Christian youth leader livens up local chamber meeting

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 12:23
  • MEA spokeswoman Julie Estey, MTA government affairs representative Stu Graham and Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbie Rinckey play a game during a presentation by Young Life Eagle River Area Director Aaron Hopkins during the chamber meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019 at the Matanuska Alehouse in Eagle River. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Young Life Eagle River Area Director Aaron Hopkins gives a presentation to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019 at the Matanuska Brewing Company in Eagle River. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

They don’t normally play a lot of games at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, but the group made an exception Wednesday for local Young Life area director Aaron Hopkins.

With Hopkins serving as emcee, chamber executive director Debbie Rinckey, Matanuska Telephone Association government affairs representative Stu Graham and Matanuska Electric Association director of external affairs Julie Estey stood in front of the crowd wearing silver bowls on their heads. The trio of local business leaders giggled as they tried to guess a song played over the speakers. Whenever someone got an answer right, the other two competitors had to put another sucker into their mouth.

If it sounds silly, that’s because it was.

“It’s really fun just to laugh at yourself,” Hopkins told those in attendance at the chamber’s biweekly lunch forum on Sept. 4 at the Matanuska Brewing Company in Eagle River.

Hopkins said the fun and games are part of his job, which is to recruit young people into the fold of Young Life, an international Christian organization focused on youth in middle and high school. According to Hopkins, the group’s sole mission is to get kids interested in Jesus Christ.

“We’re all about kids and we’re all about Jesus because we think he’s the answer to their lives,” he said.

Hopkins said he and his family moved to Alaska five years ago to run the local group. He said he draws kids into the group because it’s first and foremost a lot of fun. Hopkins described one event with local middle schoolers where the group ate a giant banana split.

“Before you knew it they were all covered with each other’s ice cream,” he said.

Hopkins said the appeal for many kids is the group isn’t affiliated with a particular church and doesn’t require anything from its members.

“They’re loved for who they are,” he said.

Hopkins said Young Life is extremely active at Eagle River High School — where he’s learned the names of 260 students — and he’s hopeful of becoming more active at Chugiak High in the near future.

“We want a stronger presence at Chugiak,” said Hopkins.

In addition to regular “Club” activities (like the banana split event), Hopkins said Young Life also gives participants a chance to attend Christian summer camps Outside. Last summer, local kids visited the Young Life camp in British Columbia, he said.

A Young Life member who attended the camp told chamber members the camp was “a blast.”

“It’s like a family,” the teen said.

Hopkins said a big part of getting children involved with Young Life is for volunteers with the group to be active in the local schools. He became a football coach, he said, in order to “go where the kids are.”

“All these kids are kids we want to reach,” he said.

Eagle River assemblymember Fred Dyson attended Wednesday’s chamber meeting and said he believes groups like Young Life can help young people succeed.

“This is a very worthwhile ministry,” he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274

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