I grew up in the military family. Moving every 3 years was the norm, but one particular move rocked my world. I was 15, had an amazing group of Christian friends, and had an incredibly successful year on my High School’s Swim Team. My father was told we would be moving that summer, and I found out we would be moving to Heidelberg, Germany. I was shattered. After saying my goodbyes, I remember very melodramatically stating “My life is over” as I walked onto the plane.
What I didn’t know was that my life was just beginning.
Upon arrival, I was introduced to this local group called Club Beyond (or, as you might know it, Young Life Military). They played games and talked about Jesus, but the staff were all about to move. I tried going, but giving up what I had in Texas mentally was holding me back from fully being present and trying to make friends. That year was rough. There were very few kids in my school who were living out their faith, and I felt completely abandoned and isolated. My mom grew increasingly worried, as her normally happy go-lucky daughter turned to emo music and cried herself to sleep every night (No, really. You should hear my mixtape from that year. I laugh at it now). One night she wondered out loud if maybe I would benefit from being sent to live with my Grandparents in Colorado. The thought cheered me up a little, because maybe it meant I could escape. Increasingly, however, my mood and demeanor turned sour. I was a walking cloud of depression, and I started to doubt whether or not I would be able to keep myself alive through the remainder of high school.
Then came Sara.
Sara came to YL Military at the end of my first year in Germany. She became my person. I think she knew that I wasn’t ok (a fact I was successfully hiding from most people). She took me out for my first cup of Starbucks coffee, and made “Coffee Dates” a regular thing. She helped me dive deeper into my faith, and emboldened me to start inviting my friends to Club. New teens arrived in community who also had a relationship with Christ. We had a place to go that was safe. We knew we could relax and not be on our guard from the stream of negativity so pervasive at our school. We knew we had caring adults who would listen to what was going on in our lives; to give us advice if we asked for it but just listened when we didn’t. We knew that they actually cared about us and our futures. If we were called out on behavior, we didn’t mind because they truly loved us. More people from school started coming to Club. Even if they didn’t buy “the whole Jesus thing”, Club was recognized as one of the safe places for teens in our community. Kids who didn’t come to Club would still want to hang out with the leaders, because the leaders were safe.
I now work for YL Military-Club Beyond; ministering to kids just like me. Who are lost. Who have no roots. Who are pulled out of everything familiar on a routine basis. Who are trying to answer the age-old question “Who Am I?”, when they’re surrounded by people they just met in a place they don’t know. It’s an adventure. It’s hard work. It’s a need at military bases around the globe.
And it’s the most at home I’ve ever felt.
Written by: Bethany Carter