“Partnering with the local church, that’s what it’s all about” was the theme of our conversation this past week as I sat with Jeffrey Chambers over coffee. That is his vision, his plan, his calling.
Jeffrey came to know Christ as his savior when he was 30 years old. Attracted to, and very interested in a sweet young lady named Lizzy, he agreed to go as an adult guest to Woodleaf, a Young Life camp in California. He’d grown up around the church but, admittedly, was living life on his own terms. But it was there, standing in the back of the meeting room that Jeffrey knew heart was finally ready to surrender. And surrender he did.
Sold out is more like it. A teacher and a coach, Jeffrey soon realized that the call on his life was to reach kids with the same gospel that transformed his heart and mind.
He answered the call to full time ministry when Fort Ord chaplain, Scott Morris, moved to Chelan to take a pastorate. Jeffrey had spent 15 years growing up at Fort Ord, where his mother was stationed. Soon after Scott accepted the position, Jeffrey followed to become the youth pastor at Living Stone Church. It didn’t take long before his Young Life experience and the essentials of the mission became central to his work. The church commissioned him to devote a full year to the re-launch of the Chelan Young Life area. It was clear to Jeffrey that he needed to come alongside the local church and be faithfully committed, never competing with it. “The mission exists as an extension of the church, not a replacement for it,” says Jeffrey. And he continues to lead the ministry accordingly, nor just with his home church but with all churches. He wants to serve as an extension of all Jesus-Centered churches in the valley.
The leadership that has arisen in this valley is impressive. He and Lizzy marvel at the quality and capacity of the local leaders who are behind the ministry in prayer, support and time. He reminisced how Pastor Scott and his wife, Kristi, have engaged with the ministry and continue to serve while having significant responsibilities elsewhere. We reflected on John and Clarissa’s long-time passion for the mission. We marveled at the support from his own church (Living Stone), Chelan Nazarene, Riverwalk Assembly and Northshore in Manson. When Jeffrey talks about Young Life, he talks about the local church.
And then we started talking about kids. O my!
A young girl named Norma has especially touched this gentle man’s heart. The oldest of 5 kids, Norma’s family moved to Chelan a few years back. Their past had been marked by great challenges. Norma was invited to the newly re-launched Young Life club and, later that summer, was part of the group of 8 that were given a chance to go to Malibu in Canada. Jeff Huber, the speaker that week, presented the gospel clearly and illustrated the Father’s love, a love that Norma desperately wanted but had never known. With Kristi Morris’ help and the open heart and arms of Jeffrey Chambers, Norma responded to the gospel and her life has never been the same since.
Norma, and now her 5 siblings, are active in their church and in Young Life. From a season of hopelessness to a future full of hope in Christ, Norma’s story is praiseworthy chapter of a life forever marked by God.
As much as we discussed the kids and the leaders, no one stood out in our meeting more than his wife, Lizzy Chambers, the gal who stole his heart and won’t give it back. Jeffrey adores and admires his wife and appreciates how deep her love for Jesus goes. Such a beautiful testimony and picture for kids, leaders and the whole community to see!
Young Life in Chelan went through a “Jump Start” 2 years ago. The mission is growing but, with growth, are the challenges of ramping up. There isn’t enough in the budget yet to fully support an Area Director staff position so Jeffrey continues on as associate staff, serving as a pastor at his church and teaching and coaching in the district.
While his time is a bit more spread out than he’d prefer, he envisions the community coming together through focused attention on growing the ministry as an extension of the church. He firmly believes this will work and will sustain the mission so the unchurched will experience the incarnational gospel. He said “he’s open” to being the full-time Young Life guy someday if that’s God’s will for him. But he’s also wondering if it will be one of the volunteer leaders currently serving, or perhaps even one of kids living in the valley that God might raise up. Whomever it ends up being, the momentum is proving that his vision is correct. Churches in Chelan and Manson are joining alongside the mission, galvanizing support, training and sending leaders. Two middle school clubs are in full swing now, along with the high school club continuing to blossom.
Young Life in Chelan has such great momentum right now! There’s still a budget that needs to be built around the generosity of the community. There are leaders that are rising up that need to be nurtured and equipped. There are lots of kids who need to be reached and befriended by folks sent to be the hands and feet of the gospel. But Jeffrey’s excitement is infectious as he focuses on both reaching kids and making sure the mission stays an extension of the local churches.
Way to go, Jeffrey & Lizzy! Way to go, Chelan/Manson Church family! Way to go Jesus!