Four thousand on-lookers watched as Derian Moffitt stepped on to center ice. Donned head-to-toe in a Cat-in-the-Hat costume, holding a pink broom, he laughed and joined a small pumpkin girl and 18 other costumed heroes in an epic broomball battle at a recent Giants hockey game.
Up until recently, this kind of attention would have been a horrific nightmare for Derian. Since his earliest memory, Derian, now 20, has lived with crippling anxiety—sometimes so bad it left him unable to leave the house.
“He has always feared what people would think of him,” says Youth Unlimited outreach worker Cassia Philipson—aka the small pumpkin girl who joined Derian on the ice. “This fear stole Derian’s joy, peace and so many healthy opportunities.”
“Anxiety is a thief,” says Derian. “It steals a lot from someone—especially someone in high school.”
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, anxiety affects six percent of youth and is considered the most common mental illness affecting this demographic. The Canadian Mental Health Commission reports that 70% of young adults with mental health problems say their symptoms began in childhood and that early intervention is key for future success.
Derian first encountered Youth Unlimited through Cassia, while volunteering as a youth ambassador on the North Shore CityFest youth council. Derian soon realized he’d found a youth worker who understands his struggle with anxiety and could journey with him in it.
“Mentorship is the biggest part of Youth Unlimited,” says Derian. “Youth workers, I feel, are the most important thing growing up.”
Derian grew close to the Youth Unlimited team in his community. And soon he met someone else that would have an even greater impact on his life.
“In the past, I would have described myself as an atheist,” says Derian. “I was anti-Christian with a biased opinion towards faith. I would never have thought I would have a connection with
God and know him so well. And it’s all thanks to Youth Unlimited.”
God caught Derian by surprise. In the past, he was suspicious of Christianity, but also hungry to know more about this God behind YU’s loving actions. He attended Youth Alpha, and along the way, Cassia gave him a Bible.
“I still have it to this day,” he says. “There are different passages where I have written in it.
That’s something I never thought would happen, because I’m not a book person. But the Bible’s different!”
While his faith and strong community helped Derian make huge inroads in working through anxiety, he recognizes that it can’t be cured instantly. It’s a slow journey and one best not walked alone.
Derian’s anxiety and depression escalated last fall. A few caring friends became fearful that Derian might be suicidal so Derian was taken to the hospital. Kept there in a room with a police officer watching him, Derian felt scared and alone.
“I felt so out of place, in a barren land,” he recalls.
In spite of the darkness, Derian risked reaching out to his YU community, not really expecting anyone to show up. But, sure enough, before too long, YU youth worker Andrew Chong strolled into his room. He sat. He hugged. He listened. He stayed.
“To see Andrew just show up without any explanation made me feel really cared for,” says Derian. “Because of all the anxiety I deal with…it’s really hard to maintain relationships. But Andrew’s presence made me feel safe.”
Today, Cassia and Andrew can see that Derian has grown by leaps and bounds. He has developed the relational network and coping strategies he needs and is reclaiming his life from anxiety.
“I’ve had the privilege of watching Derian grow from a place where his anxiety crippled his everyday life to where he is today—thriving,” says Cassia. “Though there are still moments when he struggles, he’s decided that he won’t let anxiety be a thief any longer.”
Thanks to your support of staff like Cassia and Andrew, hundreds of kids across Greater Vancouver are not just coping, but flourishing and overcoming their mental health challenges. Like Derian, many are now giving back to others and taking up leadership roles among their peers. Most importantly, many are finding new life.
“I felt God more through YU,” Derian reflects. “I feel like that’s the most magical thing: God placed YU in my life.”
Join Lifeteams: Learn Authentically. Live Justly. Change Your World.
Lifeteams is a eight-month, community-living program for young adults who want experience-based, youth ministry training integrated with college-level coursework.
As specialists in community-based ministry with a theological grounding, Lifeteams trains the next generation of youth workers to step into the lives of young people who need to see Jesus incarnated in their world. The only program of its kind in Canada, Lifetimes will stretch you beyond what you can imagine and engage you in a journey that will continue far beyond this year.
Do you know a young adult who should apply? Applications for the 2017/18 year are now being accepted at
Spring Gala Supporting Young Families // April 7th
Once again Youth Unlimited will be dancing on the rooftop of Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for the annual Spring Gala supporting our Young Families program and celebrating the lives that have been transformed. Join the celebration: www.picatic.com/springgala2017
Join Us for the Abbotsford Burger Bash // May 6th
My wife was the victim of a hit and run recently. She was approaching the Second Narrows Bridge when a guy in a work van sideswiped her car and just kept driving.
Sherri (being awesome) chased him down for 10 minutes till he stopped. His excuse? “I thought I hit a (insert cuss word) pothole.” Right.
While our car was getting fixed, we were given a Ford Flex rental, the gangster edition: tinted windows, low profile wheels—the whole shebang. That week, while driving with Sherri and our two boys on our way to a restaurant, I suddenly saw flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. Instantly, I got an awful, uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach and my heart began to race. I wasn’t sure what I did wrong, but I had such a gross feeling.
Anxiety. I’ve heard it described in this way, except that pit-in-your-stomach feeling doesn’t go away. And it’s typically accompanied by a host of other sensations including overwhelming fear, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath, burning skin and a feeling of losing control.
Young people across Canada are suffering from rising levels of anxiety and depression—which impacts suicide rates. Close to 20 percent of teens have a mental health issue. The Canadian Mental Health Association now estimates that the total number of 12 to 19 year olds at risk of depression is a staggering 3.2 million. Today conversations are opening up about anxiety but many kids still feel like society is saying “here you go, best of luck coping on your own.”
We Are Not Meant to Face Anxiety Alone. The Psalmist, David, figured this out long ago when he wrote:
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,
your love, O LORD, supported me.
When my anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought joy to my soul”
– Psalm 94:18-19
In this edition of Connections, you will encounter a young man named Derian who experienced the hopelessness of crippling anxiety, but thanks to your generosity, he no longer faces it alone. Derian is now surrounded by a life-giving community and thousands of other youth now have YU staff walking with them, connecting them to the same God that brought joy to David’s soul.
Thankfully, I didn’t get a ticket that day. I just happened to be driving a gangster-looking car in North Vancouver with plates registered in Surrey. Hmmm.
With a grateful heart,