JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: The Victorian or the rental? Christian youth program had a choice

ONE IS A large Victorian cottage with scrollwork trim, stained glass windows and fish-scale shingles above the front porch. Inside are a high-ceilinged front parlor, formal dining room, kitchen and sitting area with a cast-iron stove, plus three bedrooms and two baths.

The other is a newer two-bedroom house with a fireplace in the living room and a sitting room off the kitchen.

From the backyards of both houses, which are side by side, are panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains to the west and a glimpse of Port Townsend Bay.

Both houses are in uptown Port Townsend just down the street from the high school and within walking distance of the library and Aldrich’s.

It was a choice, and a dilemma, for Paul Shriner that was resolved by a higher power.

Shriner is the area director for Young Life on the Olympic Peninsula and is responsible for starting and maintaining Christian youth groups for middle and high school students in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

It’s a part-time job he’s held for the past six years while working a second job to support his growing family.

So when former Port Townsend resident Andrew Westall contacted Shriner last spring and ask what his biggest need was, Paul didn’t hesitate to answer: Leadership.

“This is a huge county, and it’s been hard to sustain a team,” Shriner said. “We have little presence at Chimacum or Quilcene high schools, and the fastest-growing need is at the middle schools. But we don’t have the volunteer leaders.”

What Westall had: two houses, and a desire to use them in some way to honor his mother’s legacy.

Westall’s mother, Dusty Westall, a longtime kindergarten teacher, had passed away earlier that year.

Meeting Shriner at Port Townsend High School in May, Westall mentioned the possibility of donating the use of one house for a Young Life meeting place.

“I thought, “That would be huge,'” Shriner recalls, “and then he said ‘Want to see the houses? They’re a block down the road.'”

I said, ‘They’re a block away?'”

A fifth-generation Port Townsend native, Westall had grown up in the Victorian cottage and also inherited the rental.

Walking to the houses, Shriner saw the possibilities SEmD meetings and Bible studies in the living room, barbecues in the backyard.

So when Westall asked if one of them would make a good Young Life house, Shriner SEmD thinking he meant the rental SEmD Shriner answered, “Yes.”

Then he asked, “Can the leaders live here?”

And Westall said, “Absolutely.”

Shriner said that each time he and Westall met, they prayed for guidance, and to give Westall wisdom as he figured out the direction his life should take.

A 1993 Port Townsend High School graduate, Westall had a career in the computer software industry, but was looking at other options, Shriner said.

In August, Shriner got another phone call from Westall, suggesting a meeting.

Ever since they prayed about what to do, Westall said, the decision about which house to donate the use of had been bothering him.

So he wanted Shriner to choose.

Shriner, recalling the biblical story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls in Jerusalem, asked for the Victorian, thinking the bigger house would be better.

A month later, Westall called and told him he had been waking up at night.

“He said he felt God was telling him he is supposed to give Young Life both houses,” Shriner said.

Then Westall made a suggestion: to create an intentional community of young adults who would live in the houses almost free in exchange for serving as Young Life leaders.

It was an idea that hit home for Shriner, who saw a huge need for leaders to establish Young Life clubs for high school students in the south county, as well as middle school students in Port Townsend.

“That’s the fastest growing need SEmD for Wyldlife clubs for middle school students,” Shriner said.

In November, Westall gave Shriner the keys to both houses, and Young Life volunteers started furnishing them.

The next step now facing him, Shriner said: to find the right seven people SEmD four women and three men SEmD to live in them.

Applicants must be young adults between the ages 18 and 30 who are either in college or recent graduates, who want to share their faith in Jesus Christ and who will be good role models for young people.

They don’t necessarily have to be going into ministry, Shriner said, but will be expected to provide leadership of a student group as well as attend staff meetings, Bible study and church, and take kids to summer camp at Wild Horse Canyon.

“We believe this is a fantastic opportunity for people who have a heart for Young Life,” Shriner said.

Each will pay $75 plus a share of the utilities.

Westall has given Young Life a 12-year, extendable lease on the two houses for the cost of property taxes, Shriner said.

All the furnishings, including linens and kitchenware, will be provided, so basically all the residents have to bring is their bags, Shriner said SEmD and the conviction that this is the place they are meant to be.

“I expect great things,” Shriner said.

For more information about Young Life on the Olympic Peninsula, go to

For an application to join the Young Life Intentional Christian Community, contact Shriner, 360-643-1403 or e-mail


Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.

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