Impact Stories

Through Life’s Storms

As a sneaky lake storm snuck up on them, Kathy and her companions found themselves stranded in the lake.

Retired Clergywoman Kathy Young grew up “in the bosom of the Methodist Church” of Miles City, Montana. The oldest of four siblings, she experienced a time of intense storminess in her family life when she was just seven years old, and found health and wholeness in her local church, junior choir, summer theater,and camp.

As a youth, Kathy attended camp at Luccock Park. She saved up money she made cleaning house for her grandma to earn her way. She fell in love with camp as a kid, discovering a sense of community, goodness and kindness, being safe, and feeling like there was community that had their arms around her. The people and the place made a light come on for her.

She always came home high, sensing that “this was the world” where she felt lifted, and wanted to go back for another week. The leaders she met and her good experiences there led her to work on camp staff at Flathead Camp for a year and as a counselor for youth camps for many, many years.

One sunny summer afternoon, Kathy, along with two young men (one who was the manager’s son) and two junior high girl campers, borrowed the camp manager’s boat to see if they could locate a grotto they had heard about. A major cloudburst caught them out on the lake and completely swamped the boat right out under them.

This was in the days before life jackets. They had one boat cushion, an empty gas can, and one young man who had a natural build for floating to hold onto, and they were half a mile from the nearest land, Wild Horse Island. Kathy was a strong swimmer, but the lake is about 400 feet deep at that place. They fought their way together through rough waves, sang camp songs and screamed The Lord’s Prayer. They worried as much about getting in trouble as they did about drowning, and were especially anxious about being responsible for the young campers.

They finally reached the island and scrambled up a steep and rocky shore. Wandering across the island they found private cabins, but people in the one that was occupied initially tried to run them off as trespassers. They finally agreed to call the Lake County Sheriff, who picked them up and took them to Polson where his wife wrapped them in scratchy army blankets and filled them up with hot chocolate.

By now, of course, the panicked folks at camp had discovered them missing, and thankfully came for them as night was falling. It had been a very close call.

When folks at another camp approached Kathy while she was playing the piano in the tabernacle and asked her if she “knew Jesus?” her response was, “We’re buds.”

Kathy learned as a camp counselor to be an attentive, understanding and caring listener for campers, recognizing the reality that all of us can make misjudgments, but we do not need to be overwhelmed by deep water.

Her call to ministry did not come in one clarion moment, but through a growing awareness of building and being part of beloved community. Her sense of camp as a community thatreceived her as she was, put arms around her, encouraged and embraced her real self, influenced her way of seeing her ministry as that of being a midwife. She holds a sense of the church being a safe place for people to ask questions, be themselves, and be received with open arms. Her honest faith and deep compassion make her a person people of all ages and situations can trust. Kathy as a pastor has a well-earned reputation for being understanding and a great listener, a person others of all ages can trust, and a true rock through life’s storms.