Connecting with a camper 20 years later: My Young Life Malibu story


Praying for God’s  Encouragement — June 1999

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

—2 Thess. 16-17

I was just beginning one of those long special days at the Young Life Malibu Club in Canada in June of 1999.  Shaun was up there on work crew that month, and Lisa and Vance were to come up in a week or two and be the yacht hosts.  Our little cedar cabin, called Sequoia, overlooked the Princess Louisa Inlet and the view from there was always awe inspiring.  As I was leaving the cabin that morning to begin the day with a staff meeting, I glanced at the inlet with it’s mist beginning to let the sunshine through, and asked God for something.

My job that month was that of camp manager, a job which for me was very easy, especially compared to the old days in Young Life when you were the speaker, camp manager, and summer staff coordinator all at the same time.  Maybe I was feeling a little old (I was 58), or that I was passing on the tough responsibilities of camp to the younger generation and was being lazy.  I honestly don’t know.  I just knew I needed encouragement.

Here is what I prayed: “God . . . I don’t want to be a wimp or a burden to you but could you just show me a little special encouragement today . . . that I’m still okay?  I don’t even know how you would do that?  And I’m sorry for the bother.”

As the morning progressed, a seaplane flew over Malibu, landed, and floated up to the inside dock.  Two Young Life staff couples got off the plane and I went down to welcome them.  The first couple was slated to be on the staff at Malibu during July.  I knew the guys only slightly because I was from California and they were from the northwest.  I didn’t know the wives at all.

That afternoon I bumped into one of the wives, Dale, having an ice cream cone at the Totem Inn.  We ended up sitting outside together and began getting acquainted a little.  I asked her when she had become a Christian.  She said that she had begun to follow Christ as a high schooler right here at Malibu about twenty years ago.  That’s always a treat to hear, so I asked her what  specific year it had been.  She told me and it clicked in my mind that I was one of the speakers that summer.  So I asked her which month.  She told me, and I smiled and replied, “Guess what?  We were up here together!”

It turns out that I had been the speaker the week she started her walk with Jesus.


We were both excited because of the special bond.  She told me that she had always wondered who the speaker had been, and that it was wonderful to meet again.  She expressed her heartfelt thanks to me, and has repeated that thanks more than a few times through the years.

Walking back to our little cabin after that conversation, I thought of my petty little request that morning for encouragment, and thanked God for his very specific answer.  I think to him, we don’t have any petty requests.  He understands even our dumb insecurities and loves us anyway.


One comment on “Connecting with a camper 20 years later: My Young Life Malibu story

  1. Chaz Hitz
    November 9, 2013

    What a great outlet for you Joe as you are a great writer and speaker! Your article is about a place and faith I know and love which is a draw to me. I think you sum up my similar feelings that Malibu is indeed generational and the old is passing away and the new is falling right behind. Which is the way of life.

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