Since I was a high school senior, I had a dream of starting a youth center for teenagers. Even when people dismissed it, I knew that God had placed that dream on my heart.
After I returned from Bible College to Sunbury, PA, my wife and I started a youth center called The Refuge. We wanted to create a safe and fun place for teenagers to go to after school, free of charge. In nine months, our youth center grew to about 50 teens coming in each week. We provided them with a comfortable space, games and a free meal.
During the next two years, I went back to school to get my teaching degree (I now teach junior high). However, when I returned, we began to look for a new building in order to reopen The Refuge. When we did find an old broken-down building for $30,000, we received an anonymous donation that covered its cost. It took us three years to get it ready. We restored the building, set up a ping pong table and video games, made it accessible for handicapped kids and prayed it would be a blessing. Now, we also provide homework help, do Bible studies and use recording equipment so the teenagers can make their own music.
All of our tutors and cooks are Christian volunteers from a variety of surrounding churches. We want the kids to have a real sense of community when they are here and be exposed to other Christians, even though they may come from non-Christian families. We called our youth center The Refuge, based on Psalm 9:9, which says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”