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- Leah, Leah and Dave

Hello Friends,

I hope this current post finds you well and enjoying FALL!  I love fall, mainly because I have had a week off grad school, but also because of pumpkin pie, colors, pumpkin pie, cooler air, pumpkin pie and for the holidays coming soon!  I spent last week traveling in North Carolina and I am getting ready for a big trip to New Orleans.  In a few paragraphs and three pictures, I am going to try and describe my last few weeks, here goes nothing…

Visiting Newport, TN and Taylorsville, NC last week was phenomenal.  Most of my time was spent with two special people. Pastor Kenny in Newport and Pastor Andrew in Taylorsville.  They are both doing very well.  This time of year in East Tennessee and North Carolina is so beautiful. 

(Rocky Top)

I took one evening and made it to the top of Rocky Top (If I wasn’t a Tennessean before Rocky Top, I am now) and then decided I should also summit Hall’s Top.  Both are about a half hour from Newport, TN and both require an SUV (may have pushed it with the YW’s van).  Rocky Top is straight Tennessee in the form of a hill.  Hall’s Top is a graveyard at the top of a huge hill from the early 1800’s.  I got there in the pitch black and it was a little eerie to say the least. However, both are definitely worth the trip!

(Hall’s Top - Creepy Cemetery)

Lastly, I saw Grace Potter at the Ryman Auditorium Friday and it was one of the best shows I have been to.  Then, I met her last night at a music store.  These are the updates, talk to you again soon! 

Grace Potter and myself (I am on the left)

Meet Barbie Washburn who is a Community Friend and Housing Partner in Marvell, AR. The above picture is of Barbie and her husband DR with the 2012 Marvell Staff.

1) What is your history with YW? Well, it all started about 12 years ago!!! I have been the community contact for YW’s in Marvell since it started here.  A young lady came in the City Hall to get directions to another community and the rest is history……..

2) What is your favorite aspect of working with YW? Getting to know new young people (and see some old friends) each summer.  My husband and I have so many YW babies we lose count sometimes and now we have YW grand babies!

3) What are your hopes/dreams for your community? I have so many……but I would love for it to become what is was 20 years ago when all the stores downtown were open.

4) How do you feel that God has called you to serve in this community? I think God calls me to love on people and to try to make a difference for people in this community.

5) Share one of your favorite stories from your YW experiences? Oh goodness, I have so many YW stories but my favorite would have to be when we lost an adult leader in Helena and the police played a joke on the staff and told them they had arrested him for public intoxication. 

6) When staff and participants leave your community, what do you hope they walk away with? With the knowledge that they will always have a “home away from home” here.  They are loved and missed and they are always welcome back! I have had participants come back and spend the holidays with us and I continue to have staff come back and visit…..AND I LOVE IT!!!!!!

Loaves & Fishes is a feeding program in the Grant Park area housed out of Saint John Mximovitch Orthodox Church- YouthWorks has been volunteering in the summer with this program for over four years- working with Father Jacob to support the ministry he & the members of his church are so passionate about.

I am on a site development trip in Atlanta this week- and stopped in to talk with Father Jacob yesterday- and was encouraged to hear about his summer- Loaves & Fishes a program run completely on volunteers- and they really enjoyed all the youth that passed through over the course of this past summer. Working with Loaves & Fishes is a very impactful experience for the youth- after mentioning this Father Jacob commented “youth probably like coming here just because we are air conditioned…” to follow he commented that youth are able to learn about the community of Atlanta in a very real way. He believes that youth can and are making a difference in the world.

He mentioned an inspiring story that followed the summer- a YouthWorks group from Cullowhee Baptist Church volunteered in the Loaves & Fishes program during their YouthWorks week; however, they did not let their impact stop there- they wanted to continue supporting this ministry. They made hygiene kits for Loaves & Fishes-their pastor was passing through the area – and dropped them off with Father Jacob. Impact can and does go beyond a summer.

Pictured above- Dr. Jeffery Vickery dropping off the hygiene kits.

-Leah Samples

Birmingham Team 2012 (L to R): Alex, Mel, Tyler and Vanessa

1)   Name, Location, Role & Site where you served at YW?

Tyler Erhorn, Service Coordinator, Birmingham

2)   What was your favorite memory in this community & why?

My favorite memory is impossible to pinpoint.  One specific memory I have is working with Habitat for Humanity.  We had a huge pile of debris to move out of a community from the tornado damage during 2011.  During the first week, we had a group that was incredible.  After lunch one day, one of the adult leaders just broke into a “Ray Lewis” pep talk.  He just started screaming and getting his kids absolutely pumped to move a pile of trash.  The following week we had a group that was just physically drained and I had been constantly trying to motivate them for a few hours.  Out of nowhere, a man in a suit drives up with an official from Habitat’s front office.  The man is a representative from the White House and he proceeds to convey his enthusiasm and passion for what Habitat for Humanity had done in the area compared with when he had walked through the community right after the tornado.  After hearing the change that had been accomplished through work similar to what they were doing, the entire crew just lit up and found a new level of energy to finish the day.  That simple pile was an incredible tool that God used to impact a lot of lives unexpectedly, including my own.

3)   Are there any running jokes you want future staff to be aware of?

Any spider that you see is “clearly” a recluse spider, just because they have them in Alabama.  Keep a tally of kills for cockroaches and spiders; it made for an interesting side-focus during the last couple weeks.

4)   What are the ‘must sees’ in this community?

Must-sees are never-ending.  Full Moon BBQ is by far priority number 1. Jim N Nicks is a close second.  Dreamland is legendary, not my favorite, but it’s the first one people remember for some reason. UAB’s campus is very cool.  Birmingham Barons games (minor league baseball) are cool.

5)   Who should you get to know in this community?

So many people in this community are amazing.  Dane Boykin (Leeds), Pastor Gates (Fairfield), Mike Fuller (Food Bank), Janis Evans (Pathways), Pastor Lacy (Church of the Reconciler), and so many other people, a lot of people in the church, YouthWorks community contacts are all amazing people.

6)   Prayers? Hopes for this community?

I am constantly praying for the organizations that all are trying to make an impact in these communities.  Birmingham is an incredible city, but it comes with a lot of history and social problems as a result of a lot of that history (white flight). Among many other things I pray for the city of Fairfield.  I believe God has brought them an incredible opportunity to grow through Pastor Gates among other community leaders and I pray for those leaders consistently.

7)    What are tips to tell trip leaders before they come to this community?

To trip leaders, you have been blessed with an incredibly organized location. Birmingham is a city with a lot of history and a lot of different experiences for kids to experience.  You’re comfort zone will be stretched.  You will leave with a new perspective, whether it be a new perspective for a week or the rest of your life. This is what Birmingham could be for you; imagine the kind of a religious/educational/unforgettable experience this city and mission trip could be for the youth that you bring on this trip.  Come to the site with an open mind ready to serve however God wants you to, don’t be disappointed and don’t be afraid to stretch your comfort zone if you get a service site that you didn’t expect, be positive and you will not believe how much your kids learn from this site and how willingly they will follow you in stretching their comfort zone to spread God’s word.

Last week the Nashville team hopped on a SWA jet and flew up to Minneapolis for a week of 2013 preparations and to take part in the 2012 Christian Community Development Associations annual conference (CCDA).  Monday we had a day of fellowship with almost all of our Real Resources team.  Tuesday and Wednesday the Mission Team met and reviewed last summer, planned for next summer and discussed some exciting new ideas coming up the pipeline.  The rest of the week we spent taking in some challenging speakers and learning from a true legend, Dr. John Perkins at CCDA.  We had the chance to connect with a few new ministries and see some wonderful alumni!  To wrap this blog post up we thought we would each share about one session that impacted us at CCDA.  The theme at the conference was Reconciliation, so here we go:


This was my fourth time attending the CCDA conference and each time I leave feeling inspired and challenged. This year was no different. During the past year at YouthWorks, the mission team read the book When Helping Hurts and as a result we are committed to continuing to provide life changing mission trips; but want to make sure that we are finding the best ways to help and not hurt the communities that we are a part of. This year at the conference, there were still rumblings of how short term missions can negatively affect a community, which I know can be true. However, I am really committed to being a part of the solution. I know that there are things we can continue to work on and do differently and people we can invite to the table to be a part of the conversation.  We made changes last year and will continue to do that in an effort to care for our communities better as well as enrich the experience our participants have. The opening session talking about stories and I know there are a lot of great stories from our communities that our participants need to hear, and we need to help make that happen. I left feeling inspired by the changes we did make this past year and challenged to continue to look for ways to serve and care for communities better.


Over the conference and in my life lately I have been challenged around the topic of selfishness.  I have been thinking about how we are innately selfish. We are born fighting to survive, but at some point we end up with more than we need, but we keep fighting for more.   Hearing speaker’s talk about our history of war, civil rights, poverty, injustice and other topics helped me see the common trend of us as humans clinging to what is ours be that power, money, food, bigger house, etc.  I have also been challenged about how much I talk and do rather than listen and be.  I think I left the conference feeling like I wanted to lay down some of the things I hold on to so tightly and begin to take time to appreciate others and their differences. 

Leah Samples

I along with Dave & Leah- thought that CCDA was an incredible learning experience- especially working in communities that we partner with. One of my favorite aspects of CCDA was the opportunity to attend specific learning intensive workshops that pertain to each person at the conference.  For me, one of the workshops that particularly interested me was ‘CCDA in Mobile Home Communities,’- this interested me for a variety of reasons- there are a few communities that YouthWorks partners with where we work with mobile home communities- and I realized that it would be very helpful- and eye opening to learn from individuals who have worked long term in mobile home communities.  The workshop was able to address some of the issues that are common in many mobile home communities- and not only how to work within those issues- but how to proactively empower people within the community.

The seminar was co-lead by Jim & Melinda Hollandsworth from The Path Project  outside of Atlanta, GA- this wonderful couple has developed a community outreach program that exists in mobile home communities- focused on helping kids discover a better path through spiritual, academic and social development. 

A journey through the summer via hashtags and instagram. So… as many of you know quite a few moments this summer were captured by various forms of social media- enjoy this conglomeration of tweets, instamoments, etc. to get a glimpse of the summer in the Southeast. Throughout the summer- if I wanted to be reminded of the bigger picture that each community is a part of I would revisit the #yw2012 hashtag. I was instantly reminded of the commonalties that we all shared; whether that be through pictures of the endless Sam’s Club trips or pictures of participants serving the communities each week- it was a perfect example of how all the pieces of YouthWorks fit into the whole. As I have been settling back into the office over the last couple of weeks- these have been good reminders of what the summer of 2012 was all about- and how encouraging it can be to know that you are having a similar experience as hundreds of other staff, participants & adult leaders across the country.

Enjoy the variety of tweets, pictures, instamoments below; special thanks to all of the staff, participants and adult leaders who captured these moments.


Tweets from the beginning of summer- RAMP, prep week & earlybird:

 Finally in booneville so excited and feel like this will def. be a good summer!#yw2012

4 1/2 hours of sleep. It’s definitely prep week for #yw2012 #zombiemode

Line dancing in Nashville. This is how we do. #teambonding 

2 weeks and we foud the CVS our CIPs talked about. #yw2012

& the summer is in full swing

We’re united in Jesus and Insanity #yw2012

25 pizzas. Normal. #yw2012

Blessed by a conversation with an adult leader. #wisdom #yw2012

Nothing like bingo with some seniors. #chatty.

Adult leader party + Pizzookie = a good time #yw2012

Oh the things overheard in a #yw2012 van…

Oh. My. Word. All this from their sleeping rooms?!?! #yw2012


Sams Club, Walmart, etc.

You are going to fit all of that food in that van? Impossible. #challengeaccepted #victor #yw2012

2,000 dollars at Sam’s club, holy flatbeds… #yw2012 #chatlantaham

Last late night Walmart trip? Check. #yw2012

You know you come to sams every Friday when you notice the rearrangement of food. @chatlantaham

 Taylor Swift even made it into a couple of the tweets from the SE:

Nothing like 7 high school men in a kitchen singing t-swift #yw2012 #chatlantaham

Hey @taylorswift13 come join our cookout at the General Board of Discipleship across from your apartment! #yw2012

New goal. Have @taylorswift13 come to our cookout that happens every Thursday right in front of her penthouse.

 So long for now- EXIT Ramp

Was last night really my last youthworks Sunday night “bed time story”? #yw2012

It’s a sad day. But I can’t wait for a real room! #yw2012

9 hours. 5 states. One destination: Exit Ramp. #yw2012                                               

Cool temps, corn fields and Pepsi products boo #missingtheSE

Its a week of lasts…don’t know if I’m ready for this summer to come to an end. #bittersweet

123 miles to Birmingham #exitramp #hategoodbyes

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the summer- and were reminded about some of the fun, silly & meaningful moments from the summer.  

Leah Samples

Hello YouthWorks staff, office members, participants, adult leaders and friends.  Dave Jaeger checking in from the Nashville office after YouthWorks 19th summer serving across North America.  It’s wonderful sending out this first blog after having a few weeks to process a bit of what happened this summer.  As I spent time reflecting on the last few months I thought putting together a Top Five list of some serious and some funny things that were a part of summer would be refreshing/fun/sentimental.  Before I start the list, one more quick thought.  Reflecting on summer led me to realize this Top Five list is my experience, the only experience I truly can share.   I would love to hear your experience and story, so please reply and share with us.  Alright, here we go… the Top Five reasons despite the challenges that summer was worth it:

5. I spent one morning this summer doing my best job as a lawyer trying to get one of my staff free from being detained by the police for a crime he didn’t commit.  Actually, I never had to be a lawyer because he was free before I got there, but he was detained and I choose to think they let him go when they saw me coming!   

4. I had the chance to manage three communities where we had around 1,500 students serve for a week providing around 30,000 volunteer hours.  They accomplished this through partnering with/providing services for children, painting homes, working with soup kitchens, food pantries and local churches.  It is so neat seeing students take sacrifices to serve with their summers, sometimes I learn more from them than I am able to offer most days.

3. I am constantly amazed at my job and the things that I find myself doing that I am totally unprepared for.  For instance, cutting through walls and crawling in the ceilings of a church to rescue six, three week old baby kittens that are now healthy and have great homes.  Here is a picture of the first three we rescued (I named them Frodo, Topenga and Katniss). They were tired little buggers!

2. I had the opportunity to watch 12 staff make huge sacrifices to leave home for the summer, get paid very little to work 16 hr days and handle situations way over their heads (and mine), all for the chance to reflect Christ’s love to our communities and youth.

1. Its hard admitting each year that God continues to reveal himself in new ways and teach me when I get out of my comfort zone.  Many times during our summer program I find myself in places that are uncomfortable and difficult.  Being present in those situations and pushing through them while learning from them is crucial.  However, the most important/difficult step for me is getting to the point where I can’t offer anything else and God must work.  Getting there is humbling.  Every year I fight to be independent of others help and also from God stepping in because I think can do it all on my own.  Every year I get to the point where I am empty and I am forced to let go of my strength, ego and control.  I hate letting go, but I am coming to believe that growth and trust in God comes only through us being able to let go.  Once I let go, I find a place of peace and rest, but also a place where I have made room for God to do what he does.  So, this summer was worth it for another chance to see his faithfulness and realize he is worthy of my trust.  

The YouthWorks summer is officially over and this past weekend we were able to celebrate our staff and give God glory for all the great things he did this summer. We had so much fun! There was good food, processing, laughter and dancing! It was a wonderful time of celebration!

The weekend started off on Sunday with teams dropping their stuff off at the church and then heading to the hotel for the night. They were able to go to dinner with their areas a different restaurants across the Birmingham area and then got a night in a hotel.

Monday when staff arrived at the church, we had them take a little journey of the places they WERE this this summer (Our theme was “You are Here” this summer) which led them to being HERE at Exit RAMP. We made a little pathway for them to walk around together and held up signs that said thinks like, “You were in the Kitchen…., You were washing feet….. and You Were spending time with Youth, etc”.

The final sign said, Thanks for being There and Congratulations on making it Here….Welcome to Exit-RAMP!


We spent part of the day having staff turn in their paperwork and resources back to us and then went into a time of beginning to help them process their summer. After our processing time, we had a great dinner for them that we call the Faithfulness Feast and it was quite the party!!!! The support staff serve our teams dinner so they can all just sit and enjoy it with their areas. People were singing, laughing and we even had an impromptu Cupid Shuffle during dinner. Here are some pictures that show how the room was all decorated.

The tables were decorated so nice and the energy in the room was celebration. The staff gift this year was a journal and fun pair of sunglasses!

We headed over to begin our evening programming and made the big announcement that the Southeast Region had won the Youth Enterprise Cup of Glory, which means we sold the most YE t-shirts!!! It was a close race, but we beat out the Eastern Region by 1.1%. Due to a shipping error, our Cup of Glory ended up in Arizona, so we had to make our own.

And here is a picture of the Cairo team who won the top selling team for our region and also set the new Record of top sales, by selling $57.38 per person their last week. The previous record was $42.18 in 2008, so they blew it out of the water. Here is the Cairo team with their new hoodies!

We finished off the night by laughing over some funny stories and skits, sharing Yea Gods and worshiping together! It was a great summer and I am so thankful for all the hard work and leadership our staff provided this summer. God did amazing things in and through them this summer!

We had airport runs beginning at 2:15am and the last one left at 9:30am. After all the staff had departed, we had one last lunch together at Cracker Barrel. We had a wonderful support team that made this weekend possible, and here is a picture of our team.

And finally, one last picture of my wonderful Area Directors. Dave, Leah, Jessica, Brianne, Stephen and Courtney did an amazing job and I am so thankful for all of their hard work and leadership this summer. It was a great summer together and I am so blessed to have had them on my team this summer and am so proud of each of them. And they gave me the best thank you gift ever, tickets to see Carrie Underwood! That is such a generous gift and I can’t say Thank You enough!

So there we go folks, Summer 2012 is in the books! We’ll we taking two weeks of vacation, but will be back at the end of August!

This summer across the Southeast Region, we have had lots of groups participate in our book and school supply drive. We are so thankful for all the donations we have received and because of generous donations, there are a lot of kids that were able to get some new books for themselves and get the blessing of some new supplies for the school year.

Here are some pictures of the donations that came into Marvell this summer. I know that there were lots of other sites that received donations and for that we are so thankful!