Connections September 2023
James first met Dylan at Youth Unlimited’s drop-in centre in Abbotsford. Growing up in a home destabilized by his parents’ addictions and high-conflict relationship, there was a significant risk that Dylan would perpetuate this cycle of addiction and broken relationships. But with supportive intervention, Dylan broke the statistics. Today he is a committed and loving father to his young family, unencumbered by addiction.
Youth Unlimited outreach worker James Parlee was one of those supports for Dylan. Thanks to your support, James, like many YU staff, has been empowered to be that life-changing support for 100s of kids during their time at YU.
“Because Dylan let us in his life, he was able to feel loved and see alternatives to replicating the tough circumstances he grew up with,” says James. “And now, his kids won’t have to go through what he did. I see that as healing and redemption of generations.”
James is familiar with that restoration firsthand. Growing up without a father in the same province, James experienced healing relationships through the intervention of youth pastors and teachers. Intentionally stepping into his life, they provided extra care and modelled healthy masculinity and relationships.
A decade ago, James took a holiday from his finance job to be a camp counselor at Camp Anvil. Sitting in the outdoor chapel, something the speaker said struck a chord that redirected his life trajectory.
“Live authentically. Live justly. Prepare to change your world.” The speaker, YU’s executive director, was sharing the mission of Lifeteams, Youth Unlimited’s intensive urban youth outreach training program. James had a deep desire to impact his world through youth ministry. He realized that Lifeteams was the perfect vehicle to hone this desire and skills. In just a few weeks, James had left his job and moved into the Lifehouse in Abbotsford, BC with eight other world-changers.
“It’s all Andy Harrington’s fault,” laughs James, referring to the speaker who sparked his Youth Unlimited journey—first as a Lifeteams student, then as a volunteer and eventually as a staff member.
Rob and Iona Snair founded Lifeteams in 2000. As youth ministry experts with backgrounds in youth addictions counselling and street outreach, they recognized a need for programs educating those working with vulnerable youth. Over eight months, students complete 30 college-level credits in youth work and Biblical studies. Their learning continues beyond the classroom as students are immersed in community life and youth work placements alongside veteran YU youth workers.
For Rob, the most rewarding part of directing Lifeteams is the return on investment of the 150 Lifeteams graduates.
“For eight months, Lifeteams staff invest in the education and personal development of students like James,” says Rob. “Then, if they’re like him, they spend a decade and counting investing in kids. An eight-month investment returns 10-fold and just keeps going. It’s a beautiful ripple effect.”
The fact that his story has come full circle is not lost on James.
“I feel like my story of growing up without my dad around has been redeemed,” says James. “I now have this beautiful baby boy who won’t grow up in the same circumstances that I did. I get to be there. And that’s my hope and prayer for these kids. That with God’s help they can break the cycle.”
Like many youth workers, James helps Abbotsford youth in schools and clubs. But James goes a step further by opening his own home. Once a week, groups of youth join his wife and son in a family-style dinner, some of them having that family experience for the first time in a long time, if ever. This level of involvement is not always easy, but thanks to the education and personal development James experienced at Lifeteams, he is able to maintain perspective and strength while offering vulnerable youth the support they need.
Last summer, James stood in the outdoor chapel at Anvil, where Andy Harrington stood ten years earlier. This time it was James’ turn to introduce Lifeteams to the next group of emerging leaders. Why should they dedicate a year to community life, academics and youth outreach, James asks?
“We get to empower people,” says James, “and make an introduction to love in a real and powerful way. It’s my favorite part of what we do at Youth Unlimited.”
Twenty-eighth Annual YU Golf Tournament
On Wednesday, June 7, friends of YU will join GVYU on the Langley Redwoods green to tee up for youth. Sponsored by Steelhead Business Products, the golf tournament includes entertainment, dinner and live and silent auction.
For more info:
or (604) 590-3759.
Youth Unlimited Granted $30,00 Grant
Youth Unlimited is pleased to extend a huge thanks to the local arm of the provincial government for the $30,000 grant for its youth work in Maple Ridge. Youth Unlimited’s outreach staff work extensively with a myriad of schools providing breakfast programs for hundreds of kids each week across the city. Youth Workers provide one-on-one support and mentorship to struggling youth, as well as help develop young leaders who volunteer with the program.
Youth Unlimited is pleased to congratulate the Lifeteams class of 2017! May marked the graduation of Lifeteams’ 17th class for the innovative training program. These select students have spent the last eight months being educated for youth work through academic rigor, mentorship and hands-on experience—all while living in community. As they are shaped by this transformative year, so they too will shape the lives of many others.
Whenever I am asked about a favorite movie, I’m often tempted to come up with some obscure foreign film to sound a bit more refined, but no…I usually respond with “Gladiator.” How dolefully boring, but I loved the film, so Gladiator it is. The movie has all the hallmarks of a great story with the hero (Maximus) facing huge life or death obstacles with life-altering consequences. There is a simple but profound line in the film:
“What we do in life echoes in Eternity” – Maximus Decimus Meridius
As a teenager in the 80s I saw the difference a life well lived can make for another human being. You see, my parents fostered broken, hurting children as I was growing up. The stories I heard from my six- and seven-year-old foster brothers and sisters shredded my heart. Their stories centred around fatherlessness, abandonment, poverty, addiction and abuse in all its forms. Huge life obstacles.
I came out third in my family’s birth order and so I was thrilled to finally be a big brother and mentor to these young kids. Years later I realized that the opportunity to be a foster brother changed my life and helped me find my calling. It’s a big reason why I am with Youth Unlimited today. I also know that by God’s grace I have helped change their lives as well. We still keep in touch.
Unconditional love creates a ripple effect where generational cycles are broken.
I love the Gladiator quote because life really is short, eternity seems really long, but our current lives do matter in eternity. At Youth Unlimited, we want to be part of something that makes a difference for eternity and I’m sure you do as well.
In this month’s Connections, you will read James’ story, a living example of how God’s love in and through us can break the cycles of poverty, fatherlessness, addiction and despair. It’s a real thing!
Thank you for choosing to make a difference in this life and in eternity by standing with us as we walk with youth.
“My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” 1 John 4:11
With deepest gratitude,