Matters of the heart

Checkered tablecloths, fresh flowers and sweet treats covered the tables. It was Pizza Party night at Club this month. Our super special volunteers always create a beautiful and inviting setting for us to enjoy. Even though the structure is the same, every Club gathering is unique. This month it fell just a couple of days after Valentine’s Day so the room was still decorated with big red hearts. Dinner was low key as parents, babies and volunteers trickled in.15493505_10102114968388497_3363046195698916419_o We weren’t expecting a large group since there’s a lot of sickness going on. Next on the agenda was that crazy game.  At least this time it didn’t involve eating cookies or sticking them on your body. I think the teen moms and dads love the game as much as any other part of the evening. This time it was a relay race involving two teams, a pizza box and a colorful hat. Oh yeah and running backwards. The winning team received sweet surprises but so did anyone else who wanted one. It’s really not about the prize but the thrill of victory along with the ability to loosen up and laugh together. My personal favorite comes next as teen volunteers come to lead us in worship. We call it singing but it truly is anointed worship. I love watching those high schoolers pouring out their hearts before the Lord as well as their peers. Its glorious!

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

Who wouldn’t want to hear more about this God who heals broken hearts? Myrna shared her heart so beautifully as she taught us about sin and how it separates us from God much like sickness separates us from activities and the company of others. She told us a story from the bible about a woman at a well who had an encounter with Jesus. She explained that even though Jesus had just met this woman He knew she had had 5 husbands and was now with a man who wasn’t her husband. She brought identity to this woman. She asked us to imagine her sorrow having been through 5 break ups. I had never thought of that before. She named her The Heartbreak Girl. Jesus explained to the woman that she could try to quench her thirst with everything in the world but that only He could give her Living Water that would satisfy her deepest longings. Myrna said, “He spoke to the depths of her heart.” She invited us to open our hearts and allow Him to do the same for us. I was filled with joy as I heard the whispers of one teen mom translating the message into Spanish for another. That too, was glorious! IMG_7240.jpg

The night wound down as the girls settled in the craft room. This is when I try to get to know the girls better and maybe meet someone new. Each mom skillfully decorated a tote bag using paint and stamps and cut outs. They were all different and they all turned out super cute.

When I started coming to Club last year one of the first things I noticed was how smoothly things ran as one activity merged into the next. Everyone just instinctively knew what to do and when to do it. I decided that instead of trying to fill a spot that was already covered I would stand by and fill in the gaps. Since then I’ve gotten to help out in childcare, serve dinner and give rides. This time we were able to distribute diapers and wipes to all of the moms attending and I got to help each one stock up on the right sizes. Every mom left with arms full of supplies for the coming weeks. My heart was full as I watched them gather all their stuff and head out.

– Sue Groff

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I have been reminded!!

It has been 5 years since my wife said yes to the call of serving teen moms in the area of North Orange County. It has been 5 years of extending our family beyond what we would have ever imagined we would or could. It has been five years of serving the kingdom of the greatest of greats and that is our GOD.

This past January 27th to the 29th we went to Young Life camp at Oakbridge down in Ramona, CA. Every year we try to take teen moms and dads with their babies to this camp, since it is close by over a weeken. It is an opportunity for the teen dads to go to camp too. Usually we have a few kids wanting to go to this camp, or we seek them out up until the last day and beg them to go. But this year it was different. You see, a year ago God opened the door into Santa Ana. We started club there and this year, when the kids heard about this camp, wow, they had their forms all completed months ahead of camp and they were committed to going on the trip. We had 3 couples with their babies, and 1 teen mom with her baby.Camp Group Field.jpg

You might read this and say amen that is great, and honestly, yes to that amen. Nevertheless, the day before we were headed out to camp on a Thursday my 1-year-old son, fell on the playground while he was playing and broke his right hand. At that moment, all I was thinking about was my son’s pain and suffering and how are we going to deal with his broken arm going into such a weekend. I remember considering staying at home with him over the weekend and letting my wife take the kids to camp. Friday early morning, we managed to get him into a cast after seeing a specialist and decided we would rather all of us go to camp as a family.

While we were at camp, all I could think about was how we are sacrificing the health of our son to be here. The enemy attacked me in my thoughts and he started using my new weak point, which is the health of my son. He kept attacking my heart and mind with lies, saying; your son is in pain, your son needs rest, your son needs to recover, your son is getting worse and so on… I remember being angry at myself in a way and really doubting being a great father.

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On the last day of camp, we do something called “Say So!” it is a time where the kids at camp have the opportunity to stand up if they chose to give their lives to Jesus! It happens right before we leave camp to haed back home. At that time, I remember us inviting the childcare volunteers to come and attend this amazing time of Say So. I remember my son being in the room and me carrying him beside his mom. Then all our kids that we took to camp stood up declaring that they had committed their lives to JESUS. At that moment I looked at my 1-year-old son and saw his eyes, I saw him witness kids proclaiming JESUS as their Savior. I hugged him close and GOD reminded me at that moment, IT IS ALL WORTH IT, FOR MY SON TO WITNESS TEENAGERS SAYING YES TO THE LORD. That one day my own son himself will stand up against this entire world and say the only important yes of his life, YES TO THE LORD!

God reminded me of Abraham and Isaac, Where Abraham faithfully with no questioning took his son up to sacrifice him to the Lord, but God saw his heart deep down regardless of the pain and the fight of his human desire. God did not allow harm to Isaac, and God will not ever allow harm to us intentionally.

Yousef Bittar – a lucky husband of an awesome wife and a humbled father to an amazing boy!

Santa Ana Club!

Tuesday night we had our second club of the year! It was an amazing night, we had the biggest turn out we’ve had yet!! About 15 girls and 7 guys! God is so good!! We started the night out with some meatloaf and mac & cheese (the kids were loving that) then we played a giant game of Valentine themed charades.

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After the game one of our volunteers Tammy shared with us on the topic of sin which is always a tough one but she explained it in such a easy and applicable way so that everyone could understand it. She taught on the woman caught in adultery found in John 8, she started out by asking the question “can you think of a time where you were really embarrassed?” for me I can think of about 500 because it’s a daily thing for me. Anyway, She continued to share on how the Pharisees stood this woman in front of the group saying

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.”

How do you think this woman felt at that moment with everyone staring and talking about her? Probably afraid, ashamed, lonely, nervous and i’d guess a lot more than just that. What Jesus says is so amazing to me.

” Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

 Those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

How amazing is that picture of people just like us wanting to point out the sin in someone else’s life and Jesus says “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one they began to leave realizing they were all sinners. Jesus died for every one of us dirty nasty sinners and He loves us despite our sins. How crazy is that?! dsc_0293

It was an amazing word from Tammy and I am so thankful for her position in volunteering with YoungLives in Santa Ana, she is such a strong vessel for the Lord and is always willing to jump in where someone is needed.

After the message we did a really cute and easy craft, we made little tic-tac toe set that you can stick in your purse or keep in your car for anytime you get bored and want to play a game. I thought that was so cute! dsc_0324

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was so sweet to see so many girls, babies, dads and volunteers there. Some forming new relationships, some catching up and some reuniting since being at camp 2 weeks ago. I love watching the girls and guys start to open up and really be able to get real with their mentors. Overall it was such a sweet night, God is so faithful in bringing more and more teen moms and dads. He is doing big things in Santa Ana and what a privilege it is to have a front row seat in watching that.

  • Kylie Bradley

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A blessed weekend

I am still flying high after our “mountain experience” this last weekend at Young Life’s Oakbridge Camp in Ramona, CA and would love to share God’s work with you (warning, there was a lot of work done).

On Friday the 26th, a group from Santa Ana YoungLives filled up 4 automobiles with 4 club moms, 3 club dads, 4 babies (all under the age of 14 months), 2 male leaders, 3 female leaders, 3 childcare workers, and lots and lots of baby stuff.  We loaded up and got on the freeway heading south, right at the height of rush hour traffic only to see God shower us with His grace by allowing the traffic to be constantly flowing and for everyone to get up the windy mountain roads safely.

We were greeted by joyous lumberjacks (yes, loud manly men with flannels, beanies, axes and full beards) who would serve as our hosts for the weekend.  We unloaded with the help of amazing volunteers, who later ended up serving us during meals and helping as needed.  We got settled in our cabins with no time to spare, as the weekends first club kicked right off.  Our lumberjacks riled up the crowd of nearly 200 Young Life teens and leaders with music, jokes, and candy.  They then introduced us to Robb who would be used by God throughout the weekend to speak His message.16298814_10102172741266187_7309185114776303718_n

That first night lights went out directly at midnight as babies, teens and volunteers were all beyond exhausted.  Robb had applauded us all on coming, teased us in his talk giving promises for the coming days, challenged us with questions regarding our image of God and had asked us to get together for “cabin time” directly after each club.  The teens all participated in cabin time, but you could tell that bed was calling and surprisingly everyone (including babies) slept quite soundly.

Saturday kicked off with breakfast and we found out quickly that we would be in for some amazing meals. Many of the teens labeled the food and table service as being a major highlight of the entire weekend, as we were waited on hand and foot.  The music then drew us all back into the club and our teens somewhat apprehensively filled up a back row.  I watched as a few of them sang along, while others looked around not knowing what to expect.  I watched them loosen as Robb told a truly comedic story about his childhood and listen as he introduced the parable of the Prodigal Son and begin to reflect as he battered at and tore a box apart, giving an anecdote for our own lives.

After that, we had another cabin time, some free time, and then ate again.  I saw one growing teen boy eat three triple patty cheeseburgers, as he took advantage of their invitation to eat until you were full.  But, even more amazing then his individual appetite was watching as these parents tackled the challenges of eating themselves, all while feeding and holding their own children.  It honestly shocked me how well they managed.  There was no food throwing and honestly little crying, just great food and stories being shared around the table.  This fellowship, which can only be created with the breaking of bread, was to be repeated at all of the meals and everyone (including our amazing childcare workers) took part.  I got to learn about family dynamics and activities, such as wrestling, dance, and school clubs, in which our teens participate.  They spoke of classes, some in which they excelled and others which they might need help in.  We talked about writing resumes and job searching all the way to silly stuff like who could eat the most churros.  The meal times were for sure special!!!

However, the food was nothing compared to the memory that was to be made on Saturday afternoon called… “Messy Games”.  We participated in games (Santa Ana boys against girls) with everyone else that could only be summed up in one word… chaos.  All I can say if that flour, baby oil, hoses and shaving cream were all involved.  This allowed for so much laughter that if there were any nerves left before they were surly gone, for once you have smashed shaving cream on someone, you can’t help but feel close.  This experience was also highlighted as a favorite by many of our teens.16298589_10102172767209197_369987559144413489_n

After we washed off and enjoyed God’s beautiful nature during some much needed free time, we again were called into club and listened as Robb introduced us all to the true physical pain that Jesus had endured and the emotional pain that God had endured during the crucifixion. There had been another club between too, and all of the talks leading up were insightful and deep, but this one moved everyone in that room and brought home the sacrifice made for us all.  I truly believe that our teens had the insight, that only a parent could have, to understand what God’s sacrifice would feel like.

That night’s cabin time was something that I will never forget, for the Holy Spirit was literally palpable.  I watched as our 4 girls took ownership of their faith and welcomed Jesus into their hearts (all while loving on babies).  It gave me a hint of what the early church must have been like, with small groups huddled together talking about Jesus and accepting Him while children climbed on them and the evening called. I later found out that our boys had a similarly moving experience, in which all three of them had a true man’s talk, and also accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The late evening was much more light as we watched raw eggs be smashed, learned that leaders could dance, and just had fun.  Lights again were out at midnight (although we girls talked until much later) and the next morning we got up, only to realize that our weekend was quickly coming to an end.  We ate again (there was a lot of food) and packed and then went in for a final club.

At that final club we took part in singing at the top of our lungs and listening as a “mountain top experience” was explained and those that accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior were encouraged to stand proudly and encouraged to follow up with certain steps.  Steps like delving into their Bibles, getting plugged into a church, and surrounding themselves with Christian friends.

While I have always considered myself a woman of faith, I am blown away that God brought me to this program (and this weekend) right when He knew that I needed it and I am so beyond grateful to Him.  I am also grateful to Myrna, who has been such a wonderful example of a YoungLives leader and the other volunteers.  The biggest shout-out though needs to be given to the 3 childcare volunteers who made this specific weekend possible and to the 7 brave and open hearted teens who traveled up mountain with us.  This will be a weekend which I will never forget and which I have used to reaffirm my faith and mission.  I learned so much about love and acceptance and surrender from these 7 teens and I will never forget a single second that I spent with them.  I encourage each and every one of you to attend one of these camps, as it will be an experience with God unlike any other.

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-Theresa Stack, YoungLives Mentor