Do you know what Nathaniel is famous for in the Bible? I for one can admit that I honestly didn’t know much about Nathaniel until Myrna Bittar, the tireless leader of the North Orange County YoungLives Program, began her message the other night and shared a little of his story. I guess his claim to fame was adamantly saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
This statement is directly correlated to some of the stigmas skeptics might have about this particular program. If we are completely honest, I am sure that at one point in our lives we have all heard something negative said about the community of Santa Ana and perhaps we have even heard stereotypes about teenage parents. Perhaps the question might have even been asked, “Can anything good come from trying to help teenage parents in Santa Ana?”
Well, I adamantly invite these possible skeptics to come to one of our YoungLives club nights. For just as Nathaniel changed his mind the minute he set eyes on Jesus and became one of his disciples, I know that anyone with any doubts about the good this organization does, will change their mind the minute they look into the eyes of one of these innocent babies.
Walking into club on September 5th was like walking into a family reunion. There were hugs all around and laughter everywhere. Delicious food was shared and stories of summer were told. New friendships were made and old connections were reconnected. Babies were passed around and comments about toddler’s growth were heard. Games were played and gift cards were won. But the best part of the evening happened about an hour and a half into the evening when babies were safely with the wonderful childcare volunteers and the word of God was being shared.
Myrna invited the Holy Spirit into the room and His presence was felt. She introduced Nathaniel and explained the transformation he went through, from questioning and doubting and having pre-judgments to becoming a Christ follower. She then encouraged the young people who were there and gave them the props they deserved for giving up a Tuesday night. She let them know that each and every one of them is loved by Jesus Christ and so are their babies. She let them know that just like Nathaniel, if they meet Jesus then they will know the truth. She invited them to make connections with the mentors who were there and wanted to help them do just that.
Things lightened up during craft time (and “guy time” for the guys) as the young moms and dads got to talk with mentors and make new friends. But Jesus was never far from the conversations. Real questions were asked, truths were shared, and reminders of God’s love were given. Phone numbers were exchanged and hopefully by the next club some amazing mentor and mentee connections will be apparent.
I myself have been volunteering my time with this organization for only about 8 months or so and I can honestly say that it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Watching these young adults mature as they grow into being parents, has been truly heartwarming. They are strong and proud and they demand respect for their choice to honor life. They are proof that with the love of Jesus Christ, there is so much good that can come from being a teenage parent. They are proof that great things can come from Santa Ana… great families that have God as the center.
I can’t wait to see what the new year holds and what God has in store for this amazing group of volunteers, mentors, and young families. ~ Theresa Stack, Mentor & Volunteer