Locally, it can be hard to find volunteers to keep events going for local teens. So it is probably fortunate that Timber Bay found Bill Agens, of Pine River, especially when you consider he seemed destined to take a completely different route.
As a group that promotes belief in Christ, it is no surprise that Agens, Timber Bay's Pequot Lakes and Pine River area director, is a man of faith. But he didn't start that way. As a matter of fact, his faith came relatively late in life.
"I came to Christ in 2004 and started volunteering with Timber Bay in 2007," Agens said.
Agens was raised in California in a nonreligious house under a strict, sometimes unpleasant man.
"I grew up in California, raised by a United States Marine, Vietnam vet," Agens said. "Very hardcore guy. I wasn't raised in a Christian home either. I came to Christ way late in life. I was a city boy until I was 16. My dad retired from the Marines in 1972, when Vietnam was over, and I was 10 years old. We moved to the bay area and then when I was 16 we moved to northern California, a town called Red Bluff. We lived way out on a farm. It was serious culture shock for me. I considered it my hometown after I got used to it."
After school, Agens picked up his life's trade working at a machine shop in the bay area of California, but a family tradition called to him and he left after four years.
"I joined the Army," Agens said. "Our family history since the revolution has been in the military. I did six and a half years. Went to Desert Storm, and after an honorable discharge I met my wife in the Army."
After six years of service, Agens and his wife moved back to California. A year later, approximately 1993, they made a big move to Pequot Lakes, where Agens picked up work at Pequot Tool & Manufacturing. He's worked there ever since.
Since that time things changed. After becoming a Christian in 2004, Agens' participation in the Pequot Lakes Baptist Church exposed him to the nondenominational youth group called Timber Bay. One thing really caught his attention.
"I was becoming a member of the church," Agens said. "There was a presentation by a friend, Amy, and another guy named Bill. They were both with Timber Bay. They put up pictures of these blue rafts whitewater rafting. I said, 'I gotta go do that.'"
Agens began as a volunteer in 2007, and in 2010 he became a staff member. At almost the same time he transitioned to area director. As a volunteer, he had a hand in every Timber Bay activity he could muster, and that caught the regional director's attention when the area director left.
"She decided to step down," Agens said. "John Ring, the regional director at the time, saw me coming on staff as the area director for Pequot Lakes. I told him no. I said I couldn't see myself doing it. A month later I called him back and said, 'All right, John, let's do this,' because I realized I would have to raise my own support."
Life as the area director has been busy. As far as youth groups go, Timber Bay is active in community outreach, camps and recreational activities. Around Christmas, Agens' group can be seen ringing bells for the Salvation Army, and just before Memorial Day they clean up either the dam in Pine River or Pine Ridge Cemetery. The group also does an average of 12 camping trips a year, older students whitewater raft at Wolf River once a year, attend an overnight ski trip at Giants Ridge, visit Valleyfair, host a murder mystery dinner and take summer boating excursions.
All of these activities make for a busy area director.
To top that off, Agens not only organizes and oversees these events, he solicits donations that keep the program running, often by visiting potential donors in person one at a time. Other than the annual charitable spaghetti feed and some other occasional fundraising opportunities, Timber Bay is completely supported by donations.
It is for this reason that Agens would someday like to retire from working in the machine shop and dedicate all his time to Timber Bay. If that ever happens, the group might grow with more specialized meetings and events.
"Right now we meet with high school kids on one day and middle school kids on another day," Agens said. "I would like to have middle school boys one day, middle school girls another day, a different day for just a Bible study group. I would also like to have a day or time where I can meet with alumni who have graduated from high school to continue with mentors for life. Currently right now, because I have my day job, I can't do that. I'm spread thin enough."
Agens and Timber Bay are dedicated to making lifelong relationships with its students. The goal is to help them thrive on healthy connections with their community and peers. Agens draws on his past to do his job well.
"I've got a very colorful past," Agens said. "The way I was raised is contrary to the way I live now. Absolutely. So, it gives me a good witness to the kids how not to be. I grew up and my dad was an alcoholic and he wasn't kind to us. I do get to use a lot of my past to teach the kids. It is helpful in that. I believe that a good portion of my past is so useful in teaching. It's incredible that God allowed me to go through so much of that stuff so I could be useful now. I often thought about, 'If only this hadn't happened' or 'if only I hadn't done that,' but I think it was for a purpose. Everyone has regrets, but I think there was a purpose for them."
The local Timber Bay is part of a larger midwestern group based mostly in Minnesota. Though the local group meets at the Trailside Center in Pequot Lakes out of convenience, it is a nondenominational Christian youth group. Those interested in donating to Timber Bay or for students interested in joining, contact Agens at firstname.lastname@example.org.