What gets me up in the morning is the opportunity to think about how we can reach every kid in Eastern NY and Western New England. I know that the dream won’t be realized tomorrow, but I love thinking about what it would take to realize it over a 20 year arc. What would it take to get Young Life into every community, every school, every nook and cranny of this part of the world where there are adolescents who need Jesus?
The Adirondack and North Country region of New York provides a strategic challenge to reaching every kid. With tiny school districts spread out over a large area, and communities separated by mountains and water but united by a spirit of fierce independence, reaching adolescents in this beautiful part of the country will take a special effort and creative strategies.
These unique challenges in this part of the country are why I am thrilled to report that on February 1, we hired Brad Varner to full-time field staff in the Adirondack and North Country Region. Previously, he was on part-time staff, focusing on ministry in the community of Saranac Lake. His new role frees him up to spend more time growing the ministry in Saranac Lake and surrounding region, as well as helping us develop ministries in new communities. His first development project will be to come alongside the Young Life team that has been developing in Plattsburgh. (You can read some of the background about that in this post.) Our next need in that community is the recruiting and training of the volunteer leaders who will start the first club in that area.
My favorite part of Brad joining our team on a full-time basis is the faith that it took for him and his family to make the jump. The story is too much to go into in this space. But the journey began with a simple question I asked him over lunch one day: “Brad, how are you doing?” That conversation, and many that followed, led Brad, his wife Brooke, their close advisers, and our regional leadership team to conclude that God was calling Brad to this work in the Adirondacks and North Country. One obstacle was funding. Brad would have to raise an additional $45,000 in personal support to make it possible. It seemed an insurmountable challenge. It wasn’t. He began talking to potential donors at the end of November, and received his final pledge toward the $45K goal on February 6th. Praise God!
Another great wrinkle in this story is how well suited the Varner family is for ministry in this part of the country. Although neither of them are native to the area, they have adopted the Adirondacks as their home. After leaving for a period, they returned five years ago so Brad could work at Young Life’s Saranac Village. During this transition to a full-time field role, continuing to make their home in the Adirondacks was one of the Varners’ guiding convictions. Brad and Brooke have the gifts, experience, skills, and temperament needed to thrive in ministry in this part of the country.
In order to reach every kid, it will take a team of people who love Jesus Christ, and who are willing to trust him with their lives. This is the heritage that we in Young Life have received from the the pioneers who have gone before us. It is my privilege and joy to be a part of building, leading, and encouraging that team in our little corner of the world.