Leadership lunch hosts Young Life area director
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Westmont’s Student Leadership Lunches welcome guest speakers from across the country. Every other week, the lunches are opened up to anyone who wishes to join – inviting students to grab some tacos and sit in Founder’s to gain some wisdom. Last week, the event hosted Young Life area director, Felipe Contreras. “I have one of the best jobs in the world,” he stated, and then he proceeded to tell the room why.
Contreras, who moved to America at the age of one, has been living in Santa Barbara his whole life. After he became a believer at sixteen, his faith with God never stopped growing. Youth with a Mission welcomed Felipe’s work in Tijuana for a few years, where his leadership was stretched when he translated sermons. He joined the Santa Barbara Young Life team in 2007 and now he works as the area’s associate director. He helps oversee six ministries (including sixty volunteers) and his focus is reaching out specifically to the Latino community.
As he talked about his ministry, Contreras noted what kept him invested in the difficult work. He explained that the kids whom Young Life works with often come from dark places, leaving Young Life the only light in their life. Young Life leaders participate in incarnational ministry by “going where the kids go.” Joy can be brought into these teens’ lives – a real joy that is sometimes tough to find in their homes. Since most of the participants don’t go to church, Contreras explains how Young Life is intentional at “meeting them where they’re at.” In fact, he calls himself and his fellow Young Life workers “professional initiators.” He laughed while he described his typical volunteer catchphrase, “if you aren’t uncomfortable, you’re doing something wrong.”
During his talk, Contreras mentioned a few disciplines that have greatly benefited his faith. The first of those practices was praying. Whenever he went through a period of his life where prayer wasn’t a priority, he said it affected him very negatively. Likewise, a season of avid prayer always led to a stronger relationship with God. In the midst of a difficult season of decision-making in his life, Contreras chose to give his questions to God. Looking back, he says he can clearly see the path God laid out for him, and he trusts God to continue to lead him.
The second exercise Contreras encouraged the attendees to partake in was “showing up.” He explained that showing up says a lot about one’s character that can’t be portrayed in other ways. When someone shows up, they’re saying not only that they care, but also that they are willing to sacrifice their time for others.
Contreras’ enthusiasm never faltered as he discussed community. Loving people well and thanking people well are both very important customs in his life. Along with love, patience and perseverance were key aspects of his journey. In many jobs, it takes a long time to see the fruit of one’s labor. Especially in Young Life, there are many years between sowing seeds and seeing the results. Another piece of the puzzle of fulfillment is consistency and longevity, which goes hand in hand with “showing up.”
These practices helped get Contreras where he is today and he’s very grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to him.