be this extreme?" I really didn’t know what to think because I didn’t know a whole lot about Young Life or even what it meant to have a relationship with Christ.

But I was still relieved that my son was no longer getting into trouble. In fact, in the weeks to follow, the transformation of my son was amazing. His negative attitude changed to one of such love, kindness and compassion. His grades improved. Our whole house seemed to lighten up. I felt like I got my child back and I was curious to find out how. So I waited and I observed. I let my son share. I asked questions. I took notice of all the changes and where they came from.

...A Mother’s Awe

Being curious, I started attending some Young Life social events and I felt so good about what I saw. It was such a joy to watch these kids, having fun and being themselves without peer pressure. They didn’t seem to care how they looked, or how they were dressed. It just reminded me of all that I wanted to be but couldn’t seem to grasp while I was a teenager. I was fascinated. I was in awe of these kids. I could sense this great power around them. In the months to follow, many of the Young Life kids would come into our home just to hang out, and as I got to know these kids more and more, I could just see and feel God working in them.

...New faith, New heart, New friends

One day my son gave me a gift. It was a women’s devotional Bible. He asked me if I would start reading it. At first I was skeptical in reading it but as soon as I started, I couldn’t put it down. The words just seemed to jump out at me, and the stories had so much meaning. I found myself drawn to the passage of scripture in Ephesians 2:8-10: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

After reading this I knew right then that I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart. I knew then that I had to rely on Him to help me with my problems and worries.

Soon after accepting Jesus into my heart, I attended my first Young Life banquet and knew after that night that I wanted to be a part of this wonderful ministry that led my son, and I, to Christ. I decided to join the Young Life committee that I am very proud to be a part of. The Lord has since placed many godly people in my life who are very supportive and understanding. I have had a continuous, growing sense of purpose, peace and fulfillment based on my relationship with Jesus Christ, not based on my present successes or my past dysfunction. Giving my heart to Christ was the most important decision I have ever made and I thank God for revealing Himself to me through Young Life.



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