Why I Work With Youth
Serving alongside Jon this summer
This summer marked a really interesting time for me in my ministry. I had the honor of being recognized for fifteen years of service with Youth Unlimited. Sometimes I’m asked about why I continue to work with teenagers, and sometimes I ask myself the same question (like after having to have ACL replacement surgery after a youth event last August). The answer comes from the fact that I was once a hurting, broken teen myself. I fought through depression, suicidal threats and many complications in relationships. I would have lost that fight had I not come to a point of encountering Jesus. In Jesus, I found someone who was willing to walk with me through all of the hard times, and who showed me how to love those who were lost, broken and hurting. Through loving others, I found healing. Years later, through this work, I am motivated to bring a little bit of that hope and healing into the lives of all the broken and hurting young people that cross my path.
I was reflecting on this when the tragic news broke across Canada of two teen boys who were involved in several murders. I felt terrible for the victims and families, and I was also stirred with compassion for those two boys. I wondered what had driven them to the point of making such horrible decisions. Such stories motivate me to continue working with teens. So many of them walk a razors edge between life and death. My hope is that my presence has prevented similar news headlines, like I was seeing, from occurring elsewhere. After taking these thoughts to Facebook, I was contacted by the media to share my thoughts on the importance of youth work. For several days, I was able to share my life, my work and my faith across the country in ways I had never done before.
I was overwhelmed with encouragement from strangers, friends and family. I was also contacted by former youth, many of whom I had not spoken with for years. I wanted to share some of their notes with you:
“You have a wonderful message and I’ve always had high respect for you bro. We need more people like you.”
“ [You] helped me to understand Jesus’ unconditional love “
“I just wanted to say I had no idea the impact you have on youth and I was really enlightened listening to you talk about your role and it really inspires me to be as compassionate as you and try to help in my community as much as I can. I also wanted to say thank you, even though I wasn’t super involved with YU, because you’ve had a big impact on me, so a big thank you for doing the work you do and just being an amazing person!”
“I just wanted to reach out and let you know how proud of you I am and how grateful I am that you do what you do for people. You all always embrace and welcome each and every person who walks through those doors regardless of faith and beliefs and you all work so hard to create a safe space for those who need or want it. I feel it is so important to have people like you working so hard to help youth in need. Keep up the amazing work”
“As I listened to your interview today I found myself getting emotional as you were speaking. I don’t think that I really gave it much thought about what you were doing at YU. Although I know your role there, I hadn’t processed what it might mean to a youth that you would take time to connect with them, press into their lives, to help them to feel heard and even loved. It’s unfortunate that these two boys from Port Alberni didn’t have the opportunity connect with someone like you, Danny. I know that the outcome would have been different if they had. I admire you and have a respect for how you are making a difference in these young people’s lives. Keep it up Danny. You have my support 100%”
As I step into this fall season I am inspired to continue on. To help more young people. To be like Jesus in loving those on the outskirts of society. And yet in the midst of this, I am facing a sobering reality. I cannot do this alone. It costs $92 per year, per youth to invest at the level to make this kind of difference. I am currently looking for people to help cover the costs of 261 local youth by investing in my work with YU for this next season. Help be a part of these ongoing stories and do something about preventing more devastating headlines in our future.
- Danny Ferguson