The remarkable story of John and Maetta Craig and Noblesville Young Life

IMG_0709It all started with a phone call from Maetta.

Expectations were low when I pulled into Applebee’s in Carmel 5 years ago this month to meet with Maetta and her husband John about getting Young Life started in Noblesville. I was simply being faithful to the commitment to meet with anyone who wants to talk about starting Young Life in their community. I have had hundreds of these meetings and most of these dreams never come to fruition.

Especially when the phone call comes from a woman in her mid 70’s who only recently moved to the town she was living in.

But this was different for many reasons.

John is Maetta’s second husband. She and her first husband Joe ran Young Life at Ben Davis high school for many years as volunteers and at one point ran a YL property in Indiana (Chartwell) that no longer exists.

Cancer got the better of Joe Egbert a number of years ago.

As Maetta tells the story Joe’s death bed wish was for Maetta to continue to take couples to Windy Gap (YL Property in North Carolina) every fall for a weekend getaway. Maetta was faithful to her word. One of the conditions when she married John was that they would continue this tradition.

John and Maetta eventually moved to Noblesville and started taking friends from their new church. In 2008 they took four couples who are contemporaries of theirs. When they saw Young Life in action they said to Maetta, “We need this in Noblesville.”

So that is how we ended up in Applebee’s on that fateful day.

I fell in love immediately.

 

John didn’t fully get Young Life at that point and he continually compared it to the Boy Scouts which he had been deeply involved in.

Maetta is as sweet as person can possibly be. Behind the sweetness is a driving passion to make a difference in the world.

So we set up a meeting for late November of 2008 at John and Maetta’s house. Much to my surprise there were 25 people there.

 No one was under the age of 70.

70 is not old.  But this is not the typical demographics of the folks who want to bring a ministry for teenagers to their community.

Part way through the meeting one gentleman raised his hand and said, “We may not be the age of the people who usually get Young Life started, but we have time and we have money and I bet you could use both of those.”

He is right.

The meeting seemed to be going well so I did what I always do and suggest that we get together in a month. One by one the hands started going up, “We will be in Florida until March.” “We will be in Arizona until May.” “We will be…”

We did eventually get back together again and most of those folks brought people with them.

At one point a couple of tables full of Noblesville folks came to a Carmel Young Life banquet. Dave Calabro, a local sportscaster, was emceeing the banquet and briefly sharing his story of Young Life impacting his life as a High School student at Ben Davis. He looked out in the crowd and saw Maetta, “Maetta, what are you doing here?” He had no idea she was a part of getting YL started at Noblesville but he had spent week after week at Joe and Maetta’s house in high school and was now telling 400 people about how Maetta and Joe had changed his live.

Over the course of the next 6 months this group led us to a more typical makeup of a Young Life committee.

The committee became a hodgepodge group of faithful people.

  • A few folks who had been a part of Young Life in Noblesville when it faded away in the early 80’s who now have kids in the high school.
  •  John and Maetta and two other couples in their 70’s (This may be a generous age estimate)
  • Janet Howe who had been the committee chair in the 1980’s and was ready to jump in for another round.

For over a year we would take two steps forward and one step back. I would drive home late at night convinced one month that I was wasting my time and the next month that YL in Noblesville was a sure thing.

Over time thanks to Greg and Kristie Campbell’s willingness to step forward and take on leadership and the generosity of many others we had raised enough money to interview a candidate.

We brought Michael Redding, a senior at Purdue at the time, in and set him up with meals or coffees with each committee member over the course of 48 hours before culminating in a large group interview.

After John and Maetta had coffee with Michael I received this email from Maetta:

 Just met with Michael Redding.  I was impressed with his resume to the point that I was ready to give the stamp of approval.  But NOW if we don’t hire him we are crazy.  I questioned his maturity to handle volunteers and kids, but believe that he can handle it all. 

He seems equally at ease with adults.  He will be an asset to Noblesville. 

Maetta

 

She was right.

Michael started on staff in Noblesville in the fall of 2010.

Young Life is thriving in Noblesville. They recently started Capernaum (ministry to kids with special needs) and Young Lives (ministry to pregnant teenagers and teenage moms) and will soon launch Wyldlife (ministry to Jr High students)

There is a plethora of stories I could share to show that Young Life is working but I will share this from a teacher at Noblesville HS.

 “Young Life is having a huge impact and really showing love to our students. The other day, Michael was subbing in the class next to mine and so many kids came up to him and said hello and talked about Young Life. A lot of these kids were kids I would never “expect” to be in Young Life. That next Monday, I was teaching my class and kids were talking about how horrible Mondays were. Then, a student spoke up and said, ‘Yeah it’s Monday, but there is Campaigners tonight!’ I didn’t expect “that” kid to say that.”

John and Maetta still show up to committee meetings, faithfully grill hot dogs at every tailgate, and pray continually.

Last week John, Maetta and I sat in the same booth at Applebee’s that we had five years earlier. John is in his second round of chemo and is not doing well.

Maetta will likely eventually lose a second husband to cancer.

I don’t know how to process this.

They spent most of the lunch sharing with me their ideas for how we could reach more kids in Noblesville and inner city Indianapolis.

Maetta is still upset about Young Life selling Chartwell and I don’t blame her.

 

In John Chapter 6 Jesus and his disciples are trying to figure out how to feed the 5,000 people who are stuck on a hillside without any food. A little boy brings his measly lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish and tells Andrew that he can use them if they can help feed the crowd. “It is not much but it is all I have.” This was of course an absurd suggestion to believe that what he was offering could even make a dent in the problem. Miraculously Jesus used these five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people (likely over 10,000 including women and children).

 When we offer up our not enough Jesus makes it more than enough. 

Thanks John and Maetta for offering your ‘not enough’ and thanks Jesus for making it more than enough. Noblesville will never be the same because of your faithfulness.

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