Youth Encounter’s vision is to see people encounter their incredible God-given potential through living life wide open. We are a community that creates an atmosphere of acceptance where real connection can be formed because as people are empowered in their true value and feel a sense of belonging, we believe they will focus forward towards encountering their incredible potential.

Our mission is to unleash and release the potential in young people and their families through delivering exciting and engaging programmes using the activity of dirt bike riding. Through our Arotika ki te Kaupapa track of therapy, counselling, mentoring, camps, community gatherings, leadership training, voluntary work, workplace experiences and employment opportunities, our youth are empowered to live a full life, or as we put it, live life wide open!

Youth Encounter works with youth 11-24 years in age who are looking for a fun and supportive community. Our youth are often lacking purpose in life, struggling socially and academically at school, marginalised, labelled with behavioural issues or more practical in nature. By virtue of their circumstances research shows that these are the youth who are more vulnerable to fail in their education and take risky behaviours with destructive outcomes.

Our professional team of trained staff and volunteers offer hope of a better future and teach our young people in new mind-sets while providing positive role models that empower them to get on track and stay on track. Our services reach beyond the restraints of the traditional education system for the wellbeing of our young people, their families and community.

We are based in the Bay of Plenty, operating from our home base at Pongakawa that is 30-45mins from Te Puke, Tauranga, Whakatane, Kawerau and Rotorua areas. We have a regional focus as well as a national focus in our different programmes.


A strengths-based non-judgmental approach of acceptance for all people

Nurture our community through openness and active connectedness 

Creating a fun environment where people know they can belong

Intentionally empowering people holistically in finding their true self 

Engaging in the social needs of today's culture to facilitate effective outcomes


For people to belong because they are valued

For people to believe in their true value

For people to become as they live from their value

"What I most enjoy about Encounter Camps is the awesome uplifting atmosphere on the track, in the pits and back at camp" - Participant


Mary Wanhill

Once known as ‘Scary Mary’ for her daredevil accomplishments on a dirt bike, Mary Wanhill was forced into a change of direction after a career-ending injury in 2009. Since then Mary has pursued a life of impacting young people with her passion to see them be all that they can be as they navigate through life’s challenges. 

Using dirt bike riding as her tool along with her counselling diploma, Mary brings her insights to effectively engage with young people as the founder of Youth Encounter Ministries Trust, creating powerful connections that has created a vibrant community of young people. 

Tracey Christian

Tracey joined our team in October 2016 as our Operations Manager, where she is responsible for the smooth running of the day to day operations as well as helping us to grow our services with her focus on sustainable funding to help achieve our vision and mission.

Tracey is passionate about making a difference in the lives of our youth and believes strongly in giving them opportunities to grow and develop into the incredible young people their potential reveals.

Courtenay McBride

Courtenay jumped on board with Youth Encounter in February 2019 to take care of our Equipment and assist with Youth Facilitation.  Courtenay has been actively involved in youth work since the age of 18, studying Innovative Youth Ministries in Australia, leading surf teams and creating and facilitating Youth Seminars.

Courtenay enjoys connecting with people and learning about their life stories.  She is passionate about working with youth, helping and empowering them to build their life skills, self esteem and self belief. 

She loves to encourage and equip people in their leadership skills to continue to learn and improve.  

Brooke Taingahue

Brooke has joined the team this year doing a Camping Internship through Pathways Bible College. Brooke is now in her second year of study.

Impacted by her experience of Encounter Camps, Brooke first attended our Young Adults Camp in 2018, she wanted to be a part of the fun, fellowship and learning and in so doing help others experience Encounter. 

Brooke is passionate about impacting the lives of youth, helping them to see their true value and importance through the use of her experience and strengths.


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