YFC leader: ‘Military kids have a unique set of life experiences that can make it hard for them to feel known and understood’
November 7, 2022
DENVER — The lives of members of the military and their families are extraordinarily difficult. More than two million military children have experienced a parental deployment since 2001 and there are currently 1.2 million military children of active-duty military members worldwide. Most military families will move up to three times more than their civilian counterparts. The continual separations between parents and children, the constant upheaval of their lives, and the increased hazards of deployment create high anxiety in many military children’s lives.
Youth For Christ Military, the military outreach branch of Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net), is designed to be a place for young people connected to the military to feel like they belong. YFC Military works to uncover God’s story of hope in the next generation of military-connected young people bypartnering with local chaplains, churches, schools and other like-minded organizations to reach these youth through unconditional, authentic Christ-sharing relationships.
Brian Hershey, Greater Omaha YFC Campus Life Military Director, has been involved with YFC Military for 20 years. A firm believer in the importance of reaching military-impacted youth, Hershey has seen firsthand the results of powerful, Christ-centered relationships in the lives of teens struggling with their military lifestyle.
“I started my work overseas right after 9/11, which was a very interesting time to be travelling internationally,” Hershey stated. “This led to my first interactions with military kids, and I learned that they live in an entirely different culture than anything I’d seen before. They have different currency, different customs, and different resources to anything their civilian counterparts can understand. This can be incredibly isolating, and it has become my mission to build a sense of resiliency and a robust faith into these kids.
“I think people wonder why it’s so important to reach a demographic that is only 1% of our nation. What YFC Military does is so important because we are reaching the 1% of our country that’s serving and protecting the freedoms of the other 99%. It’s vital that we have a dedicated ministry for those families and youth that are giving up so much and enduring so much stress.”
Hershey continued, “For example, I met one boy named Aaron. Both of his parents served in active duty, which meant at least one — and sometimes both — of his parents would be deployed at any given time. They would be deployed around the world at a moments notice, and Aaron would be left with either just one parent or with his grandparents if both of his parents were deployed. I think by the time I met Aaron as a junior in high school, he had already moved eight different times, and he was scheduled to move again by the end of the year. He was going into a school where he didn’t know anyone, he didn’t know the customs, and he was alone.
“This is just a glimpse into what so many of these teens face in the military life. Military kids slide into a community for a short season, and then they move out and nobody even recognizes that they’ve come or gone. They have a unique set of life experiences that can make it hard for them to feel known and understood.”
Hershey concluded, “I believe every single person on planet Earth has this deep, insatiable longing to be known and understood by somebody in their life. That is why it’s so important that we come alongside military-impacted youth and help them find a way to rise up over the challenges of military life. Providing a space for military kids to come together and relate to each other is invaluable. It reassures the youth that they are not alone in their situations — here are other kids and adults who understand exactly what they’re going through. If we fail to give them those spaces, the effects can be truly devastating.”
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. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has over 130 chapters that impact communities across America.