38 Stories of Amazing Grace

by DanWolgemuth on October 17, 2014

The last two weeks has afforded me the opportunity to host three separate small-group lunch events in three of our Youth for Christ regions.  At each lunch we had indigenous leaders from under-resourced communities that are now a part of the mission of Youth for Christ.

I asked each of these leaders to say their name, the city they are from, and a bit about their story.  Honestly, I think this is verbatim what I asked them.

Over the course of these three lunches, I heard 38 different stories from 38 individuals.  I gave no time constraint; my only parameter was, “a bit of your story.”

These 38 stories took roughly nine hours.  Roughly 15 minutes per individual.

Every individual entered the sharing without hurry and with a deep sense of thoughtful reflection.  Every room became sacred space as we sifted through the chaos of evil to the power of redemption.

There is very little mystery around what I heard.  This was anecdotal evidence of the statistics we hear every day.

Fatherlessness.  Abandonment.  Divorce.  Addiction.  Promiscuity.  Poverty.  Abuse.  Neglect.  Incarceration.  Educational failure.  Pregnancy.  Gangs.  Violence.   Racism.  Homelessness.  Suicide.

Hopelessness.  Shame.  Hatred.  Fear.

38 stories.

Yet, in every story, in varying degrees… rescue.  Truth.  Hope.  Pursuit.

Often the pursuing love of Jesus had a name other than His.  Frequently, the name of a YFC volunteer or staff person was blended into the brokenness like a precious herb; the name of an unrelenting relational ambassador that pressed into the pain and sin with more than sympathy or judgment.

Hope had a name before hope became Jesus.

Brianna, Erica, Dre, KT, Josh, Dane, Rob, Ken, Omar, Kara… and so many more.  Names.  Ushers.  Ambassadors.  For Jesus.  With Jesus.  To Jesus.

38 stories.  Piles of pain; not dismissed or swept away, but redeemed.   Not made-over, but made new.

Tears reminded everyone in the room of the lies; of the deception; of the enemy.  But tears were not the end of the story.  Tears watered the ground of hope.  Tears washed away the barriers to love.

The message of Jesus is true.  It’s powerful.  It’s redemptive.  It’s courageous.  It’s bold.  It’s compassionate.

 “For this is how God loved the world: He gavehis one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NLT

38 times.

Unbounded love.

Unconstrained grace.

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An October Kind of Feeling

by DanWolgemuth on October 3, 2014

This morning on my way to the airport I expressed to Mary that early fall brings a unique feeling for me.  There’s something about October.  When asked what that meant, I stumbled through a lame explanation of mellowness and reflection.  What I failed to express was the uniquely American perspective associated with October; playoff baseball.

It was 1993 when Mary and I moved to Kansas City.  We’d lived several different places in our married lives, but never in a major league town.  Our young family instantly fell in love with two sports teams… the Kansas City Royals and the Kansas Jayhawks (specifically, and singularly the basketball team).

The basketball Jayhawks were easy to follow.  Always strong, always in the post-season mix.  Always a winner.

The Royals, however, were another story.  They languished with rarely a winning season.  Still, our kids and many of their friends were loyalty locked; losing seasons aside.  I remember driving a car full of young kids to an event in KC during the October baseball buzz.  I asked the carload who they were cheering for in the fall classic.  One of the kid’s friends chimed in, “The Royals!”  When I informed this young man that the Royals had been eliminated from the post season some time in early June, he was undaunted by the facts.  “The Royals” remained his final answer.

For our children, now much older and wiser, the childhood loyalty still exists.  Although they live in Colorado, the Rockies are at best #2 on their list.  In short, that has destined them to a lifetime of Octoberless baseball.  In essence this means a legacy of angst and growing dislike for teams like the Yankees and the Giants… while remaining enamored by teams like the Cardinals, who despite being just down the road from Kansas City, seem to crank out October contenders like Apple cranks out new iPhones.  Until 2014.  Until now.

Yes, for the first time in the fan-life of our kids – now 21 years, the Royals have qualified for the post season.  They’re under-qualified scrappy bunch seems impervious to the pressure and resilient in the face of adversity.  Yes, for the first time in 29 years, it’s appropriate to answer the post-season question with, “The Royals.”

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7

When loyalty trumps conventional thinking a special bond is born.  Love overshadows logic; it defies convenience; it disregards payrolls.

Congratulations Andrew, Erik and Alli; it’s October and your Royals are still playing baseball.

Thanks for the lesson in loyalty.

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By This…

October 2, 2014

The seminar itself was not all that different from other seminars that I’ve attended from the standpoint of content or structure, but there was something wildly different about what was taking place. Every three years the national directors of each of the Youth for Christ programs from around the world get together for a week-long […]

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The Answer to the Question

October 2, 2014

Years ago we invented a birthday party game that includes questions about the birthday celebratee, and written responses by the party attendees.  The goal is to match the answers of the individual celebrating their birthday. A fresh set of questions are required each year… until this year.  Two weeks ago as we celebrated two birthdays, […]

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Crunchy

August 29, 2014

On a recent trip to the mountains, Mary and I popped into a local grocery store to replenish our inventory of peanut butter. PB&J sandwiches are a mountain staple when hiking or biking. As we walked the aisle I noted that it looked like the small market only had crunchy peanut butter. I looked at […]

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His Journal/My Journal

August 22, 2014

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18, 19) Peter.  Good old Peter. Yep, the Disciple of Jesus.  The fisherman […]

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Because Grace is the Point

August 15, 2014

Imagine the mayhem that would exist in corporate boardrooms and executive suites when one of the primary spokespeople for the organization completely discredits and disconnects from the cause they have agreed to support.  Imagine. That’s Michael Jordan, in his prime, saying that he doesn’t know anything about Nike and he doesn’t want anything to do […]

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Fifty-One Verses

August 8, 2014

The room was filled and hearts were hungry.  Wednesday night was when young people would be invited to respond to the message of confession, grace, mercy, hope and transformation. Ray Villegas, our YFC staff member from Harlem, was bringing the message.  Although Ray’s address was 3,000 miles from most of the kids in the room, […]

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It Should Have Been Easy

August 1, 2014

This is the tenth summer that I’ve been a part of the mission of Youth for Christ/USA.  I’ve come to understand the varied rhythms that reflect the realities of my calendar year.  There are seasons of operational intensity, of mission focus, of leadership development, of fund raising, and of staff communication.  There also is a […]

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A Roundabout Way

July 25, 2014

(As Dan is away from the office, please enjoy this classic Fragment.) It seems to me that when Jesus taught His disciples an important lesson, He rarely took the shortest route. For instance, in Matthew 16 Jesus warns His followers about the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was clear that Jesus was […]

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