Anne Florence Brown
Driving along Highway 6 towards Batesville, you may think there’s nothing but fields along the two lane highway, but nestled off of a county road 15 minutes from Oxford lies a modern stylized farmhouse, laden with twinkle lights and a full-sized parking lot.
To the untrained eye, it may seem like another house, similar to any other home in Oxford. However, residents Brad and Emily Akin are anything but ordinary.
On any given night, countless college students cram into their rustic living room, sitting wherever they can find space, to participate in Young Life, a gathering that meets every Tuesday night at the Akins’ home.
“Young Life is an Outreach Ministry that is all over the world,” Brad Akin said. “We focus on mentoring adolescents and building trusting relationships with them.”
This requires opening up their home for college students on Tuesday nights and any time a college student shows up. However, Brad Akin has not always called small town Mississippi home. He has lived in Tennessee, Arizona, and Singapore.
“My wife and I lived in Singapore for six years serving through Young Life,” Akin said. “Singapore is home to about 6 million people (and) 70 percent of those have Chinese heritage. There are more international students in Singapore than in any other city in the world, and we had the chance to befriend and mentor a countless amount of them.
“We moved to Arizona from Singapore, and after several years of Young Life there, we heard about an opening in Oxford, and we jumped at the chance.”
Every week, college students come to Young Life to meet others. Blake Young is one. “Young Life has made a huge impact on me, as I have felt fully received and accepted whenever I have walk through [the Akins’] front door,” he said.
Young Life has grown in the years since the Akins’ arrival. “We do work with college-aged students, but we also train college students to pour into the lives of local high-schoolers and middle-schoolers. Young Life has so many layers to it that are constantly at work in the community.”
Walk into any local high school or middle school during lunchtime, and you might spot several college students at lunch tables, chatting and relating with their younger friends.
“I feel filled up each time I talk to Brad, or walk into their home,” said Jacob Christiansen, a Young Life leader at Lafayette High School. “From the community I have found through college Young Life, I get to pour out that love to high-schoolers who might not ever get the chance to feel that. It is my favorite thing.”
According to YoungLife.org, Young Life is currently in more than 5,000 schools across the country and impacts around 2 million kids all over the world every day. It’s mission is to provide a loving community and lead others to Christ.
“Having the opportunity to love kids where they are, to truly care about them regardless of their choices is the greatest gift,” said Akin.