In the early 80s, a group of Redwood area women began praying for the youth of their community. Those prayers opened their eyes to an organization which would have a significant impact on generations of youth and would lead one of them to a role in ministry with the organization known as Youth For Christ/Campus Life. More than two decades later, Nancy Haapoja is retiring.
Haapoja served on the original board of directors from Youth For Christ in Redwood Falls, but after helping out as a volunteer she felt God was calling her to serve in a more significant capacity.
So, 23 years ago, she became director of the local program, and over the years she has met with thousands of Redwood area youth.
“I?would say I?see about 50 kids a week,” she said, adding issues kids face today are certainly different than those of the youth she started working with in the late 80s.
What Haapoja offers to students is a message they can identify with, but also one that maintains the truth of the message of God’s saving grace through Jesus. She said the motto of Youth For Christ “geared to the times but anchored to the Rock” demonstrates the value of finding ways to communicate with kids on their level but maintaining the truth of the gospel.
“The kids come from many different schools,” she said, adding she has encountered students from more than a dozen different school districts over the 23 years in ministry. “What is nice to see is how the kids from different schools can come together through Youth For Christ and become friends.”
Haapoja said the focus of Youth For Christ is on the basics of the faith, adding she does not get into denominational differences. In fact, she encourages the youth who attend to get involved with a church.
Haapoja’s desire is for each youth who walk into the Youth For Christ office to see they have worth and to know they always have someone who is willing to listen.
Over the years, Haapoja said she has seen lives of the youth she meets change as their eyes are opened to the truth.
She has seen those with drug addictions, those with suicidal thoughts and others who just don’t seem to see their own personal worth change into adults with a new attitude based in confidence in who they are.
Haapoja said all of the credit for the changes made through the ministry of Youth For Christ belongs to God.
Haapoja is planning to retire as of tomorrow, and a celebration of her retirement is being held June 22 at the Redwood Falls Assembly of God Church starting at 7 p.m. All are invited to come and wish Haapoja well.