Youth Staying Connected Through Faith: Interview with Micah Marshall
Previous articles for First Frontier Forward have shown readers that the people we interview are changing the way our community functions in unique ways. While we still are in the uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult to keep a positive outlook on the future. This isn’t true for Micah Marshall. Founder and executive director of the Refuge Youth Network, he is positive that remaining faithful, motivated, and tight-knit with other community members will make for better and successful times to come.
Refuge Youth Network is a non-profit organization that works with different programs, churches, and businesses to reach the youth of counties in Central PA. The goal is to bring support to teens and younger ages through after school and summer programs, ministry, and prayer. Marshall talks about the beginning of his journey with RYN. “I initially accepted the youth pastor position at New Life Worship Center in March 2011. Three years later, Trans4mation Church offered me the responsibilities of ministering to teens at that church in addition to my duties at New Life. In 2016, the Community Worship Center in Tyrone asked me to serve that church. I found myself youth pastoring three different churches, 3 nights a week. I kept thinking, ‘What would it look like to serve the youth of our community, not just a single church?’” This would become a networking project for Marshall, connecting the teenagers and youth across the area.
“The journey has had its ups and downs with easy and hard roads to travel. And while God has shown me this concept can be effective in transforming teens’ lives, you will never hear me say: ‘Everyone should be doing this, or this will work for everyone, everywhere.’ However, as we have joined together with others, I have experienced what can happen when a community can put aside their agendas and differences to focus on the goal of blessing their youth by working in unity.” As the organization continued to grow, this meant a growth in the number of students that were involved. Suddenly, Marshall and the RYN became a weekly ‘call to worship’ for the area's youth. However, in today’s world, that has had to change.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to large gatherings of people, the RYN has had to change up their schedule while still keeping the teens’ busy and as involved as they possibly can, especially with the social distancing mandate. “This whole season has been extremely wild for us as an organization. A majority of what we do is centered around physically seeing teenagers during the week. With ‘social distancing’ being implemented, this has become a challenge to us.” Luckily for Marshall, the RYN team has creatively found ways to continue lessons, fun, and interaction with the area youth. “We have been meeting on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday nights with our teens on Zoom,” Marshall says. “We play games with them then we have a lesson that we teach and play another game. I am thankful for technology like Zoom that allows us to stay connected to our teens.” Marshall and his team have also continued to have a strong social media presence online, on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. With such activities as the organized “Quarantine Olympics,” Marshall has been able to create a new way to stay connected to the teens while remaining socially distant.
We asked Marshall how the community is fairing in this time of uncertainty. He says, “In my personal opinion, I believe that our community has done amazing. The community in Central PA is so amazing, they uplift one another, and help each other out. Our small businesses and entrepreneurs have come together even stronger than before.” His love for the community doesn’t waiver and he’s confident that it will continue even after the pandemic subsides. “This time is what you make of it, so make sure that you do something with your nothing! I am hoping this time will inspire new business ideas, new artists, and a new sense of deep-rooted love for our community.”
For Micah Marshall, a goal for the end of 2020 is to not only reach out to more students in the area but he hopes the relationship that RYN has with the community continues to be strong and forthcoming. “I see myself still reaching kids for a long time. I don’t have plans of going anywhere to do anything else. I love this community and I love what I do, I am not even close to being done with what I am called to do yet.” With a majority of their events being placed on hold, the Refuge Youth Network is still hoping to have their Annual Fundraising Benefit on September 24th, 2020. Taking it one day at a time, Marshall encourages community members to support all small businesses and nonprofits, hoping they remember that we are, in fact, stronger when we all work together!
If you would like to support the Refuge Youth Network, you can go to their website at www.refugeyouthnetwork.org or call them at 814-889-9113. Also, reach out to them on any and all social media platforms that are listed below. A huge thank you to Micah Marshall and everyone working at the Refuge Youth Network. Let’s keep our First Frontier connected!