The body of a teen who went off a cliff and drowned at Young Life’s Malibu camp has been recovered. It’s reported that the teen was playing volleyball near the cliff when he went for a ball and fell over the cliff, into the waters below.
Very sad news tonight.
According news reports, a Florida teen has fallen to their death at Young Life’s Carolina Point camp in South Carolina. The teen fell over 100 feet from a pendulum swing known as the “Freebird” event.
Young Life has released this statement:
We are saddened to report that we’ve had a tragic accident here at Carolina Point. On Monday afternoon, July 13, a camper became detached from and fell off a swing. Camp staff called emergency medical assistance and immediately began administering CPR. To our great sorrow, this young woman has passed away. All of us at Carolina Point and across Young Life grieve with this young woman’s family and friends. We do not yet know how this occurred. At the moment our focus is on those grieving over this tragic accident. This is…
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About one year ago, Mechanic Dude stopped by and began to share his story. A story that ends in tragedy…suicide. You can read MD’s account of it here. But beyond the tragedy of his son’s death, was the frustration he felt towards Young Life and the role he feels it played in his son’s decision to take his own life. The reactions here on the Christian Agnostic and Young Life Watch have been mixed. Some Young Life folks have expressed sympathy, others have expressed a mix of sympathy towards MD but do not understand how he can blame Young Life. But beyond that, a few have come in guns blazing and accused MD of making up the whole story, in an orchestrated effort to “take down” Young Life. The comment that pushed me to actually confirm MD’s story was this comment:
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.
To be honest, I was a little shocked at the vehement insistence that this story was a “fabrication” based on a “vendetta”. But none the less, MD responded that he would be more than willing to confirm his story with me in private, so I could say with confidence that this is no fiction and that this is a real Father who is grieving a real son. I have to say, that I felt wrong about making MD prove his story to me. I’ve never made other folks who state “I’ve been a YL area Director, I am a current Young Life leader, etc….” have to prove these claims. Why make MD do it? But after a long break from the blog, I was able to converse with MD off the blog and he provided just enough information for me to confirm for myself, that his story is true.
Here’s what I learned after about 10 minutes on the internet: MD’s son was a minor (17) when he committed suicide on the campus of his High School. Some of the postings I found on-line were fellow classmates of his son and they describe essentially the same details that MD describes about his son. He was bright, well-liked, and the sort of person that no one could believe he would ever do such a thing. For all those who believe that MD’st story is a fiction, you are wrong. It is not a fiction, it really happened and I’d appreciate it if you’d show a little respect and sympathy for a man who has lost a child in the most horrible way you can imagine. I think most of us will understand if your experience of Young Life is different than his….but he is entitled to say what he feels about Young Life, just as you are free to disagree with what is said. But it’s time to move past the petty arguments of whether this event actually occurred .
Without trying to speak for MD, let me try and clear up some of the questions that were raised in the comment above:
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.
Well you can, but you’d probably have to know who you were looking for, and since MD does not wish to splash his family’s name all over the internet, then it may be hard for you to find any info online. Also, suicides do not get a ton of press…I mean, yes-if you were already famous-then it will get lots of press. But in my own recent experience, I know families who have lost son’s to suicide-guess what-no press, no articles, no nothing. They were minors, so if the police were involved, the child’s name would not be released to the public or the press. Your assumption that this sort of information would be all over the internet is incorrect.
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?
I really don’t know for sure, but it is my understanding that you can not request a police report over the phone. And again, you’d have to know which incident or investigation you were looking for, in most cases. You can click here to see what it usually takes to receive a copy of a police report.
THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE
Actually, there is a YL camp in Soda Springs, CA. When I lived in Norther CA, we would have referred to this whole area as the Lake Tahoe area. Soda Springs, Truckee, Emigrants Gap, Donner’s Pass, are all within a short drive of the actual west side of the Lake and would qualify as part of the Lake Tahoe area. Even Reno’s airport is named the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Besides all that, Young Life does sometime rent facilities it doesn’t own. In my own experience, YL would rent a facility in Harvey Cedars NJ and we also held some YL weekends at hotels in the Baltimore Inner Harbor area.
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.
Well this comment feels like a back handed compliment. I appreciate this person taking the time to read my blog for years and the compliment that you find me thoughtful and careful. As for biased, I am not sure what to say. My experiences and opinions are my own, but I also allow anyone who differs with me to do so. If I were completely biased, I wouldn’t allow you or anyone else who disagreed with me to comment. You may want to ask yourself, how much of your own emotions and bias come into your allegation that MD’s story is not true.
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.
I am glad to hear that this is your experience. In most of my own time in Young Life, I saw pretty much the same thing….but not always. I did witness some pretty hostile reprimanding at a Young Life camp on more than one occasion. I’ve even seen some pretty unkind arguments between leaders and area directors at some others. Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.
Suffice to say, experiences of Young Life can be very different from person to person. I just plain tire at the accusations that I am out to get Young Life, or that MD’s story is the reason some kid doesn’t get to go to camp. I am out to share my story and to allow others to share their stories as well. If a parent reads this site and then decides that their kid isn’t going to camp or Young Life-then you haven’t earned the right to be heard.
Lastly, if you read something here that you disagree with-by all means-feel free to post your feelings about it. I may or may not have to time to respond, and others may or may not agree with you.
But please do me a favor…play nice.
Especially with those who are sharing stories of abuse and suicide. It’s just a common courtesy to show some respect for those who are hurting and grieving. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, or even believe them…but please remember that there’s enough pain and tragedy in this life. Can we not add to it by beating up on those who are already beaten down?
I find the list of search phrases people use to be revealing. When it comes to Young Life and the people who end up on this blog, the search queries reveal what sort of information or concerns they have about Young Life.
Here’s a sampling of some of the searches that end up here:
Is Young Life a Cult?
What is Young Life?
Young Life Reviews
Young Life Issues
Denny Rydberg Salary
Is Young Life Bad?
Young Life Cult or Religion
Young Life Beliefs
Banging My Young Life Leader
What happens at Young Life Camp?
Young Life camp rape
Can a Young Life leader still lead if they had sex?
Young Life Leader sexual abuse
What Church is behind Young Life?
Young Life views on Homosexuality
Young Life cliques
As a point of reference, the phrase “Is Young Life a Cult?” or some variation is by far, the number one search phrase that brings people to this blog.
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.
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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It’s funny, I’ve had very little time to blog recently. Despite my inability to continue blogging, I’ve had many new readers and quite a few email conversations about my posts on Young Life. You can read some of my previous posts about Young Life here, here, & here.
One of my email correspondents shared some of their perspective on Young Life and I thought it would make a nice guest post. When I asked, they gave me their permission to post their thoughts.
I don’t mind sharing my experience with Young Life at all.
I was involved with Young Life during the first two years and a tiny bit of my third year of high school before I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to be associated with. I think there’s this potential threat of causing division among students, and that’s just not right. Young Life basically divided my school into cliques and we all know the last thing a high school needs are more cliques.
Something else that occurred with Young Life, in my grade, was the ending of many relationships. The female Young Life leaders at my school preached that God should be the only man in our lives. Although I tried understanding where the leaders were coming from, I didn’t see the issue in dividing time between religion and boyfriends. The female leaders influence on many girls in my grade caused them to end relationships with long time boyfriends. One of my good friends was broken up with by his girlfriend. Her explanation was that she needed to give her time to one man, God.
I also recall during sophomore during club when one of the girls in my grade was crying to one of the leaders. The girl was dating another boy in our grade whose family practiced Hinduism. I wasn’t aware of what he did to make her cry, but the female leader’s response was, “Well what do you expect? He’s not a Christian boy.” Even though I didn’t know exactly what the boy did to make her cry, I know for a fact that his religion isn’t the reason for his actions. I thought it was completely unfair for the leader to accuse him of his wrongdoings based on his beliefs.
It wasn’t until Rockbridge, the winter camp during my junior year that I realized I had to quit this organization. During cabin time one night, our leader asked everyone, “So how does everyone go about trying to convince new people to attend club?” And the second she said that, it hit me. If people don’t want to come, then they should simply be left alone.
School is a place of education, not a place of religious education. One of the girls in the cabin replied, “I usually just give everyone a flyer, even if they’re Jewish because I still want to see them in heaven.” That was when my personal beliefs started to initiate. I personally don’t believe anyone else’s religion is above another’s. It is no one’s place to tell someone who is Jewish or any other religion that they need to attend Young Life because they won’t end up in heaven.
Young Life caused so much division in my high school, I couldn’t wait to get out. Most of the people from my grade are leaders in college now. A lot of what you said in your blog about Love Bombing and the fact that you were to go after the “popular and more influential kids first” was very eye-opening. I realize now that’s exactly what took place in my high school.
Sorry this was so long, I really could talk about the negatives of Young Life for hours on end.
There’s not much more I can say about this case, except that it should concern any parent considering sending their teen to a week of camp. It really is a sad case of sexual misconduct, manipulation, and just what can go wrong when an adult’s access to young teens goes unchecked.
This is another case of a Young Life area director being convicted of sexual misconduct. Mr. Mark Steven Holm , age 54, was the area director for Young Life in East Central Minnesota and has plead guilty to sexual relations with a 17 year old member of his Young Life club.
What’s especially concerning, is that one of the sexual encounters happened at Young Life’s Castaway property. How is it that a grown man and a 17 year old Young Lifer can steal away and have sex while being at camp? This should raise concern for any parent considering sending their teen to camp.
One news report captures the pain of the victim’s mother, you can read the article here:
“On the day that I picked up her cell phone and read all those texts, my world shattered. Everything that I had spent 17 years trying to protect was gone. I…
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