Youth For Christ Alaska reaches the most ethnically diverse communities in America with the Gospel

YFC leader: ‘What unites all of these teens from different backgrounds and cultures is the deep desire to hear the Gospel’

October 10, 2022

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Approximately 110,000 teens between the ages of 11-19 live in Alaska. In a state dictated by extreme weather, many teens struggle with isolation and depression — in fact, Alaska’s suicide rate remains among the highest in the country at around 30 deaths per 100,000 people. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Alaskan youth over the age of 15. This tragic trend is even more prominent among the Alaska Native community. In 2019, Alaska Native girls ages 15-19 had a death rate that was five times higher than white females in the same age group. These issues have only been exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Youth For Christ’s (YFC, www.yfc.net) Alaska chapter seeks to change these statistics by placing a special emphasis on developing authentic Christ-sharing relationships with youth in the Last Frontier. As the YFC chapter serving the entire state, Youth for Christ Alaska reaches students in public schools and community centers across the State, as well as the Alaska Native community, to come alongside youth struggling during the most pivotal moments in their lives.

Christopher Gatch, Executive Director for Youth for Christ Alaska, stated, “The entire state of Alaska only has 700,000 people, but since we are such a big state, youth are extremely spread out. Because of this, we can’t limit ourselves to the road or school systems. Our solution? We have a staff member who hops in a bush plane and flies all around the state, bringing items such as sugar, fruit, or other items people who are spread out might need. This staff member has an Alaska Native adopted daughter, and that helps her connect with the Alaska Native community.

“Additionally, we have some of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in America, with not just Alaska Natives but Pacific Islanders, Sudanese, Egyptians, Russian, Ukrainian, and Arabs to name a few. Why do they all come here? I don’t know, but we are ready and willing to share the Gospel with them!”

Gatch continued, “What unites all of these teens from different backgrounds and cultures is the deep desire to hear the Gospel. With so many cultures mingling, the schools can get pretty dangerous. There’s one neighborhood that has a shooting a week that other ministries refuse to go to — but we are there in the midst of the chaos, sharing the Gospel. We go to a behavioral health hospital every week to talk to the students and hear their stories. Every single teen there has either tried to kill themselves or someone else. We go every week to pray with them, hand out Bibles, and share the Gospel.

“Due to our extreme weather, we can’t do a lot of activities outside since it’s often in the negatives. A lot of our ministry is indoors, and that’s where our Campus Life ministry really shines. In the dead of winter, it’s pitch-black outside — the kids go to school in the dark and come home in the dark. We come together and provide a safe place to play games, share the Gospel, and just have community.”

The crux of the ministry, according to Gatch, is prayer. “Consistent prayer is crucial,” Gatch explained. “We have a group of volunteers pray around East High School every single week. We had five students show up to Campus Life before the pandemic, and when we started again when things opened up, we had 80! It was so packed, a volunteer had to stand on the counters to address the students. This year, we are praying for 150 students eager and ready to hear the Gospel and have their hearts changed by Christ.”

YFC chapters impact thousands of communities across the nation, seeking out and serving youth from all walks of life. Young people are silently struggling through a wide variety of challenging issues—and through the YFC ministry God empowers them and they see the living power of a loving God. YFC trains its leaders in a proven, relational ministry model called 3Story®, which encourages staff and volunteers to be good news while also sharing the stories of the Good News of Jesus. It involves building relationships through the ups and downs of everyday life to lead people to Christ. 

YFC has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when Dr. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and it is always about the message of Jesus. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has over 130 chapters that impact communities across America. 

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