A place that we can freely share that we are broken. That is Ed Gallo’s vision for the church, for Young Life and, as he sees it, God’s Kingdom.

Ed and his wife, Bethany, have been serving Young Life Lower Valley for over 3 years now. He serves as a full time volunteer staff member and Bethany is a full time elementary school teacher. They both give heart and soul to the ministry.

Ed & I met at Holy Pies & Deli yesterday afternoon. Christmas praise music was playing through the room as we huddled in the corner and he shared his journey of faith with me. It truly was a Holy Place. The praise music was the perfect backdrop to hear the story of all that God has done in and through his life.

His vision for ministry began 13 years ago when he showed up to a young-adult group at the invitation of a friend. He was alone, away from family, working through the consequences of some of the decisions he’d made at a young age. He was broken and had no real sense that the future could hold any hope. Then he met Angel Ruiz, who befriended and discipled him, modeled the gospel and taught him that God loved, healed, and used broken people as part of His redemptive plan to reach the world.

Ed has never been the same since. From that moment on, Ed has been in full time ministry. He’s only been in paid positions a couple of times. He views ministry as something he willingly does for free, since God’s grace was free. Yet Ed knows how costly the work of Christ is. He knows that following Jesus, truly following him, requires that you give everything up and follow Him wherever He leads.

Ed’s ministry journey took him to work at Cityteam’s Camp May-Mac in Santa Cruz where he held a number of ministry positions, working in the camping-adventures setting with at-risk youth. He worked there for about 6 years. He recalls sitting with a 9 year-old young girl named Lulu in 2008 and hearing how she, the oldest of her siblings, was also their primary care-giver (9 years old!). He remembered setting an empty chair next to her so she could imagine that Jesus was sitting there with them as they led her in prayer for the very first time in her life.

It was also there, at that very camp and that very year, that he knew he was attracted to the fierce faith of his, now wife, Bethany. She, too, was drawn to ministering to the needs of kids. Like Ed, her heart was for the kids at this camp who were from the tougher neighborhoods marked by poverty and brokenness. It wasn’t long after and they were married.

Their ministry travels took them to Idaho and now on to Sunnyside. Along the way they have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, both of whom bring a sparkle to their daddy’s eye when he talks about them!

Ed & Bethany are a team. They leverage their talents and abilities along with their heart for kids and a desire to be an “Acts 2 people” as the means of impacting the Sunnyside and Mabton YL club with the gospel message. Ed pours himself toward and into his leaders. He meets every Friday with them. They share a meal, they fellowship, they get in the word together. He sees the fruit of this work in the retention, recruitment and equipping work that he is called to do.

The ministry here is still on the new-ish side but has made huge strides in the past 3 years. They have 17 volunteer leaders that are fired up about the mission. The committee is built and growing, healthy and moving in a great direction. Clubs are well attended with regular attendance in the 80’s.

But there is still much work to do. The donor base is still limited. Getting the cost of camp within reach for kids is still very difficult. Connectivity with the church still needs work so that the ministry is not competing with but serving as an extension of the local churches.

Though the work may seem daunting, Ed’s faith is not diminished. It’s growing. He continues to be inspired by his wife’s passionate faith, her worshipful heart, the vibrancy of the word in his own devotional life and the growth he’s seeing in his leaders and the kids they serve.

As we pray for this great team in this valley, may we see it as Ed and Bethany see it – a fertile valley for the gospel of Christ to bear much fruit.

Ed’s story is a story of God making something beautiful out a life that was broken. God used a kind hearted guide named Angel to lead him to understand God’s plan and purpose for salvation and Ed surrendered his brokenness for the promised hope in Jesus. He then brought along a beautiful angel in the person of Bethany to support and journey with him. It’s not been easy. In fact it’s been messy at times.

Jesus was born in a messy stable during a messy time. The first Christmas wasn’t merry – it was messy.   That was Ed’s Christmas Club message this past week. God’s church must always be a safe place for broken people to hear the hope-filled message of that first Christmas.

Ed – your story is so very redemptive and points us to Jesus. You are clearly God’s man for this time and season in this valley. It was so very good to hear how deep your love and admiration for Bethany is, how committed you are to equipping and sending your leaders, how fiercely you love your baby girls and how surrendered you are to the call of Christ in your life. Thank you for sharing your story with me and with those here in this valley who love you. Lead on, brother!

Way to go, Ed and Bethany! Way to go, Jesus!

Merry (even if messy) Christmas!

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