Rendi Thelaikis dropped out of school at 13 to run with a neo-Nazi youth gang, dabbling with drugs and wrangling with police in Osterlein, Germany.
His sister, Janina, 19, weathered pressure to abort her baby. And their brother, Patrick, 17, faced a bleak future in an economy scarred by communism.
Sports Camp Source of "Positive Energy"
Sensing a better future for her children in the "positive energy" of 20 Dutch athletes boarding at a hostel where she cooked, their mother, Antje Thelaikis, convinced her boys to visit a sports clinic the team held in conjunction with Athletes in Action, Campus Crusade for Christ's sports ministry.
After worship at a bonfire the third night, Theo Tolsma, a soccer player who has broad experience organizing AIA outreaches, invited the youth to "give their lives to the Lord." Rendi and Patrick both accepted Christ along with 4 other German youth, and never missed camp afterwards.
The final day, their mother visited camp. "What the youth workers could not do in one year, you did in one week," she told Theo. "My son Rendi is a different boy. He's peaceful, paying attention and listening to me."
Lasting Effects of New Relationship with God
Antje asked if the parents could join a Bible study that Theo organized for the boys and pushed to include Janina, who gave her life to Christ the final day.
"In that part of Europe, it takes a long time of relationship building for people to warm up to the gospel," says Christian Kocherscheidt, AIA's director for western Germany. "For children to have such life-changing behavior is remarkable, and especially for the parents to be interested."
Now Rendi is back in school, and Janina is keeping the baby. And Theo is working part time as a social worker in the high school "to hang out with the kids and help with their problems."