As she walked down the hallways of one of her son’s schools, a student came up and asked her “do you smile at everybody?” She tries to.
Raised by two strong parents of faith, she was shown how to serve well and how to stretch beyond boundaries, becoming friends and family with people she never expected. Now realizing there’s a place for everybody, she’s also seen God in places she never expected.
Meet Crystal VanHekken, a part time employee who’s been working with the Greater Holland Area Young Life for almost five years. This position allows her to oversee West Ottawa’s Young Life and WyldLife teams as well as meet with the team leaders in the entire area every other week to discuss plans and participate in discipleship through Bible studies.
Before then she was a teacher for 12 years in the Reeths-Puffer School District and had never heard of Young Life until a friend mentioned there was a job opening while watching her son’s soccer game. Through those five years, VanHekken says her faith has grown tremendously, better trusting God in who He is, being of sound mind and spreading joy wherever she can.
When she gets assigned positions during the summer, her husband and three sons, Jackson, Jacob and Josiah all love to camp at Timber Wolf Lake- A Young Life Camp in Lake City, Michigan.
As a female, a female of color and a female of 40 years old she has a passion for diversity and women in ministry. She would like to see a better reflection of the demographics of each school in the Young Life community and for the area to build more diverse leadership teams. She advocates leaders to extend beyond their own normal social circle.
“If we say in our missions that we’re reaching all kids, then we have to look deep into ourselves ‘who are the kids, who are the people that we are having harder times crossing those boundaries to reach?’,” says VanHekken.
As an encouraging community leader she understands that we are called to extend love to everyone regardless to where they’re at, physically or emotionally, so that they can enter into a space to hear the Gospel. Rarely letting the lack of diversity within the Holland area hinder her, VanHekken sees the beauty in the “mess” of it all. Young Life involves having hard conversations and entering messy lives.
She says Young Life has been a humbling experience for her and that this ministry is what God has called her to do.
“I’ve learned to really live in the freedom of who God is and through Him, and so being able to let go of control.”
Psalm 23:5 and Psalm 46:1 are the two verses VanHekken lives by. Through these verses she says she understands that no matter how difficult and bothersome the world can be, the Lord brings peace to her world full of chaos and that her faith can be bendable but not shaken for she is grounded in Jesus.