August 29, 2016 | 3:30 p.m.
By Ava Bergen, alumni communications
What began as a desire to give back became more than 20 years of service to Young Life, a Christian organization that “meets kids on their own turf.”
“My start at Young Life really began at Bethel,” says Wiley Scott ’90. “I come from a tough background, with a lot of the issues that go along with poverty. As I was graduating from college, I realized the people who invested in my life allowed me to be where I was. I wanted to give back and invest in people the same way I had been impacted.”
Scott says his mentor at Bethel, the late Director of Multicultural Development Terry Coffee, recommended that he join the Young Life team after graduation. “I flew out to Boston to one of the Young Life camps at Lake Champion, where I sat at the back of the camp room filled with 300 kids,” Scott says. “They looked like me, reminded me of me, had my story. I watched those kids laugh harder than I’d ever seen kids laugh, and then I was mesmerized by the silence. You could hear a pin drop as those same laughing kids sat still and listened to the gospel. I sat in the back of that room on a windowsill and thought, ‘What more can I give my life to than this?’”
Scott now serves as senior vice president of the eastern division of Young Life, overseeing 10 regions, 333 areas, and 984 ministries that impact 269,000 kids annually. “Young Life as a mission believes every kid deserves a right to make a choice about their relationship with Jesus Christ,” Scott says. “To give kids that opportunity, we have to go out and meet kids where they are in a language they understand.”
Scott says Young Life’s strategy is centered on four main values: prayer, discipleship, committed development, and multicultural ministry. “We want to reach every kid, so we have to educate our staff about cross-cultural intelligence,” he says. “We can no longer hire people who are content with just reaching kids who look like them. We want to reach and love every kid.”
As a Bethel student, Scott was involved in student leadership, serving as a resident assistant and starting student-led Vespers in a small choir room. “Bethel was the place where I found true faith,” says Scott. “There’s another side of Bethel for me, too, though. At the time I was one of 10 people of color at the college. There was not a lot of diversity. But Bethel allowed me—as a minority—to go into a profoundly white organization and figure out how to become a leader. If I didn’t have that Bethel experience, I couldn’t have my job now in Young Life. Because, as a person of color, Bethel taught me how to navigate a world that was not naturally mine.”
Scott represents “what the best of Bethel can do,” says Laurel Bunker, Bethel University dean of campus ministries and campus pastor. “He is incredibly observant and only gives his energy to things that matter. His life and heart are with his family first, then with kids who grew up like him—to see them come to Christ and have a future.”
Scott’s commitment to Young Life’s mission is based on his own experiences living in relationship with Abdul and Daniel, Young Life students whom Scott has known since they were in junior high and high school. “When I picture Young Life, I think about Daniel and Abdul,” Scott says. “Abdul knows he can call me if he ever needs to, and we can be honest with each other. I walked with Daniel through high school, I was at his college graduation, I was at his wedding. To this day we are still in each others’ lives. That’s what Young Life does.”
Scott lives in Ashburn, Virginia, with his wife JoLynn and their three children.