‘Humans of WYI’

Youth of the Western Territory traveled to Camp Redwood Glen in Scotts Valley, California, July 31–Aug. 5 for the Western Youth Institute (WYI), a week focused on love.

Morning Bible studies focused on God’s love, loving God, and love for others, and the 138 delegates could then attend Redwood Groups (small groups based on interest designed to help people find community wherever they are), Church Words (workshops designed to explain theological concepts and Christian vernacular to the delegates), and cabin small groups.

“It is our prayer and hope that WYI ignites in our delegates a desire to go out and share God’s love, seek him more in the Word, and be committed followers of Christ effecting a positive change in their communities,” said Major Bob Louangamath, Territorial Youth Secretary.

In a photo series like that of the popular photoblog Humans of New York, Salvationist photographer Joy Yi collected portraits and interviews throughout the week. These are a few of the delegates’ stories.

Tey Scanlan, Renton Corps

“I like being able to hear different people’s testimonies here. When you share what’s happened to you…when you can be vulnerable and share what you had to deal with and how you dealt with it, your personal experiences can speak powerfully.”

Brianna Speigle, RevHI

“My mom suffers from clinical depression. This affected my childhood because of physical and verbal abuse…it affected my view of God and relationships. There was forgiveness and restoration in our relationship, but the depression is resurfacing again. As a daughter, it’s hard seeing your mother go through this.

Mental illness is so taboo in the church…I want the church to talk more openly about it and not just look down on it or say you need Jesus. My mom’s a believer, but I know from experience that this is more complicated than that.”

Josh Sierra, Stockton Corps

“I have three kids I don’t get to see. They live in a different city. I’m in Stockton now working for the Adult Rehabilitation Center. The kids’ mom is not a believer. I wish they would grow up learning about the Lord, but I can’t control that. My son was able to go to a Christian preschool so it was great that he got a foundation about Jesus. Now he’ll be going to a public school this year. I just have to trust that God will take care of them.

I wasn’t supposed to come here, but I got invited to come at the last minute. Before I came, I had been learning to love better and this year’s theme affirmed that God is teaching me to love.”

Fernando Ventura, Modesto Citadel

“I worked here all summer for the first time and I had to take care of all these kids as a counselor. It’s nice to come to WYI and be taken care of and not have to be the one responsible for the kids. It’s like I can be a kid again.

I needed a job because my parents are going through a divorce and we have to still get the house situation settled. So I applied for the camp job because the youth worker at the corps encouraged me to work at camp. I was an atheist when I started working here, but last week, I gave my life to Christ…and it felt like a weight was lifted off me.”

Jenny Kwan, Anchorage Korean Corps

“I’ve been taking notes in the sessions to use them when I go back home. I want to share them with the Sunday School that I teach.”

Ongra Agrippa, Marshall Islands

“This is my first time in mainland. Everything’s big…like the worship. I like the worship here.”

Lolo Desardouin, Las Vegas Citadel

“I don’t have a relationship with my real dad. He’s not been a part of my life. I don’t know what it’s like to have a dad, but this year at WYI, I am able to really feel the Father’s love.”

Captain Bonita Kelsey, El Cajon Corps

“I don’t want to keep being frustrated about what holiness is supposed to look like…or what an officer should look like. I don’t want to fit in a box. How do I practically live out love? What does it tangibly look like in real life for me?

I need to be aware when I’m being self-protective because I don’t want to get hurt. I find that I don’t always fully love for self-protection. I wish I could love with a full heart without being afraid of getting hurt. It’s hard to love when you’ve been hurt. We fear that people will hurt us. But perfect love doesn’t have fear. If we are so filled with love, there won’t be room for judgment and we can love even if we will get hurt.

It’s like what we talked about—through Jesus, our lives and the way we see ourselves and the world is flipped where the infilling of love will eliminate the sin.”

Joey Strain, Suisun Kroc Center

“This is my first WYI and I’m looking to grow my relationship with Christ. It’s a struggle to keep up the motivation when following God, but I am hoping that this week will help me stay motivated.”

Antonio Rio, Kaneohe Corps

“I want to be an officer. Me and my mom work in Wahiwa, which is the ghetto in Hawaii where the homeless are. Each one of those people is a son and daughter of someone. I want them to know that there is a love that is greater than drugs or lust. The love of God is greater.  

Aloha is all about love and family. I want people to have that.”

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