YOUTH FOR CHRIST HIRES NEW DIRECTOR
- Mardi Ford
- The Observer
It's lunch hour at the J House, and the space is filled with a dozen or more La Grande High School kids.
Some are talking in small groups. Others are squared off in a good-natured competition at the foosball tables with local youth minister, Tom Selman.
In the center of the living room, Kevin Rainey and three youths are intent on a game of Hacky Sack.
During the week, J House is always open for a free lunch and some fun just a short walk across the street from LHS.
A decade ago, Rainey was walking the halls of the same high school.
"I was not a Christian in those days," the 28-year-old says, owning up to causing his fair share of trouble back then.
The last thing any of his teachers would have expected out of him, Rainey says, was a conversion to Christ and a call to youth ministry.
Ironically, two weeks ago Rainey took the helm of the Youth for Christ ministry at J House, 1001 2nd St. He has run into some former Tiger teachers there as a Tiger Eye volunteer.
"They ask me what I'm doing now. I tell them." Rainey grins. "And they're like, Really. Wouldn't have thought that,'" he says.
For the past three years Rainey has worked part-time as a youth leader at La Grande's First Baptist Church. The call to full-time youth ministry was a natural progression from his work with both churched and unchurched teens.
"I see their hearts and there is such need. Some of them are so lost don't have a good family life or whatever. There is a huge need for someone to step up and guide them," he says.
Two weeks ago, Rainey was offered the full-time youth pastor's job at his church. That same day, after Callie Goss had retired as the Youth for Christ's executive director, the Youth for Christ board offered the job to Rainey.
"Two full-time ministry jobs in the same day." Rainey shakes his head and smiles at the way of Providence. "I've always had another job outside of ministry to pay the bills," he says.
As the Executive Director for Youth for Christ in Eastern Oregon, Rainey's official title, he is excited about J House activities as well as plans for expanding into both Union and Elgin. He says the Elgin facility is close to becoming a reality.
"I'm happy and excited to be a part of Youth for Christ," Rainey says. "It's not often people get to work full time in what they're most passionate about."
Besides the daily lunch activity, in November the J House will start up its traditional midweek breakfast club. That event has always been geared more toward discipleship for kids who are already believers and followers of Jesus, Rainey says, although everyone is welcomed. Other area youth pastors attend to share with the group teaching, training and equipping them for the next generation of Christian leadership.
On Mondays at 7 p.m., J House holds a Christian youth group for high school kids designed as an outreach for unchurched teens.
"This group is primarily for kids who, otherwise, may not step foot inside a church," Rainey explains.
Other activities include an annual missions trip to Mexico during spring break, where Youth for Christ is building a church and houses. There are also summer camps and the occasional trip to Creation or some other type of Christian rock concert.
"We don't ask the kids for money or donations for meals or youth group meetings," Rainey says. But for camps and the annual missions trip to Mexico each spring break, participating kids do have to come up with some money. "We usually hold fundraisers for stuff like that, though," he adds.
Fundraisers for local Youth for Christ include two main ones a banquet in the winter and a golf tournament in the summer.
Rainey's focus at J House is to reach out to what he calls the seekers, as well as to welcome those who've already accepted Christ.
"We're here to provide a fun and safe environment for all these kids," Rainey says. "This is an outreach. We're here to build relationships and share the gospel. If a kid chooses to accept Christ, then we're here to plug them into a support system for new believers through their family or a local church. And, of course, we're always here, too."