York Young Life volunteer Colin Gray of Elmhurst said the group of teens he works with and others in the community are "devastated" after hearing that a former associate pastor, who also was a Young Life volunteer, confessed to a physical relationship with an underage girl.
Jim Lennon, pastor of West Suburban Church in Elmhurst, read the letter of confession from Darin Evans to his church congregation Sunday, Feb. 24.
"We're pretty devastated by what's happened here," Gray said in a phone interview Thursday. "It's been very difficult for us to deal with this situation."
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Gray, committee chairman for Young Life, said he joined the group late last year, around the same time Evans was moving to Ohio with his wife and three kids. But Gray also is a member of West Suburban Church, so he has known Evans in his role as associate pastor for about 11 years. Gray was in church last Sunday when Lennon read Evans' admission.
"Obviously the reaction was just shock and sadness," he said of the congregation. "We really haven't had much time to digest it. Of course everyone is praying for the victim and all those who have been so devastated by this news."
He said Young Life, which is made up of between 40-60 students from York and Willowbrook high schools, has had a very positive effect on the teens involved.
"I have been very impressed in just the few months I've been involved," he said. "People have had life-changing experiences (through Young Life) and that's one of the reasons I'm involved in the group."
He said the group meets regularly on Tuesdays for about an hour and a half at the Elks Club, or the Wagner Community Center, or sometimes at a participant's home if the crowd isn't too large. Evans had attended many of those meetings in the past, Gray said, and had delivered the regular gospel message to the kids. He said every year, the group attended a summer camp, but he couldn't say with certainty if Evans went on those trips.
He said he hasn't had any discussion yet with the Young Life kids about Evans. When asked if this incident might have a negative affect on the group going forward, he said he didn't know.
"We'll just have to wait for the investigation to be completed. We'll just wait to see what happens," he said.
"We just continue to pray about the situation and continue to do what we do. We'll let God's grace filter in and hope that there's some healing over time so we can move forward."
The victim remains anonymous, and Elmhurst police are conducting the investigation. Elmhurst Patch has not come across any evidence or statement that the abuse involved a Young Life participant.