Life Change Stories

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Happy Retirement Matt Sweeney

Well Done Matt Sweeney – 27 Years!! Matt has served the ministry whole-heartily for 27 years at Youth 71Five Ministries. The first 5 years he poured into the lives of kids in the detention center as a volunteer while operating his own business. When God called him into full-time ministry he sold his glass business and stepped in with 110% (probably more than that). Matt has poured his heart & life into countless young people, staff, donors and the ministry and he has never held back. When he and Jan were married, she stepped in and has ministered alongside him WITH her full support. For those of you that don’t know – it was through Matt’s vision and passion for kids in West Medford that God blessed us with a youth center in West Medford.
 
We have all been touched by Matt and his ministry. He has served faithfully and well! Well Done Matt! Well Done Mr. Sweeney! You are loved and will be greatly missed! #71Five
 
DEANNA JONES,  71Five Administrative Director 
(541) 779-3275 | deanna@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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How come you didn’t get mad and start cussing?


Every month, all the city and campus groups come together for something fun. Last month, we organized a paint-balling outing. As we were all set to leave the Grants Pass city building, in our trusty 12-passenger van, we hit a snag—a big one. Our gas line had been cut, and the gas? Completely siphoned out. There we were, ready for an adventure, yet momentarily stranded. During this challenging situation, one of the youth asked me, “How come you didn’t get mad and start cussing?” I explained, “Throwing a fit wouldn’t move us an inch closer to our destination!” It was a test of resilience, a lesson in overcoming obstacles without losing our cool. Despite feeling a storm of emotions inside, especially considering the low blow of stealing from a van meant to carry kids, many of whom come from challenging backgrounds, the situation called for calm leadership. And this, my friends, is where the testing of our faith shines the brightest.
 
Fortunately, we have a Father in heaven who loves his children and has given us his Holy Spirit. In times of trials and testing, we can rely on His strength to demonstrate positive role modeling to the kids we serve. At 71Five, where I pour my heart into making a difference, we strive to be that beacon of hope, love, and unwavering support for these young people. This incident, rather than breaking us, reinforced the values we stand for. Thank you for providing the the hope found in Jesus to the youth at 71Five who are facing difficult challenges and obstacles in this life.
 
CHRIS WILLIS,  71Five City – Grants Pass Coordinator  
(541) 941-3488 | chris@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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We all have a story.

After sending our prayer request email for the 71Five Parents Prayer team, I was delighted to receive a call from Melva a few hours later. She shared with me that: “The Lord is stirring my heart as I pray for these young parents. I was eighteen when I became a young mother in 1961. When you are that young, the brain is not fully developed. I felt so poorly equipped at eighteen to manage a home and take care of children. I know what it’s like to be a young parent and grieve for what each one has to walk through. If I can bless these young mothers and help equip them by supporting 71Five Parents; then I want to do it. I was so busy all my life. Now at 81 years, when I look back at what I went through, I see that the Lord was there with me. “
 
Can you see the Lord working through Melva to transform and equip young parents? The Lord has called all believers to make disciples. Thank you for giving hope, praying for and equipping each one of our young parents. Jesus said in the Bible, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
 
BREANNA STOUTENBURGH,  71Five Parents Coordinator  
541.941-7697 | breanna@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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Don’t have a Bible?

One of the most exciting things working in the ministry here at 71Five is when I see a kid get excited about the bible. A week ago miss Sophia and I had a conversation about sin and how do we know what is sin and what’s not. I said to her, “Well, you can find all those answers in your Bible.” She looked at me funny and said, “But Will, I don’t have a Bible.” I had thought some time back that her mom had bought a Bible for her. It looks like I was wrong. The next day through the ministry we were able to gift her one with her name embossed on it. The leaders at 71Five Campus in Shady Cove wrote a special message and signed it for her. Ryann, 71Five Intern, presented her with the new Bible. She was so excited she ran through the Youth Center giving out hugs to all the leaders to thank them for this special gift. And then we received this text message from her mom: “Walked in to say good night to Sophia the other night and she was reading her Bible. My heart melted. 🤍 Thank you.”
 
Thank you for providing this young person with the gift of hope. Your financial support and prayers are reaching the lives of so many people like Sophia and her mom.
 
WILL ARIAS,  71Five Campus Coordinator – Shady Cove
541.841.6400 | will@71Five.org
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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“I apologize…”

Connor encountered a pivotal moment at 71Five City in West Medford. Despite facing challenges as a student, he was gently encouraged to take some time to reflect on his actions. This was a major growth moment for Connor through this difficult time with patience and understanding. “I apologize…” Surprisingly, he expressed a sincere desire to apologize. This moment held profound significance, where positive reinforcement is one of the many things students lack coming in the door. It represented more than just an apology—it symbolized personal growth and the profound influence of caring adults.
 
Join us as we celebrate Connor. This action signified a turning point in his spiritual growth, demonstrating his readiness to take responsibility and strive for improvement. It is because of your generosity as 71Five’s financial partners, staff and volunteers, that we see a powerful reminder of the transformative potential of guidance and support in young lives.
 
TROY ELLIS,  71Five City Coordinator – West Medford
541.538.0207 | troy@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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“Letting Holy Bros Cook”

During one of our sessions at the juvenile detention center, I had the privilege of engaging with the young individuals there in a unique way. Wanting to capture their interest and encourage their minds, I brought in a book that translates common Bible stories into Gen Z slang. As I read aloud from the book, I could see the interest among the group. But what truly made the experience memorable was when I invited a few of the guys to come up and take turns reading stories themselves. One young man stood out as he eagerly volunteered to read and ended up captivating everyone with his animated delivery. During his reading of a story about Jesus and his Disciples, he exclaimed, “These Holy bros know how to cook.” This translates to expressing admiration for their skills or expertise. What struck me the most was how naturally he connected with the slang and made the stories come alive with his own commentary. It was as if he had found his element, stepping into a role of sharing the gospel with his peers in a way that resonated with them. Seeing him embrace this opportunity and witnessing the impact he had on his fellow detainees was truly inspiring. It reminded me of the power of meeting people where they are and using creative means to share timeless truths.
 
It’s amazing to be able to take something that is relevant to the kids and share God’s story with them. Please prayerfully consider joining our team or partnering up with us today. You can help be the change and hope young people need in our community.
 
CHRIS WILLIS,  71Five Justice Coordinator – Grants Pass  
(541) 941-3488 | chris@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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A Year of Prayer

In April of 2023, I had the privilege of meeting two young girls, who had been introduced to our program by their big brother who had been attending for years. They lived a few hours away and it was clear to me that they had never heard the gospel before. To them, 71Five swiftly became synonymous with pizza, and games. Though our time together was brief due to the distance, I was moved to continue the relationship. However, this became a challenge as they returned home and I had no way to stay in touch. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling of responsibility to share Jesus with these girls, so I didn’t stop praying for them. I pleaded with God to orchestrate a way for them to encounter His truth. Ten months full of prayer passed. Then, they unexpectedly returned to our group almost a year later, with news that they had moved in with their brother nearby. It was a moment of pure rejoicing and gratitude as I witnessed God’s faithfulness unfolding before my eyes. Now, they could frequent our “pizza and game place” regularly, It wasn’t long before they became curious about Jesus and even asked for bibles. Sparking a new prayer, that they would put their hope in Jesus.
 
Because of your faithful support, 71Five continues to maintain a consistent haven for young people seeking solace or simply a slice of pizza. Thank you for your partnership in sharing the hope of Jesus.
 
SARA NIELSEN,  71Five Campus Coordinator – Central Point
(541) 816-6761 | sara@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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Grappling with doubt . . .

Young people experienced the redeeming power of God’s love ay 71Five VoTech. Like David, who once grappled with deep-seated doubts about his self-worth, battled a lack of confidence and an overwhelming concern for others’ perceptions. However, through the unwavering support of 71Five staff and volunteers, and supporters like you, with the guidance of the Lord, David’s journey took a transformative turn. Through countless projects and tireless dedication, David found a reservoir of skills within himself, proving that hard work and commitment, fueled by faith, can yield tangible achievements. With each completed project, his confidence soared, and he has discovered a healthy pride in his abilities, realizing that his worth is defined by how God has made him, not the judgments of others.
 
Through 71Five VoTech, David not only gained technical skills but also reclaimed his sense of self-worth and found the courage to do the hard work, guided by the grace of God. Join us at 71Five VoTech and experience the life-changing power of faith, community, and personal growth.
 
AARON FAUST,  71Five VoTech Coordinator – Grants Pass
541.761.5143 | aaron@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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Real Questions & Real Answers

Middle School youth ministry is challenging! It feels like it takes a lot to build a relationship and create a space with the right amount of time where kids can ask genuine questions and hear real answers. The kids of our community have a lot of information on top of a lot of distractions thrown at them all the time. So in kicking off our Middle School talk and discussion time here at 71Five Campus – North Medford, we switched it up a little by having everyone sit on the floor in a circle. I’ve also requested all to put their phones away. We are striving to engage these kids where they are. This is where we have an unplugged conversation about the things that matters most in life… not the trivial distractions of our age! I was surprised and encouraged by how well these discussions have been going! It’s through the book of Mark, which packs in a lot, we read about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ!
 
One of the young ladies, Julie, asked very pointed questions about Christianity and how it differs from other worldviews she’s been exposed to. The earnestness and seriousness of her questions opened up a whole discussion about the claims of Christianity! It’s an awesome thing to see our young people discussing and wrestling with the great truths of the Bible! You are making these outreaches possible to young people who are not normally found sitting in church on Sundays! Thank you so much for being involved with this great effort to reach the kids of our community and change eternal destinies!
 
SHANE SKIRVIN,  71Five Campus Coordinator – North Medford
(541) 646-1475 | shane@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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The Hard Struggle

“Pray for me as I go into my program to get clean and better my life with Christ!” This was spoken by a 15-year-old girl in Juvenile Detention. The struggle of getting clean is hard. How can she stay sober? How can she further her walk with God?
 
By partnering in this work, you help show these kids and specifically this young woman the love of Christ. You help these kids find the hope and love that goes beyond everyone’s understanding. Many of them don’t know this love and you have caused them to see the love of Christ. You helped these kids be curious about why the people that come into Juvenile Detention have such joy and love. You’ve helped them realize that there is a better way to live their life, even through all of their struggles.
 
Thank you!
 
RYANN FLEECE,  71Five Intern
541.646.2604 | ryann@71Five.org
 
“Lord God, you are my hope. I have trusted you since I was young.” Psalm 71:5 ICB

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