PROSPERITY — Cliff Wright, Young Life metro director in Charlotte, N.C., talked about the path that led him to Christ, via Young Life, during the Young Life Annual Banquet last week.
“I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, I was adopted into a family that was coming into the faith of Jesus Christ, they couldn’t have children, so during the adoption process they got into a small group of folks that were all Evangelical Christians, cause that’s what Christians do, they adopt. That’s how my parents met Jesus, through the adoption process,” Wright said. “My dad became an adoption attorney after that and has been doing that ever since.”
Wright said he was raised in this family that was figuring out faith. He went to church that put the school in Sunday School. He heard about Jesus every Sunday morning, every Sunday night and most Wednesday nights.
“I heard about Jesus my whole life, I grew up in the American South, I heard about Jesus, but when it came to a personal relationship with Jesus, my faith was more of a fashion statement than a mission statement,” Wright said.
Wright still remembers the first day he saw Jesus for the first time. Wright was 16 years old, and he was in high school, he was standing in the grove in the middle of his high school when he walked in.
“He had thinning hair and chiseled features, he was wearing shorts and a purple North Face parka and gray New Balances, man he was old, he was like 40,” Wright said. “He made eye contact with me and he walked over, he stuck out his hand, said ‘you’re Cliff right?’ and I said, ‘yea, I am Cliff Wright,’” he said.
The man introduced himself as Bill, a Young Life director, and he told Wright that he had been to his soccer games, and said how good he was. The two talked that morning, and Wright said he could see something in their conversation that was unusual to him.
“He liked me, finally somebody besides one of my parents saw something in me, he liked me,” Wright said.
The bell rang, and the two concluded their conversation and Bill walked Wright to class. A couple of days later, as school was getting out, Wright saw Bill in the parking lot with a crowd of youths, and once again the two made eye contact. Bill walked over to Wright and walked him to the his car. Wright said Bill just kept walking into his universe, but he wasn’t the only one.
“I was forcibly befriended by this group of kids in this Young Life thing, they were called campaigners. I’ll never forget the first Friday night they asked me to hang out. We laughed and we talked as the night went on. We went on the back steps and we talked about faith, I was feeling a little disillusioned at the time, so I shared by doubts and they just listened and asked questions and acted like I was the most important person in the world,” Wright said. “I thought, if that’s what it means to be a Christian, I’m very interested. So I kept hanging out with those folks.”
During his first time at a Young Life event, Wright said there were hundreds of youths there, students that normally would not be in the same room together. They were singing, playing games and having fun. Bill then came on stage and pulled out his Bible, he said when that happened, everybody listened.
“Bill talked about Jesus like he knew him. When Bill stopped talking, I thought to myself, why did he have to stop,” Wright said.
The summer came, and thanks to Bill, Wright was able to attend a Young Life camp. He said it was the best week of his life.
“At the end of the camp, Bill and me were taking one last walk around camp. We came across two rocking chairs, and Bill said, ‘do you wanna take a seat.’ Bill asked, ‘Cliff what has this week meant to you?’” Wright said.
Wright told Bill that this week meant everything to him, and Bill asked what is it going to mean for his life.
“I said, ‘Bill, I’m going to go home, stop looking at bad stuff on the internet, I’m going to stop lying to my mom and dad, I’m going to do my homework, I’m going to read the Bible,” Wright said. “Then he (Bill) said, ‘Cliff that is not going to make God love you any more.’”
Wright asked Bill what he meant. Bill told Wright that God loves him the way he is right now, and Wright said that the next thing Bill said was like a dart through a balloon, piercing his life. He told Wright that God likes him.
“I don’t remember what my mouth said, but my heart said, likes me! likes me! does he know me? Does he know what I think about those people? Does he know what I say? Does he know what I think about? Does he know what I’ve done to those girls? Does he know what I’ve said to those people? Does he know that I’ve lied? Does he know the thoughts I’ve had? Like me! He can’t like me,” Wright said. “Because Bill said it, I believed it.”
Wright said Bill walked with him to the grove, walked him to class, walked him to his car and walked him to the cross. He said that has changed everything about his life, from who he married, to his job, to having kids.
“There are more of me out there, more of me here in Newberry, black ones, brown ones, ones that speak English, and ones that speak something else, tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones. World of kids, all star headline kids, music kids, dreamers, burn out kids, front page of the newspaper kids and detention kids,” Wright said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.