The Body of Christ

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village” when people talk about raising children. And we are here to attest that “It takes a village” to run our monthly club! We are constantly amazed by the fabulous volunteers who pour out their time, energy and love into making club welcoming, fun, meaningful and special each and every month. This year, Laurie Bradley stepped into a new role as Club Coordinator. Each month she worked behind the scenes to make sure we had volunteers to cook and deliver a delicious meal, a childcare team to care for babies, a team to welcome moms and their babies, a team to lead us in fun games, a craft team, and someone to share the club talk. We asked Laurie what it meant to her to be the Club Coordinator this year and this is what she said:

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Laurie doing one of her favorite things – cuddling a sweet baby!

“I’ve been so blessed by relationships with the teen moms this year. Last year I served in childcare and I was able to get to know the babies but not really their moms. This year I was able to get to know teen moms personally. I was so blown away by their desire to be open and honest about their lives and struggles. I was able to offer motherly advice, pray with and just listen to them. It was a huge blessing for me! Also, getting to see the girls engage in relationships with each other and their mentors was really special. I’ve had a front row view watching the body of Christ work together to make YoungLives happen – people with different gifts, skills and passions all working together to serve teen moms, dads and their babies. Watching God work in the lives of these girls and guys as well as all of the volunteers has been amazing. I love serving in this ministry!”

We are so grateful for each and every volunteer who makes YoungLives possible. It truly is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ working together, each in his or her own gifts!

 “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
Romans 12:6-8 (New Living Translation)

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Beauty for Ashes

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Tasting baby food while blindfolded!

Last night was our last regular club gathering of the school year (next month we have PROM!). And we wanted it to be a great night, a perfect night. We wanted to end the year on a high note and so we planned for that. We had a silly game where girls were blindfolded and had to determine the flavor of baby food. We had a fabulous lasagna dinner our volunteers lovingly made. We had a fun, summer theme for decorating the tables. We had a great photo album craft planned. And we had a powerful message all ready to go. And then despite our best laid plans, life happened. Mentors had last minute change of plans and couldn’t drive girls. Girls had last minute work or school conflicts and couldn’t come to club. Volunteers who care for babies got sick. Traffic was horrible and people were running really late.  It was feeling like a recipe for disaster.

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Crystal, Fatima and baby Leah

If I’m honest, I started thinking, “Really God? But we planned a great night. And we wanted all of the girls to be here. And we had a perfect night planned and it’s about to be ruined!” And in that moment, I heard the Holy Spirit’s still small voice say, “I know all about it. Instead of complaining or freaking out, just talk to me about it.” So right there in the hallway, I prayed. “Ok God. I really don’t get it. But I trust that You do. You know who is here and I’m trusting it’s exactly who you want here. You know every little detail and I’m not going to worry about it because you know all about it.” I took a deep breath and headed back into the group.

Pastor Andrew Schey (campus pastor for Rock Harbor Huntington Beach) was sharing his story of meeting Jesus and the transformation that happened in his life. You could hear a pin drop in the room. Then he invited Myrna up to share her story. She shared boldly and honestly about some of her darkest and most difficult moments. How God has redeemed the hurt and shame of the past and turned it into something beautiful. How God called her into ministry to teen moms in ways she never expected. How God created beauty from ashes.

They were raw, moving examples of the Gospel – that Jesus died on the cross to save us and all we have to do is say “yes” to Him. Andrew gave everyone the opportunity to say stand up and say “yes” to Jesus. It was a bold call to action. Stand up in a room in front of your peers and say, “Yes. I need Jesus and I want everyone to know.” Slowly one girl stood. Then another. More followed until 5 girls were standing. And in that moment, none of the earlier chaos mattered. None of our planning mattered. The food, the games, the decorations, the craft…they were just extras. Because God was working in ways we couldn’t see. He was doing something far more powerful than we could ever have planned for. He was working in spite of the chaos, in spite of our best efforts. And at the end of the night, 5 girls said “yes” to Jesus.

This is why we are here. This is what life is all about. None of us can do it on our own. We need Jesus. We need the transforming power of His love. Only God can redeem the hurts and pains of the past. And only God can exchange beauty for ashes.

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“To all who mourn…he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3 (New Living Translation)

~Nicole Maiocco

Jackiey’s Story

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Me, Jackiey and Faith walking to school

About 6 months ago a sweet 16 year old mom name Jackiey added me as a friend on Facebook and our friendship began! As we exchanged messages, we quickly realized that we lived pretty much across the street from each other. Jackiey is the mother of a beautiful 2 year old, a senior in high school, and working full time! The more I talked to her, the more I was impressed by her maturity and her plans for the future. Because of Jackiey’s work schedule she has only been able to attend a couple of YoungLives events, but over the last 6 months we have developed a friendship. Jackiey helps out around her house by picking up her elementary-aged sister from school every day. Jackiey’s walk to the elementary school at 2 o’clock is our hang out time. We meet at the street corner and we walk to the elementary school, talk about life, the past, the future. I have been so blessed to get to know Jackiey and witness what an incredible mother and young lady she is!

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Jackiey’s sister, Celina, walking my dog, Habiby

Jackiey would tell you that before she had her daughter Faith, she was up to no good – running away from home, lying, stealing, using drugs, and fighting with others. When her daughter was born, Jackiey realized she could lose her daughter if she didn’t make some real changes. She stopped using drugs cold turkey and decided to focus on school. On Wednesday of this week Jackiey celebrated being 2 years clean! One thing I have noticed about Jackiey is that becoming a mother has made her appreciate her own parents. She speaks of them very respectfully and does whatever she can to be a nurturing big sister to her siblings. I am inspired by Jackiey as I watch her prepare to be the speaker at her graduation ceremony next month at the age of 16! Jackiey – I have no doubt that you are going to be an incredible psychologist someday and little Faith has a beautiful role model to follow after.

~Myrna Bittar

The Power of Prayer

Can I just say what an honor it is to walk alongside Georgina? Georgina is a teen mom of twin boys, Alexander and Brayan. Should I say more?! I met Georgina about a year ago through YoungLives. Our relationship has grown over the course of the year. We’ve gone to several events together at my church, spent movie nights together and had many blessed conversations. Even though we don’t attend the same church, we do share the same belief in prayer. And we always make it a habit to pray when we get together. We have shared our own personal stories with each other and we have come to a place of trusting God.

About 6 months ago, Georgina told me about her desire to have Resident Alien card and also to obtain her Social Security card.  She told me about an immigration program that would allow for her to apply for both. Georgina has lived in California almost her whole life.  I found it sad that Georgina felt like she didn’t belong in Mexico or in the United States.  We started to pray for her desire to one day become a US citizen. She shared with me her desire to get a job and support her twin boys, to attend college after high school and some day get her own apartment.

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Maria and Georgina with Georgina’s babies

I helped Georgina connect with an immigration specialist. As a result, the paperwork went through pretty quickly. At the same time that Georgina was going through this trial in her life of prayer and waiting, I was also going through a trial myself. I had recently learned that I had a tumor on my brain. There was a lot of praying and waiting for us both. But there was also peace. I believe God gave us both this peace of knowing that He would come through and provide.

There was one day that I was driving Georgina to our YoungLives Christmas event. She was sharing about a singer who had just passed away and she said she had never experienced losing anyone close to her. I hadn’t told Georgina about my brain tumor and I found myself fighting tears from running down my cheeks. I didn’t want to be the first close person to be removed from her life! And for the first time, I felt her friendship and like she was a part of my family.

A few weeks passed and Georgina told me the immigration paperwork was finally going through. She was excited to tell me she had secured an appointment that was crucial to the final steps of getting approval from the Immigration office. We were both in awe when I told her that I also had a very crucial MRI the same day, at the very same time as her immigration appointment. I believe God purposely set it this way. It was not a coincidence.

I sent her a text the morning of the appointment reminding her I would be praying for her. She texted me back affirming that she was also praying for me. I remember laying on the MRI machine for a 30 min test requiring me to hold my head still and not breathe too hard. I prayed for myself, that God would take away this growth in my brain. I prayed for my family, my kids and my  husband. And I also prayed for Georgina and her two boys.

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Kimberly – Georgina – Maria

I am happy to praise God for the following results – Georgina’s appointment went well and she received her Social Security card; I also received good news and am praising God that the growth on my brain was not cancerous and is only a cyst.

I believe God purposely caused me and Georgina to cross paths.  I have learned so much from her. She is such a sweet mom and is so caring for her boys. And now Georgina can start making some of her goals a reality. We are so thankful for God’s grace during this trying period. We feel so blessed that He used these circumstances to strengthen our relationship with each other as well as our belief that through prayer, anything is possible!

~Maria Randall
YoungLives mentor