Johanna Freer was the Affiliate Director at Upper Canada YFC. Johanna’s involvement in YFC as a youth herself had a profound impact on the trajectory of her life.
I had been raised in a Christian home, but the church youth group just wasn’t cutting it. I was just a little too rough around the edges for your regular run-of-the-mill church teen. My family had moved from Kingston to Brockville, and my parents found a place for my intellectually disabled brother to hang out. I choose to go to make sure they didn’t have him joining some sort of crazy cult. They met in an old school where they played sports, hung out, and talked about Jesus. I remember asking the hard questions, the questions that make every church youth leader cringe. To my surprise, one of the volunteers was not afraid to answer my questions. Every week I would come back and every week they had answers. These weren’t the nice answers I had received in the past, but rather answers that motivated my soul, fed my hunger for purpose and love, and reminded me of my eternal value. They encouraged my significance in a secure and accepting environment.
As I got older, I frequented the after-school program less and less and threw away parts of myself I didn’t think had any value. I came around the YFC office just to revisit my religious past, but I wasn’t interested in fully engaging in programming again.
Something very difficult brought me to a place of asking questions I had never asked before, and at 18, I remembered that small YFC office with those “not afraid of my questions” people. I was pretty desperate and threw it all out there. Even though they knew what I had done, where I had been, and what I would continue doing, they always welcomed me back. I felt like they enjoyed having me there and enjoyed my interruptions and questions.
One of the staff invited me to a Youth Freedom in Christ weekend, and this is where my life began to completely transform. God allowed for this pain, this time, and these people to carry me to Jesus. They gently placed my wasted body down for Him to heal and breathed me back to life, and I was changed, forever.
I always think to myself, if a church kid like me could wander that far from knowing their eternal significance, imagine a kid that has never heard the name of Jesus. Had I not experienced the healing love of Christ Jesus that day when I was 18, I would not be here today. I now have the honour of doing the same for other questioning youth. I can think of no greater place to exist in such a time as this.