YoungLife pushed my son to suicide

17 Feb

Some of you might have read Mechanic Dude’s comments here at CA and picked up on the sad, sad story of his son’s experience with Young Life. Here is the whole story from the perspective of a grieving father who believes his son was pushed to suicide because of his involvement with Young Life.

Young Life Pushed My Son To Suicide

This is the story my son told me before his death at just 17yrs old. I have left it raw and emotional. The Young Life Organization is a Christian youth ministry with a special focus on public schools. In fact they are practically non existent outside of the public school system and their elaborate summer camps, usually located in very scenic and expensive areas of the US.

My son attended a public high school in Reno NV. My first knowledge of YoungLife was when he asked if he could go out with a friend that had a car. He said that he was older and a very nice person from his high school. At just 15 yrs. old I was skeptical and wanted to meet this person. A very young looking person shows up at the door and assures me he is a safe driver and that they were just…

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31 Responses to “YoungLife pushed my son to suicide”

  1. ... Zoe ~ February 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    *I left the following comment at MD’s blog. Some minor editing done to it.

    Thank you for sharing your story MD. In this case clicking on the *Like* button feels wrong because I don’t like that your son died but I want others to see your blog.

    I was born-again at a youth church camp at age 13 (1969) and no one knew I prayed the sinner’s prayer but all the hell stuff scared me big time. I asked Jesus into my heart. I didn’t want to go to hell when I died. A friend of mine was made to stay on her knees at an outdoor cross until she prayed and was “saved.” She only did it so the counsellor would let her go. He kept at her and at her and was bullied into her salvation. My teen years were very vulnerable for me for reasons I won’t go into here. My first thoughts of taking my own life or self-harming were around the age of 13.

    My heart goes out to you but it is heavy because later in life as I continued down the born-again conservative evangelical Christian world I would raise my children in, I also became a lay youth ministry leader with my husband in an known international youth church club. I also promoted another Christian church club in the public school our children attended.

    I’m no longer a Christian having left the belief almost 10 years ago now. It has been a difficult journey for me dealing with my own guilt. It’s sometimes difficult to bear wondering how anything I might have said was interpreted by young, impressionable and developing minds. My husband has always comforted me by saying that we were loving and kind. We loved those kids and they loved us. We didn’t know any better at the time. But honestly MD that doesn’t seem to help me. All I know is, loving and kindness around the message that God loves them but will burn them forever in hell if they don’t believe is anything but kind and loving. 😦 I’m sorry.

    Don’t edit your post. Leave the raw emotion in it.

    • christianagnostic February 19, 2014 at 7:50 pm #


      I have many of the same mixed emotions about my years as a YL leader and then a worship leader.

      I can tell myself I didn’t know better (I didn’t) but it doesn’t bring back the wasted time, money, and lost relationships. I don’t live in regret, but I don’t feel good about the people I led into these groups.

      • ... Zoe ~ February 20, 2014 at 11:06 am #

        I live caught between a rock and a hard place on so many levels CA. It was our time in youth ministry that really exposed the nature of the belief. So in some ways I’m grateful, though as you say, many many years spent.

  2. Maggie Verhoorn February 19, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    Thank you for your strength and courage, By sharing your pain. You helped me finally show my Daughters. Young Life, is not the way. And that it just wasn’t because, my Husband and I. Did Not like the message Young Life was sending. Alot of people felt the same way. Your Sons story Helped my Family in so many ways. I felt you should know that.

    • mechanicdude February 21, 2014 at 3:02 am #

      Maggie- I have been grieving a long time and there is no end in sight. My son would be 23 yrs old now. I miss him so much. I wish I had never heard of YL and believe my son would be alive today if he had not had this experience. High school can be hard enough for kids without the drama of religious fundamentalism. -MD

  3. Scott April 16, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    I am a Senior in High school who is has been in this organization for 4 years and have helped bring people into the organization including some of my own family members. I wish I had seen this 4 years ago so I could of stopped myself. I was even planning on finally going to camp this year.

    • Tim Underwood April 23, 2014 at 6:03 am #

      My Son is a outstanding guy at 22 and he has a career. He still manages to hang out with his friends at Young life College. He started with young life his first year in High School. It was a blessing. The leaders tend to stay in the non-profit too long and that is not good for their development and exist strategy. They have grown up in the faith and fellowship. The theology is what now I wonder about. I’m OK with that.

      • christianagnostic May 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm #


        Can you expand about what of YL’s theology is a concern?

  4. Menhanic Dude May 2, 2014 at 10:29 pm #


    You asked Zoe “have you read my poem I wrote after my sons death.(?)”

    Referring to a poem “Fathers Lamentations for his son” you claim to have written for your son that you posted on your blog on Sept. 02, 2013

    However, the poem you claim to have written in Sept. 2013 was originally posted on another forum on May 19th. 2009 @ 11:47 AM four years before your son supposedly killed himself. You stole this poem off another forum called “Grieving” from someone named “Neveragain.”

    FYI: The FBI is now investigating your son’s apparent suicide.

    • Menhanic Dude May 3, 2014 at 2:45 am #

      The story thickens. 51 Reported Deaths in Reno, NV from Nov. 1st. 2013 – Dec. 2013

      Not one was a 17 year old.

      • christianagnostic May 3, 2014 at 5:40 am #

        I’m sure MD can speak for himself….but if my memory serves me correctly, he did say his son’s death was a few years back.

      • David May 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

        Menhanic Dude, You may have missed the post where Mechanic Dude stated that his son would have been 23. (On this very blog on February 21, 2014) His son was 17 years old when he committed suicide, that would make the year of death somewhere in 2007-2008.

        If he died in 2007/2008, it would certainly make sense why the poem was posted in 2009.

      • christianagnostic May 7, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

        Thanks for digging that up. I knew that MD had mentioned something to that effect about his son and the time frame of his death.

      • mechanicdude May 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

        Once again your information is incorrect. All though this time I wish you were right and that he would just walk through the door at any minute. You are a small and vicious person. – MD

    • christianagnostic May 3, 2014 at 5:41 am #

      The FBI?…..are you being serious?

      • mechanicdude May 17, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

        CA- The FBI why not? Maybe they can figure out who found the body.

        Those of you that believe that my sons story is lies and malice have a lot of reconciliation and soul searching to do. -MD

      • christianagnostic May 17, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

        I’m sorry you have to put up with this sort of hurtful denial.

    • mechanicdude May 17, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

      Your using my name? Your information is incorrect! My son died in 2007. I wrote my Lamentation almost a year later. It was published in several monthly survivor news letters and posted online at suicide survivor web sites. I also allowed a fellow survivor to make it more personal for his brother and he spoke it in public at a memorial walk.

      I take it you hate me for exposing your organizations true colors and justify bearing false witness for you glorious cause. -MD

  5. David June 28, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    I have been around Young Life for more than a decade now and this story just absolutely DOES NOT line up with this organization. I have met people on every level of the organization, from the president and national board of trustees all the way down to the local area staff and volunteers, and none of this falls in line with Young Life. Here are my issues…

    Why is it that NOWHERE on the internet can you find a story about a teen committing suicide on a school property in or even near Reno, NV in 2007? Something like this would have had TONS of press. These days you should be able to substantiate that sort of account online. Yet i haven’t been able to do so at all.

    Why is it that when i called the Reno police dept., they have no record of this happening on any school property in the city or county?

    But even if that is me being calloused or insensitive, here is the other issue- THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE. Young Life doesn’t own any camp property in Lake Tahoe, or Nevada for that matter. There is not even another non-YL camp called “The Lake Tahoe Camp” in Nevada that maybe Young Life may had used. The author of this story either made this place up, or seriously got some facts incorrect.

    It sounds like, to me, someone is on a vendetta to attack the Young Life organization and is willing to fabricate a story and manipulate the emotions of others to succeed in their vendetta. And it sounds like the moderator of this website, along with many readers, have fallen for his every word.

    christianagnostic- for years now i have read your blog and comments on this site. While i disagree with your stance and position, I have generally found you (while in my opinion biased and one-sided) thoughtful and careful on what you both write yourself and allow on this site. Clearly you have always had an agenda, but have gone about that respectfully. I have appreciated your thought and care when publishing. But if you seriously are going to continue to allow this on your site, I believe you have lost your credibility, as the facts in these allegations are completely not true. I’d give you a pass on not researching things yourself because your emotions likely got wrapped up in this story (understandably). But now you know- Young Life doesn’t even own a camp there, so this just ridiculous, and the rest of the story should be taken with a grain of salt.

    I have been to Young Life camps for literally dozens of weeks of summer, and camp properties around the country over the last 10 years. I have seen many kids become Christians, and MANY MORE choose to not be Christians. NEVER in my life have i seen any kid reprimanded or treated poorly for not choosing to be a christian. These staff people would have been FIRED IMMEDIATELY, as it goes directly against Young life’s policies. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely absurd.

    This story just proves to me how easy it is to get on the internet and just write something, and ANYONE will believe it, regardless of how true it really is. I have seen people’s responses saying they will not have their kids involved in Young life because of THIS story. If they don’t want them involved because they don’t like Young Life’s methods, that is one thing, and i can respect that. But this is libel. Anybody (someone hurt by YL in the past, someone anti-religion, etc) could get on this site and completely fabricate a story and everyone will believe it.

    CA- you preach against young life’s deceitful tactics. if you want your site to be one of integrity and credibility, you should really research stories before you republish them yourself. But if it is your mission to beat up and damage an organization by any means necessary, including lies and deceit, then i guess by all means carry on.

    • christianagnostic June 29, 2014 at 12:45 am #

      Just a quick note about your claim about no YL camp in Tahoe. There is a YL property in Soda Springs, CA

      It’s in what many would refer to as the Lake Tahoe area from when I lived in Northern California. A 45 minute drive from Reno to Soda Springs and just a half hoir from Soda Springs to Lake Tahoe.

      Secondly, I attended quite a few YL events at camps that were rented for the weekend but were not YL properties. Harvey Cedars in NJ comes to mind for the East Coast. Maybe this was the case.

      Lastly, I do take your accusation seriously, and no I am not bent on damaging an organization by any means necessary.

      I am not a journalist, but I think your challenge is a fair one.

      More on this when I can get a chance…


      • mechanicdude July 16, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

        Thanks CA for your support. David asked real questions. Unfortunately he made all his conclusions before he got any answers. The internet site for the summer camp in Lake Tahoe has changed completely since my sons death. At the time you could just google it. I remember being surprised that it said that it was supported by a local catholic church here in Reno. The fact that so many internet hounds have been unable to verify my sons story gives me hope that the coverup might someday be blown apart. I swear on my sons name that the story is real and true. -MD

  6. mechanicdude July 17, 2014 at 1:36 am #

    Ok- I clicked on the link for the Soda Springs YL camp and it is not the camp my son attended. I have pictures of the summer camp in Lake Tahoe, including one of my son standing in front of the sign naming the camp. As usual I will not post it. I dont know for sure but I suspect that the Soda Springs camp did not exist then. -MD

  7. mechanicdude July 17, 2014 at 4:04 am #

    CA- I hate to see you get accused of wrong doing on my account. I found reports of my sons death that verify my story on the internet from reliable sources. I admit that I have insider info that allows me to find this stuff. If you would like I can email you some personal info that would allow you to find it yourself and validate your good name and reputation.

    I did learn something from this latest denial and that is that YL uses other camps and retreats to handle their summer camp overflow. I had always wondered what the catholic church had to do with YL summer camps. This might explain it. I have never actually been to the camp my son attended. I just have a picture of him standing in front of the sign in his YL Tshirt the day he was dropped off there. I also have the flyer he brought home from a YL meeting. It also explains why all I can find today is the Soda Springs camp. Unless they have remodeled and changed their name it cant be the camp. -MD

    • christianagnostic July 19, 2014 at 4:24 am #


      I really appreciate your offer to verify this info for me. I have mixed feelings because I have never asked anyone else to verify their stories.

      What I mean is that there are many who come on here claiming to be area directors or YL leaders. I don’t make them verify their info or identity. Do you see what I mean?

      I would be willing to do this via email, but only if you are sure you want to do this. What you are sharing is very personal and I don’t want you to feel pressured or uncomfortable with doing this….it is totally your call.

      Best Regards-CA

      • mechanicdude July 19, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

        CA- There are hundreds of YL members that knew my son, where he went to school, where he went to summer camp, and how he died. I have often thought that a big shot like David would easily be able to verify my story, if they really wanted too.

        If you send me a secure email address to my blog, I will not post it, I will give you some info that isnt all that personal that will allow you to verify what can be found on the web for yourself. It would be my pleasure to see you be able to say that you have verified the story to the next know it all that shares their ignorance on your blog. Honestly I think a person who was interested could find it anyway as it is public info.

        I was amused at Davids story about calling the police dept. After the way I was treated I am not surprised that they did not give him the time of day. I read an article that said this city picks up hundreds of unclaimed bodies off the street every year! The year before my sons death, a 17yr old lit himself on fire and jumped from one of the casinos. He burned on the sidewalk for 20 minutes before anyone even got a fire extinguisher. There was just a few words in the paper and nothing else was ever said to the watching public and the story disappeared completely in a few days. As for obituaries, we never submitted one to the local paper, nor did we have a public funeral. The rest can be explained by the fact that my son was a minor and his public files are more secure than an adults would be. My only concern is that one of these haters will start blasting my sons name and maybe even our address and other personal info all over the web. I am not sure I would be able to control my anger. -MD

      • christianagnostic July 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm #


        I do want to do this, but I’ve been busy getting ready to travel.

        If it’s all right with you, I’ll message you through your blog after August 6th or around then…so I can follow up on your son’s story.

        Thanks for your patience, I hope you’re having a good summer.


  8. mechanicdude July 24, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    CA- Its fine and I hope you have a safe journey. I also will be traveling about that time and will be away from my computer for a awhile.

    I live this nightmare everyday and long ago decided it didnt matter to me who believed me or not! What is important to me is that my sons story be told, and I have done that- I am just a messenger. The poem I wrote, “A Fathers Lamentation For His Son” linked through my gravatar, is my personal sword, that I put with my own hands, into the heart of my enemies… more than my blog and all the facts in the world will ever be. I do not believe anymore that there will ever be justice for my son, and in a philosophical way I feel YLs denial will be their own end.

    I do want you to be able to defend yourself though, and considering the heat you have had to endure I feel I owe you. -MD

    • christianagnostic September 9, 2014 at 4:33 am #


      I am back from vacation (many weeks now) and have had many more weeks away from the blog.

      I think I’m finally ready….so when you feel ready, let me know how to reach out.

      I hope you’ve had a good summer!


      • mechanicdude September 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

        Hi CA, welcome back.
        From my point of view I have been waiting for you to contact me. All is fine and I am expecting an email from you. I had to start approving statements to my blog due to an increase in negative responses. The upside is anyone can contact me privately there.

        All that can be expected is that my story is to be validated. I understand that a large part of it is made up of private and personal communication with my son. I can not do anything about that and a person will just have to decide for themselves whether they believe me or not. -MD

      • christianagnostic September 12, 2014 at 4:26 am #

        cool…heading there now.

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