A place for all: Young Life / Wyldlife open to students of many ages, abilities

April 2014 Posted in Other
There were lots of smiles at a recent gathering of Wyldlife kids.  Photo by Brenna Wiegand

There were lots of smiles at a recent gathering of Wyldlife kids. Photo by Brenna Wiegand

By Brenna Wiegand

Rebecca Ortega, who heads Silverton’s Young Life and WyldLife programs, met her husband Kevin in college through Young Life.

They always knew Young Life would be a significant part of their lives.

Their first son, Carson, was born with special needs; he’s very social but intellectually delayed.

Young Life has multiple arms aimed at reaching the often forgotten “fringe” kids – teen parents, deaf students, Latinos, and “Capernaum” for kids with special needs, for instance, autistic, mentally delayed or Downs Syndrome.

With John Pattison and Carol Vanderwall, Kevin and Rebecca established a Capernaum group within its middle school WyldLife program.

Other than Capernaum, the Young Life and WyldLife clubs are usually administered by high school and college-age people.

“It’s chaos, but it’s chaos with a purpose, and the kids love it,” Kevin Ortega said.

“When you walk in, you can play basketball, soccer, volleyball – it’s a free gym,” said 13-year-old Caleb Forester. “Then we’ll go into dodge ball or tag or some other weird fun game.”

The looser atmosphere and engaging young leaders demonstrate acceptance and love to the kids.

“They’re representing God in that,” Kevin said.

Christian programs for students

Young Life: International Christian outreach
program for high school students:
7:30 pm Mondays, 503 N Second St., Silverton

WyldLife: Arm of Young Life for
middle school students:
7-8:30 pm every other Saturday,
Mark Twain gym. Next session: March 1

Capernaum: A segment of WyldLife
for kids with special needs

To help: Food and financial donations
fuel the ministry and allow outings
such as a recent WyldLife trip to a Blazers game.

Information: 503-873-4600; silverfallsyounglife@gmail.com

George Fox senior Hank Ulven heads the local club; his wife Miranda is also a longtime leader.

“Our wedding was mostly a huge crowd of Young Life kids,” Miranda said. “It looked great; it was so fun.”

Hank goes often to Mark Twain during the week to eat lunch, play basketball, chess and otherwise interact with the students.

His yearly goal is getting to know the name of every Mark Twain student. This year he notices more interaction between typical and special needs kids.

“It’s so cool to see these Saturday nights in the gym carrying out into the schools,” he said.

“These guys wouldn’t necessarily have somewhere to go on a Friday night,” Rebecca said, “let alone be able to attend camp this summer.”

Carson gives WyldLife two thumbs up and a huge grin. He enjoys the silly skits and getting to interact with all of his friends “…John, Carrie, Sean, Sara, Noah, Owen, Jack…” The names represent a mixture of  “typicals” and kids with special needs.

“This generation of kids gets it,” Kevin said. “They are compassionate and accepting; they are engaging with the kids with disabilities; they’re not fearful. I have no anxiety at all about sending Carson to school and neither does he.”

“It isn’t as awkward for Sean to be in here,” said Nanette Kuga of her 13-year-old son. “From our experience, it’s been really great.” She said it’s a safe,  way for kids with special needs like Sean and typical kids to build understanding and forge friendships.

“Even for me as a grownup, some special needs kids can be hard to understand speaking wise and that makes you feel awkward,” she said. “Just keep trying.”

“I think they involve the kids with special needs way more than people normally do,” Caleb said. “It’s way easier to talk to them now.”

“I like everything,” Capernaum member Noah Norris said of WyldLife, “I like the games and the lesson.”

That night, Hank Ulven gave a message from a Bible passage in which Jesus heals a leper with the touch of his hand.

“There are going to be times when you feel frustrated or unloved; I know it’s hard,” Hank told the whole group. “But there is always someone there who loves you and accepts you.”

“One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was reaching out to those outside of the mainstream,” Kevin said. “Reaching out and ‘touching’ kids with special needs is precisely what Capernaum ministry is all about.”

“I like all of it,” said Logan Erickson, 13. “There was a game where they put four glasses of water in front of you; one with a goldfish in it. Then you’re blindfolded and they dump the goldfish out and put a peach slice in each glass so they think they’re swallowing a fish!”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.