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September 18
Welcome to Denny's Summer Blog!

​The summer of 2013 was another amazing season of Young Life camp and our President Denny Rydberg shared weekly about what he was seeing as he traveled the mission. We heard about a camp built specially for WyldLife kids, a place for teenage mothers, a 50th Celebration, and how we reach a world of kids. It was a beautiful and awe inspiring summer.

If you're just now discovering this blog, spend a minute reading what's been happening in and around Young Life camps. Read a few posts, enjoy the photos and take a moment to pray for camping season next year. We hope we see you at Young Life camp in 2014 as a student, potential volunteer or as an adult guest!


September 10
What a Summer - A Camping Season Wrap Up

​— Posted by Denny Rydberg

For me, this is my last blog of the summer camping season and what a time it's been. We broke our "world records" in both the number of kids camping domestically and internationally. We smashed the 55,000 kids at camp barrier in the U.S. and probably (we're waiting on final numbers) exceeded that internationally. (Note: Because summers are at different times in the northern and southern hemispheres, we count any extended camp as a summer camp internationally.) A big factor in this explosive growth was the fact that over 27,000 kids camped in Africa! In the U.S., we still see 30% to 40% of our kids indicate a decision to follow Jesus and in international camping (particularly in developing countries) that percentage is even higher. Summer camping, no question, is harvest time! Kids meet Christ throughout the year, as we all know, but summer is especially impactful as kids get a week away to seriously consider the person and claims of Jesus and experience the best week of their lives.

Some highlights for me (and I'm only choosing a few.) A strong believing senior-to-be goes to camp with 12 of his buddies at Crooked Creek and watches most of them give their lives to Jesus. They get back home and immediately plunge into campaigners thanks to great leadership from our staff and volunteers. The dad, a former intern of mine when Marilyn and I were doing college ministry, writes to let me know.

In Tanzania, our leader Stewart brings five Capernaum kids to camp. Goodie has severe palsy and can hardly move his arms and hands. He's with his best friend, Evance, who is blind. As VP Steve Larmey writes, "The two boys were inseparable. They went hand-in-hand everywhere. Goodie provided the sight for Evance and Evance provided the strength to enable Goodie to walk." When I read that this summer, I thought "that's how God provides." We need each other like Goodie needs Evance and Evance needs Goodie. What a picture!

In another country that I will not name to protect our staff, we did a camp for blind Muslim young ladies. This is in a country where the disabled, women, and young people are not as valued as here at home. I love that Young Life was there for them.

At our Young Life Board meeting in November, we took the trustees to a nearby club in a garage especially designed to host YL. AD Eugene Luning had a contest where one of the seniors, Anthony, won a full scholarship to camp. After the week of camping, Eugene let me know that Anthony used his scholarship and had met Christ. Serendipity!

Bree Haskell, Area Director of Silicon Valley Young Life (yep, that's the title for the area) had one of those unbelievable camp experiences. All the young women in her cabin met Christ in a week at Woodleaf! Life doesn't get any better than that.

I know that we would have had zero kids at camp had staff and leaders not worked hard to get them on the bus. None if parents hadn't paid and friends hadn't helped with scholarship money. Nada if a team of people had not prayed. Zip if property staff had not prepared the camp with excellence and warm hospitality. But God answered our prayers, kids came, and lives were forever changed.

Camping is the ultimate team sport. I'm sure glad we can all be on this team. What a summer!

September 03
50 Years of Camping at Castaway

​— Posted by Denny Rydberg

For my last visit of the summer camping season, I spent the Labor Day weekend at Castaway Club on Pelican Lake near Detroit Lakes, Minn. About 300 of us were celebrating 50 years of doing outreach camping at Castaway. For those of us who love colors, Castaway is a paradise. Every building is bright white. The grass is a dark green. Combine that with the blue of the lake, the white of the clouds, and the multi-colors of the flowers that abundantly decorate the camp, and a person is blown away by God’s artistry even before he or she steps inside a building, eats a meal in the dining hall, or sings, laughs and listens at club. What a celebration! What a reunion of people who had come as campers or served as leaders, assigned staff, or camp staff in the past!

From Friday afternoon to Sunday noon, people greeted one another with hugs, told stories from the past, sang favorite songs from each decade, laughed with the program team and were enriched by the Gospel at club. A special occasion for me was meeting four members of the Smith family — the family who originally gave us the property in 1963. The patriarch of the clan, Sidney Smith, was a very successful businessman and strong believer from Winnipeg, Canada. He had become a friend of Jim Rayburn’s when Jim spoke at Sidney’s church in the ‘40s. Sidney would use his property on the lake, which was called Robinswood, as a retreat for Christian leaders he and his family hosted. Jim and his family enjoyed the experience. Sidney’s son, Gordon, was the man who gave us the place. The story goes like this: After meeting with Jim, Phil McDonald and Bill Starr, Gordon was late for another meeting. He threw the keys to the Young Life guys as he left. They looked at one another and said, “I guess we’ve got ourselves a camp.” Sidney’s daughter, Nancy, and two of her children and a daughter-in-law were in attendance, and daughter Trisha gave a compelling talk on how her great-grandfather’s lake home became Castaway. “The family felt it was too valuable to sell, and so they wanted to give it to Young Life.” Castaway is still too valuable to sell, as the 200,000 kids who have been impacted there would attest.

August 27
Camping for Every Kid

​​​— Posted by Denny Rydberg

One of our deepest commitments in Young Life is to “every kid.” And few assignment teams this summer got to live that out more than the one under the leadership of Regional Director Chris Buda, who just finished up the summer at Rockbridge. In the course of the month they served Young Life Capernaum, YoungLives and WyldLife campers from every background you can imagine. I wanted to share some of Chris’ reflections on their Capernaum week. I’m so grateful for our Capernaum leaders and staff around the world and the lengths they go to ensure that EVERY kid can have “the best week of their lives!”

Wow. What a week!

Capernaum camp is different from any other Young Life camp in so many ways! Every camp is always fun, life-giving, and life-changing. But the one, unique word to describe camp with our Capernaum friends in joy-filled!

Joy permeates every part of camp. Our friends with special needs don't often have the benefit of the excitement, love, fun and adventure, not only made available to them at camp, but specifically planned just for them. They are overwhelmed with the joy of Jesus, which is expressed to them and through them in every element of camp. That joy is contagious, but it is also humbling.

Many of our campers are dealing with very serious conditions that are extremely debilitating. Yet the spirit of joy continues to pulsate through camp. It is an honor to help in that process and be reminded of the joy that the Lord desires for us to live in day by day, moment by moment. And on top of that, it is a great learning experience. Most of our assigned team, summer staff and work crew have never really gotten to know or be in a relationship with someone with special needs. This opportunity has moved us forward in our desire to reach EVERY KID!

Rockbridge is located in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Goshen, Va. What began as a spa resort in the 19th century has been hosting Young Life campers since 1992.

August 20

​— Posted by Denny Rydberg

There are literally millions of memories from a summer of camping. And all of these have been captured on iPhones, cameras and in the minds of those who experienced them. This year, you used #bestweekofyourlife to share them with us.


As we wrap up the camping season, here are six of my favorites:


Take a look at what dinner is like when we "spread the table" across the infield at Frontier for high country boil.

Go to a YoungLives camp, and you'll see literally a hundred strollers parked outside the dining hall like you see in this photo of Rockbridge.

Walk into the dining room for the last of the lasagna at Lost Canyon and see our work crew, summer staff and camp crew prepare it. Energy, enthusiasm, and great food!

 Our friends in our great Risk Management department and I get a little queasy when we see guys flying through the air at camp, but it happens.

 And let's not forget Capernaum camping with 17 of our friends heading for Timber Wolf Lake.

 "Every kid" gets to enjoy camp as seen in this international camping picture from Africa! 


I am so thankful for all the team members who make camps work and for the Lord who calls kids to a life-changing and everlasting relationship with Him.

August 13
Rain, Babies and Breezy

​— Posted by Denny Rydberg


Great week — three camp visits! I started at Frontier on Monday (second time this summer), where I took a very good friend who is also the president of Navigators, Mike Treneer; his son David, a pastor in Brighton, England, where we want to establish Young Life; and Mike's son-in-law, Matt, who is also with the Navigators — first time for the three of them at one of our camps. I loved seeing Young Life and camping through their eyes. I'm on a streak. I bring rain wherever I go, and so for the second time this summer, rain (and I) caused the cancellation of the rodeo after two events! Last time I was at a rodeo was earlier in the summer at Timber Wolf. Yes, it rained shortly after the start, and the campers scampered to their cabins at TWL too.

Early Tuesday morning, I flew to New York State, and on Wednesday morning I was at Lake Champion for our YoungLives week. What an amazing production — 100 campers, 100 babies, more than 100 leaders, full camp and assigned staff so that these young women and their children could be treated like royalty and hear the clear, compelling message of Jesus. I am so thankful we do YoungLives! Also grateful we have a brand new assigned staff house at Champion! Love seeing our staff, staff spouses and kids "luxuriate" in these surroundings after years with very cramped and tired quarters.

On Thursday, board member and great friend Bruce Hosford, who had joined me at Champion, and I drove to Saranac. This wonderfully historic camp was hopping. I especially enjoyed hanging out with groups of kids from around the country. I took an official camp photo with the kids and leaders from Central Jersey, including Area Director Jim Lloyd (a former attorney) and leaders like Breezy (who subtly mentioned that she'd like her name in this blog!). A group from Jacksonville, led by David Bast, was also fun to hang out with. At Saranac, I had an unusual number of kids and young leaders come up to me to thank me for what Young Life has meant to them and how knowing and following Jesus has changed their lives!

Camps are looking great, camp staff are taking tremendous pride in their work, assigned staff are serving with enthusiasm and skill, summer staff and work crew are working hard, leaders are serving their kids with passion, and kids are having the best week of their lives as they meet Jesus — another fantastic summer in Young Life camping around the world!

August 06
Giving Kids Godly Medicine

 ​— Posted by Denny Rydberg



For this week's post, I've asked Special Assistant to the President Shelley Sadler (currently on program at Crooked Creek) to share about the power of humor at camp. Shelley has served the mission - and me - for years as an speaker, entertainer, ambassador and encourager. I'm grateful for all who use their gift of making people laugh for holy purposes. It’s a critical part of the Young Life camp experience.

I have always loved to laugh. Sometimes, even when my heart feels heavy, a good laugh will offer a supernatural kind of relief. Of course, laughter and good humor don’t erase the weight we often experience in life, but they sure do allow for an excursion or two in the midst of those experiences! While serving on the program team at Crooked Creek Ranch with my friends Loren Kolman, from Canon City, Colo., and P.J. Smith, from Reno, Nev., I have enjoyed the privilege of watching the Lord show His power through the “vehicle” of humor. There is something very spiritual about humor … good, honorable, godly humor. When a giggle or a “gut-buster” causes us to hold our heads up, not hang our heads in embarrassment or self-consciousness, I believe the Lord is blessed!

Interestingly, not everything we do on a program team at camp is really that funny, and yet much of the time, lots of uproarious laughter happens anyway — who knew? Well, the Lord knew. Every person who has ever served on program, I believe, would agree: The Lord is, in fact, the Author of all the best kind of humor! We would all say that to watch kids and leaders experience unexplainable grins and laughter is most extraordinary. As author Anne Lamott states, “Laughter is carbonated holiness.” There is nothing like watching smiles surface on the faces of campers when they first realize the Almighty is actually smiling on them. Hundreds of kids around the world enter into camp each summer with “crushed spirits and dried-up bones” (Proverbs 17:22), deeply in need of the kind of “cheer” only Jesus can offer. What a tremendous gift it is to come to camp and share the “medicine” of God’s goodness, grace, and kindness!
Crooked Creek, located in the stunningly beautiful Rocky Mountains, opened its doors in 1999 and has impacted thousands of kids. Learn more at crookedcreek.younglife.org
Crooked Creek Beauty Shot.jpg 
July 30
What Makes Camping Unique

​— Posted by Denny Rydberg

(Young Life Camping Internationally... So many similarities to camping here!)

For this week’s post, I’ve asked Senior Vice President Marty Caldwell to share a story about the similarities between camping in the United States and camping internationally. It’s truly fantastic to see the heart of Young Life’s mission and volunteers remaining constant the world-over.

Staying at a cabin near Lost Canyon and seeing three different weeks in a row has been a gift. Capernaum was week one. YoungLives was week two. This week is high school kids from all over the western U.S. The sheer weight of planning and effort is stunning: babies, nannies, high chairs, wheel chairs, walkers, playpens, vans, buses, work crew, summer staff, buddies, (those who helped the kids and leaders pull off a spectacular Capernaum week) — all mixed in with great assignment teams and camp staff. WHO would do this? Only those who love kids and see their experience of the Good News of Jesus as supremely important. We do love every kid, and we live this out at summer camp in spectacular, costly, wonderful ways. We as a mission are utterly captivated by the magnificent love and truth of God in Christ Jesus. Every effort, every dollar, every plan is invested in one thing: every kid having a chance to experience Jesus Christ. The comprehensive level of intentional non-verbal and verbal proclamation is worth it all. We believe this. We always have. We always will.

International camping may not have a property or a long history, but it has the same elements: "every kid," hope, leaders who love life and laughter, excellence in food and adventure, the Good News told in a language kids understand.

These are radical ideas around the world:
  • A work crew of peers.
  • Excellence in all we do for the sake of the Gospel.
  • A cabin time to reflect honestly with your friends.
  • A speaker who knows kids.
  • Leaders who bring kids, stay with them and go home with them.
  • Music that includes everyone.
  • Freedom to question.
  • Genuine laughter.
  • Talking about Jesus without religious jargon.
  • When kids respond, help them grow, but love them regardless of their responses.
This works — here at Lost Canyon and all around the world.

Lost Canyon opened its doors in 1997 and you can learn more at http://lostcanyon.younglife.org/. International Camping is a little different. For most international kids, there is no Young Life facility nearby. So their leaders create for them the Young Life camping experience in a variety of venues, with some unique twists. International kids swim, ski, ride horses, go rock climbing and play games, but they also kayak in the North Sea and hike through the mountains in southern Russia. Learn more at http://www.younglife.org/International/InternationalCamping.htm.

July 23
Coffee, Kids and Christ

​— Posted by Denny Rydberg


In the Scriptures Jesus shares a lot about how God can use the little things to achieve His purposes: five loaves of bread and two fish, faith the size of a mustard seed, or the widow’s two copper coins. I’m excited about how, even today, God can use something as small as coffee beans to help change a life. You may have heard about Beyond Beans, the coffee grown at our Young Life camp, La Finca, in Nicaragua. These beans have been a wonderful tool to help our kids there attend camp. Here’s a bit of the back story.

Young Life began in Nicaragua in 1988, the same year we acquired La Finca. Not only do we have the opportunity to tell kids about Jesus at La Finca, but the camp also serves as a working farm where we grow and sell Beyond Beans. The profit of a single bag of coffee goes to send one Nicaraguan kid to a camp for a day. It’s also rewarding to see how a bag of coffee helps keep our Nicaraguan ministry self-sustaining and self-supporting. (And if that wasn’t enough, workers earn 30 percent more than the going wage and are treated as ministry partners not just laborers!)

If you’ve ever purchased Beyond Beans for yourself or sold it as a fundraiser for your area, thank you! Every year, it’s making a difference in the lives of hundreds of Nicaraguan kids (and workers). And if you think of it, the next time you’re enjoying a cup of this great coffee with your friends, please share the story of our great work in Nicaragua.

Learn more about Beyond Beans >>

July 16
Celebrating 20 Years with Young Life
​— Posted by Denny Rydberg

Last Thursday, I completed my 20th year on staff, and I spent it at the best possible place for a celebration a Young Life camp; two actually Trail West and then Frontier.

Trail West was alive for another family camp. Included in the crowd were 20 families from Norman, Okla. Imagine what 20 families can do in an area when they’re fired up about Young Life after spending a week together at Trail West, including some time at Frontier! The fact that there were 15 babies under the age of 2 at Trail West made for an interesting week.

And, one couple, Bob and Dot Holleman from Holland, Mich., was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by inviting 16 other family members to join them at Trail West.  An amazing array of people enjoyed one another, experienced the presence of the Lord, learned more about Young Life and created memories for a lifetime. That is why we have Trail West.

Then Marilyn, Stefanie Grigsby (who serves as director of my office), Stefanie’s dad, Marcus, and I drove to Frontier with a stop at the mountain home of Jim and Susie Breckenridge from Dallas, Texas. Jim and Susie might hold the record for the most consecutive years as adult guest hosts at our camps. They’ve built their Buena Vista home very close to Frontier, and camp staff, field staff, and volunteers from both Frontier and Trail West are loved on by the Breckenridges. What a couple! From there, we arrived at Frontier in time to walk the property; talk to staff, leaders, work crew, summer staff and kids; and enjoy dinner, the leaders’ meeting and club.

Frontier, as you know, is one of our historic camps.  I know people who were campers there in the early 50s. These campers are now in their 70s, and the memories of their time at Frontier are just as vivid as they’ve always been; their hearts are still full of gratitude for what they experienced at Frontier. Like our other early camps, Frontier has aged beautifully as we have provided appropriate updates to the facility. But the key is still the Holy Spirit leading and re-charging our great staff and leaders as they serve kids and share the Good News. Steve Chesney was the speaker sharing the truth of the cross, followed by 15 minutes in the dark under the stars, and then the work crew and summer staff broke the silence with song a great, great night!

We drove home late and before going to bed, I began my 21st year with Young Life. What a pleasure and an honor.

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On the Road  

Almost everyone in Young Life hits the road in the summer, and Young Life's president is no exception. This travel blog was a space for Denny and others to reflect on the places, people and divine appointments they encountered during their summer 2013 adventures with Young Life. We hope you're blessed and encouraged by what you read here!


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