This past Monday, I made my annual trek to a national Youth for Christ (YFC) summer camp to see how these camps impact the lives of young people.
Four years ago, I made the trek to Cran-Hill Ranch in Rodney, Mich., with Defiance Area Youth for Christ executive director Brad Sisson, and chairman of the board Tim Demland. There I met and interviewed Molly Ramseyer, founder of the national YFC youth camps, and I saw first-hand how these camps change the lives of middle school-aged youth who attend.
In 2017 and 2018, Demland and I traveled to Michindoh Conference Center near Hillsdale, Mich., to attend the final day of national camp. While there I witnessed youth, including several from Defiance Area YFC, share their stories of giving their lives to Christ because of camp.
After meeting with Sisson about a month ago, he suggested that I fill out paperwork to become a Defiance Area Youth for Christ volunteer (which included undergoing a background check) so that I could attend camp by myself, and essentially have “free reign” to talk with people and take photos.
Having the opportunity to hear why youth from our area were excited to attend camp; to talk to local YFC staff and hear why camp is important and what they get out of it; to catch up with Ramseyer and hear how national YFC camps continue to grow and impact youth and adults alike; and to meet and talk with camp director Seth Baker from the national YFC office, and hear how much planning and work goes into putting on a camp, was simply amazing.
One of my favorite moments was meeting an energetic volunteer named Anthony from Lincoln, Neb. He and I were walking to the same place, so we introduced ourselves and had a nice chat. Later, when I talked with Ramseyer, she told me she really enjoyed working with the staff and volunteers, and she proceeded to tell me about Anthony.
About 30 minutes later, Seth and I were chatting about some of the volunteers, and he mentioned Anthony. When I told him that I had met him, and that Ramseyer and I had talked about him just a half hour earlier, we both had a good laugh and a great conversation about him. I think Anthony is going places.
Each year when Sisson and I discuss camp, he explains that sending youth to camp is only possible with the help of sponsors, and the youth themselves. This year, the cost to send the 94 youth that attended camp June 29-July 3 at Michindoh was $41,520.
“We have many people and businesses that have partnered with us to make this possible,” said Sisson. “The youth also have ‘skin in the game’ so to speak. They participated in fundraisers as a chapter and they did work days to help raise part of the money. It costs $440 to send one person to camp, and we ask students to be accountable for $200 of that.
“We know that these kids can’t write us a check for $200, so we do fundraisers and do the work days,” added Sisson. “We have sponsors that step up and donate money for work days, so that these kids can earn the money they need to go to camp. We’ve had many partners and businesses over the years that have helped us get these kids to these camps, where lives are changed through the gospel.”
As someone who has gotten to know Sisson, Demland, staff members past and present, and volunteers from Defiance Area YFC, I can tell you the passion they have to bring youth to a life in Christ is absolutely amazing. Because of their passion, the lives of youth in this area have been transformed for 60 years.
That’s quite a legacy, one members of the organization plan to build on for generations to come.
To learn more about Defiance Area Youth for Christ, or to support its ministries, go to defyfc.org.