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May 6, 2021

Rowan County Young Life

By Kynsay Hunt, Salisbury Post Intern

Since 1941, the parachurch youth ministry Young Life has gone from a Texan organization to an unbounded, international movement. Encompassing several different ministries, from high school youth to children with disabilities, the organization invites kids from every imaginable background to learn about Christ in a non-judgemental environment.

Young Life was officially established in Rowan County in 2000, but its journey to reach Rowan County students started long before. In the 1980s, Salisbury residents Susan and Dem Ward became involved with Young Life. They recognized the need for such an organization and started a group to pray for Young Life’s establishment in Salisbury. Chris Fowler, the first Rowan area director, started Young Life at Salisbury High School, but by 2009, the organization had spread to almost all Rowan County schools, even branching to Gray Stone Day School and South Rowan High School by 2015.

Unlike most clubs, Young Life has no requirements; any student from any background with any beliefs is encouraged to come to meetings, also known as ‘clubs.’ Current Rowan area director Susan Nixon says that one of the ministry’s missions is to meet kids where they are. “Even if they have never heard of us, whether they would consider themselves religious or not, we interact with them in schools and invite them to club where they can have a good time with friends and learn more about what a relationship with God looks like for a teenager.”

Photo by Kynsay Hunt
Lindsay Spada enjoying the cool, early fall weather in Weaverville

Each year, anyone who wants can join Rowan County’s weekend retreat, called ‘Fall Weekend,’ into the Appalachian Mountains, where students spend 36 hours unplugged with friends, learning more about Jesus. For the past four years, the organization has taken kids to Windy Gap, a Young Life camp located in Weaverville, just outside Boone. Windy Gap, nestled in a mountain valley off the beaten path, provides a picturesque location and safe environment for students to explore and grow their faith in addition to fun activities, from a ropes course and waterslide to horseback riding.

In an increasingly digitized world, where most need some form of modern technology to do everyday jobs, the thought of an unplugged weekend seems more challenging than refreshing. However, Rowan County Young Life alumna Anna Lewis says that being away from her devices helped her connect with the people around her: “it allows you to really embrace every opportunity to connect to the people and environment right in front of you. You get to fully be in the moment, which is something I think us teenagers tend to miss out on these days.”

The organization also takes students on a week-long retreat during the summer of each year, almost as an extension of the Fall Weekend experience on a much larger scale. The location for 2019 was released to students before heading home from their Fall Weekend last week. In July 2019, Rowan County Young Life will travel to a camp in Upstate New York, located on Lake Saranac. Like Fall Weekend, students spend the week unplugged from their devices, experiencing nature, developing friendships, and learning more about the person of God.

Visit rowancounty.younglife.org for more information and to sign up for summer camp at Saranac Village.

Photo by Kynsay Hunt
Forging friendships at Windy Gap, a Young Life Camp

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