God In Person On the West Side by Yvonne Troutman
Many of us may not be aware of an exciting Christian ministry in action at Cabrillo High School’s Young Life Ministries. Under Jenny Dickson’s leadership, the compelling story of how Jesus came down from His heavenly kingdom to become human, to become a living breathing person comes to life on Monday nights. Was he a friend to the friendless? Yes! Was he a hope to those without hope? Yes! Is there a heavenly future? Yes! And in the hip language young people can understand and with the foretelling title of “God In a Bod” here is a Bible study they can relate to.
During the school year, fifty plus students from Cabrillo gather every Monday night in the theater classroom for a time of warmth, fun, games, food and a lesson unlike any they have ever experienced. In the fall semester it’s the Book of John, second semester it might be the Book of Mark. No matter the book, Jenny and her many volunteers bring alive to these young people the humanity of Jesus, how He chose to come down to be with people just like them. Today Jesus can be a true friend when perhaps there is no true friend, to be their guide when godly guidance is nonexistent.
Cabrillo High School has 3800 students from every ethnicity possible, and its students live the reality of cyclical poverty. It’s location on Santa Fe Avenue on the west side of Long Beach, where few of us visit or know about, is where Jenny and her eight loyal volunteers (including her parents) work hard to bring students a godly way to look at life, a better way to feel about themselves and the possibility that with Jesus there is a brighter future for them.
Volunteers, Friends, Chauffeurs
Young Life volunteers experience on a personal level the need to be especially sensitive to the feelings and realities of their student’s lives. They learn quickly that God doesn’t expect them to be spectacular but to be faithful, because all the glory belongs to Him. There is no need to be “churchy” but a real need to be a friend. That when a student has a bad day he or she is still loved, never abandoned. To listen more than talk, this to hurting kids becomes a path to wider trust.
Wearing their green Young Life T-shirts, these mentors work hard to avoid a disapproving attitude and are careful not to mention the student’s bedrooms or beds or desks. Their bed might be a couch if lucky, more likely a spot on the floor. They have few personal belongings and much of what they do have must be shared. Many students have never been away from home or out of their area. Recently one of the mentors, Shane, changed that for four boys when he took them to the beach for the very first time.
Jenny and Company
Volunteers for Young Life range from 20 to 40 years of age. All have their own full time careers and Jenny’s parents, now retired, also participate. Jenny is a wife and mother of three: Lily, David and Charlie. Her husband, Andrew, is a full time art instructor at Cal State Fullerton. He is a most talented artist and exhibits his work with other artists locally. Both Jenny and Andy are life-long Christians and recently they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Jenny was a middle school teacher for 10 years before becoming a mother and her professional approach when meeting with the school district speaks to her awareness of the boundaries for a Christian ministry within public school policy. As a result, many young people are brought to Christ and God is honored and glorified.
What’s the Plan For Today?
Monday night meetings are structured with fun and games, fellowship, food and learning about Jesus. Club begins at 6 pm with volunteers just hanging out with students; food and activities are provided depending on the weekly budget and theme: Banana Night with banana costumes, a banana song and games. There is Glo Stick Night, Hero Night, Girls vs. Boys Night, Emoji Night and many more. The kids and staff come up with these wacky nights that end with prizes and gift cards being handed out.
The last 15 minutes of club are the most powerful when all settle down to hear of the life of Jesus from one of the volunteer mentors or Young Life staff. The Gospel is presented and as they come to Christ, kids can attend a Connection Group where there is prayer time and some deep concerns come forth. Taylor, a club member and a new believer, is now praying for his father. Jenny and the other volunteers drive all Club attendees home every Monday night. No student walks home alone after club is over. Everyone is safe spiritually as well as physically at Young Life.
Young Life was started by Jim Rayburn in Texas 75 years ago and now operates programs in every state and 100 countries around the world. Its ministries include a middle school and high school program as well as summer camps. Here in Long Beach, high schoolers are able to attend camp for a week of outdoor experience. I’munique, a student at Jordan High, attended the Cabrillo club and went to camp for the first time the summer of 2016. This very intelligent, ambitious and avid reader had never been to the outdoors and was intrigued by the different species of trees she found. God’s world suddenly expanded for her and this summer she brought three friends to camp and spent three weeks serving on a work crew and growing in her faith!
Cornerstone Church has partnered with Young Life Ministries in a most generous way, to bring hope and the Gospel message to our local youth. For summer camp, Cornerstone provides scholarships for those who can’t come up with the funds. Be proud, dear friends, of what is being accomplished one young person at a time.
How May I Help?
If you would like to discuss volunteering or contributing to this effort (gift cards for the volunteers or students is an example of one way) Jenny Dickson would be happy to speak with you. She can be reached via cell phone 831-521-4642 or email: email@example.com.
Please consider adding Long Beach Young Life to your daily prayer list knowing you are connected through the Holy Spirit to a ministry that is changing lives and adding new believers to the Lord’s mighty kingdom.
To God Be the Glory!
“Jenny and her many volunteers bring alive to these young people the humanity of Jesus, how He chose to come down to be with people just like them. Today Jesus can be a true friend when perhaps there is no true friend, to be their guide when godly guidance is nonexistent.”
“Cabrillo High School has 3800 students from every ethnicity possible, and its students live the reality of cyclical poverty. It’s location on Santa Fe Avenue on the west side of Long Beach, where few of us visit or know about.”
"The last 15 minutes of club are the most powerful when all settle down to hear of the life of Jesus from one of the volunteer mentors or Young Life staff. The Gospel is presented and as they come to Christ, kids can attend a Connection Group where there is prayer time and some deep concerns come forth.”
"Cornerstone Church has partnered with Young Life Ministries in a most generous way, to bring hope and the Gospel message to our local youth.”