Thursday, April 21, 2011

Celebrating Suceess In Youth Work Through Tears

The safe ride vans park outside of the drop in center that Al built

This week I went to a memorial service for a coworker of mine named Al McLean.  I knew Al best for some of the programs that he started in the neighboring community. These included one of the most dynamic and well structured drop-in centers that I have ever seen, a "safe ride" home program that would pick kids up from dangerous situations and bring them somewhere safe and anonymous forum called "Ask Al" in which kids could ask any questions they wanted from the long time youth worker.

When I was doing research for planting the work of Youth For Christ in Langley, BC I spent time observing these programs that Al had built and was inspired by them.  I remember the big guy standing at the entrance to the drop-in center greeting every kid.  I remember hearing crazy stories about staying up all night with his volunteers helping kids.  He really sacrificed himself to be with the kids, so much so that he died at the age of 49.

Sitting in the auditorium of the funeral service was an interesting experience as the room was filled with a vast array of people.  There were those with purple hair and piercings and those with white hair and canes.   There were those that were dressed in suits and smelled of cologne and those that were in dirty ripped jeans and smelled of pot.

Trying to determine what success in youth work is, is a daunting task.  When you feel that you are about to grasp onto an answer it is pulled away from you.  It is like trying to pick up money off the road as someone has attached fish line on the cash and is merely toying with you for their amusement.  However, sitting in the midst of the memorial service for a fellow youth worker, seeing the tears in the eyes of the young and old together - I caught a glimpse of what success in youth work really should be centered on: Love. This was the most impressed on me when three men shared how Al had found them in jail and the midst of violence and addiction and knowing their problems had adopted them as his own sons.  Isn't that a perfect example of what God does for each of us?

I know that most people reading this didn't know my friend Al, but his example can be inspiring to all of us who are called to youth work, or simply want to be better at loving people the way Jesus would want us to.  I would challenge you to take the hour and a half to watch and experience what the sacrifice of youth ministry is all about. If you only have a few minutes to spare just watch his "sons" share about their "dad" and you will get a glimpse of what success in this job is really all about They start at 41:06 To watch now: Just click here
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