Garrick Bailey, the area director of Young Life, received an unexpected Facebook message from a teenager he had become friends with back in 2001.
“I just wanted you to know that you have no idea what you meant to me in high school,” the message said.
Bailey was the teenager’s Young Life leader.
The note came as a shock because the teenager was one of those kids Bailey wondered if anything he said ever got in.
Bailey was in his senior year of college when the two became friends.
“He was just a wild kid,” Bailey said.
After the teenager graduated high school, he joined the military and began experimenting with religions and several other aspects of his life, Bailey said, adding that he tried his best to keep in touch.
“I kept up with him as much as I could through his friends,” Bailey said. “I kept hearing of all of these struggles he was having.”
Young Life facilitated the connection between Bailey and his teenage friend.
Young Life is a non-profit religious organization that strives to build relationships with high school-aged kids.
Young Life goes to the local schools and events to “hang out” with the kids.
“We are going to the high schools. We are going to the ball games. We are in the lunchrooms. We are going anywhere that high school kids are, that is appropriate for us to be,” Bailey said.
The heart behind Young Life is to reach kids at their level, pursue a friendship with them, and eventually, if the time is appropriate with the individual kid, share the gospel of Christ.
“I believe it’s exactly how Jesus would be doing it,” Bailey said.
Every Monday night, Young Life has an event called “Club,” which is the visible expression of Young Life, Bailey said. Club is held at a fitness center in Tyler called Accelerate.
The kids participating in Club get to take part in singing, watching funny skits, playing games and have a short message at the end.
The other planned Young Life event that takes place during the week is an event called “Campaigners.” The kids are broken up into smaller groups according to their grade and gender, and they meet with their Young Life leader. The night usually consists of games, study help and just relating to kids.
“We keep doing this until they are at a place where we call them friends. They just happen to be our friends that are in high school,” Bailey said.
James Garrett is a sophomore college student attending both TJC and UT-Tyler.
Garrett volunteers for Young Life as well as balancing college and his personal life.
“It’s definitely God’s calling. I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle this much with college and then trying to have some spiritual influence on some guys,” Garret said.
He believes Young Life is a great opportunity to set a positive example for high school students.
The program works with the help of volunteer Young Life leaders. There are 12 volunteers in the Tyler area. They range from college volunteers, to mothers with children and working adults. Young Life is not affiliated with any one church. Instead, the program is designed to function as another group for kids to join along with attending their church youth group.
Young Life leaders often play a big role in these kid’s lives. Sally Lewis, a freshman at Robert E. Lee, attends Young Life events on a regular basis.
“I like my Young Life leader because she is very nice. She has helped me a lot through this year,” Lewis said.
Hannah Hightower also attends Young Life regularly and said it is a fun, social way to get closer to God. Hightower is also a freshman at Robert E. Lee.
Young Life is always looking for more leaders. To learn more about volunteering for Young Life, contact the local office. The only requirement is “that the person is actively seeking Christ in their life,” Bailey said.