Recall a time that you were sitting and listening to another person’s story. Can you recall the power of their words? Did they impact you, encourage you, answer questions that you had twirling in your head, give you hope or peace knowing that you aren’t the only one? I personally love to hear other’s stories because we get to know the person a little more deeply and realize that we are not the only person who goes through the tough times. Well, last week at our Huntington Beach Club, we had TESTIMONY NIGHT! Four brave people got up in front of all of us to share their stories. I call them brave because it is a bit intimidating to get up in front of a room full of people who you don’t know and share the details of your life. How will people respond? What will they think after they hear our failures, our struggles, our victories? Will I be judged? It takes courage and obedience to God to do this and it’s always so powerful.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me step back. As usual, our club started out with laughter and fellowship between all of the volunteers, the teens and their children. Because of many generous donations, we have a few tables that are lined with clothes and set up by a Life Group full of volunteers so that parents can go through and pick out some outfits for their children. One less thing to think or stress about – providing clothes for their kids. Kim Wallace provided a homemade dinner that was delicious as always and allows all of us to pause, to sit, and to eat together and catch up with one another. Again, one less thing for all of us to think or stress about – what to make for dinner!
After dinner came the testimonies. We heard from three women and one man who all shared where and how they have fallen short in life and how God showed Himself as the Redeemer. One woman was asked at the last minute – like seriously the last minute before club started and so graciously agreed to share her story. She is the daughter of a teen mom and she shared how the prayers and devotion of her mom led her to the place she is today. This story gave a lot of parents hope. All of the stories gave the parents hope and even some relief. The teen moms shared afterward that they too hope that one day their kids will feel the same way about them. They hope that their kids will one day appreciate all of the sacrifices and prayers that they so willingly do for them now. We assured them that they would. Maybe not in those teen years, haha, but they will one day hear “Thank you, mom. Thank you, dad.”
We had these great powerful talks like we do each month after the Club talk – all the while Tracy Sumner was in the background putting together beautiful jars of wildflowers to give out to the girls to take home. Wildflowers. A beautiful representation of us. On our own, we each can be a little wild or weedy, but when we join together in a bunch to prepare and share a meal, watch children so parents can be filled up, hear powerful stories and then encourage each other – we look and feel great!
Chick Bryan, Volunteer Mentor and Prayer Warrior
As a YoungLives volunteer I get the privilege of delivering baskets filled with gifts for newborn babies. These baskets are made up of items that have been gladly donated by people because they love the Lord and know babies are a blessing from God. The love inside the baskets is shown through the teeny little baby outfits, socks, onesies, diapers, and the beautifully handmade blankets. The new mothers see that their newborns are loved and is welcomed into the world with so much love.
When I arrive at the door of the home to deliver, I know that what I carry in has been assembled especially for this new precious baby girl or boy. The new mom’s eyes light up and they are so thankful for the gift but more importantly for YoungLives and what it represents. I always ask to hold their sweet newborn (which is my reward indeed!) and as I hold this baby I remind the mom that this baby is truly a Gift from God and I get to thank her for giving them life. Another thing I like to do is ask the mom for permission to pray for the baby and ask God to bless this precious child. Since I speak Spanish I have prayed for babies with grandparents close by as well. One baby, I was holding and praying for him, and while I prayed he gave me a huge smile – I will never forget that smile and feeling that God was surely there with us.
Yes, these baskets are filled with much more than stuff – they are filled with love and hope!
Irma Hernandez, Volunteer and Newborn Outreach
Spring was everywhere to be found last Tuesday, April 3rd, at Newsong Church in Santa Ana. A filling meal of stuffed baked potatoes was served (a reminder of the cold temps that were fading) and a refreshing strawberry salad gave a hint of the newness to come. Toddlers toddled around playing without being weighed down by jackets and newborns were passed around amongst friends. Springtime flowers lined the side tables, waiting to be utilized during craft. However, the most evident of the springtime clues, was the conversation between young parents and mentors as they talked about the challenges of finishing the school year strong once spring break was over.
Once dinner and catching up finished, the kiddos were entrusted to the amazingly wonderful volunteers who had come to serve in the childcare room. Mentors and teens gathered in the big room to play a break-the-ice game of “who am I” and many were shocked about just how little so many of us knew about pop-culture. Who could have guessed just how many clues had to be given for Beyonce or Obama to have been recognized???
Next came the heart of the reason why we had gathered… testimony night. Myrna got up and introduced four brave volunteers who have all been working closely with the Santa Ana group for quite a while now and she also shared that testimony night is one of her favorite clubs each year.
We were blessed to hear the testimony of a couple whose lives mirrored many in the room. We heard how life had thrown them a curve ball when they found themselves to be expectant parents as teenagers. They shared about some of the struggles which they had faced such as finishing school, finding jobs, raising kids and getting married. The cool thing for our young parents was that they got to see a hope for their future families… this couple shared that with the faith that they put in Jesus and in God’s plan, they were able to overcome all of the obstacles thrown their way. They have been happily married for many years and are now really productive members of the Santa Ana community. Our young parents got to see how life really can come full circle if you trust the plan that God has for you and turn your family over to Him.
Next to them sat another kind of couple in the form of a father and his 17 year old adopted daughter. They shared a similar message about entrusting God to lead your life, but their path was much different. They represented the single parents out there and the hope that God can heal broken hearts. The daughter shared that she had been born to a single teenage mom and how she had trusted God through prayer to complete her family. This 17 year old is my daughter. I was that teenage mom. God answered my daughter’s prayer by bringing a man into our lives who took on the challenge of entering a ready-made family becoming my husband and her adoptive dad all at one time. My husband went on and shared how he had been in a dark place back then and was taking part in some self-destructive activities until he started to trust in God little by little. He shared how God had brought hope into his life 12 years earlier through a “cute 5-year-old girl and her single mom”, at just the right moment. Both Dave, my husband and Bella, our daughter went on and shared how their journey didn’t end like a storybook. Our entire family had to come together and trust God’s path in order to even begin to be an example of God’s love and to be stewards of His blessings. This may be the path for some of our current teen parents and they got to see that God brings families together in many different ways.
The point of the evening really shone through as the teens found a bit of themselves in each testimony and shared prayer requests with mentors. The power of God’s faithfulness was obvious as the teens learned about how we can leave our old lives behind and accept God’s love at any time (sometimes even multiple times) and how our lives will change when we let God carry ourselves and our families in the palm of His hands.
Theresa Stack, Santa Ana Club Mentor
This week, we are standing awestruck that we are already seven months into the school year with all these young parents and their kids. Reminiscing and loving the memories that have been made and looking forward to the days ahead!
Table Leader Ashley with teen moms, Natalie and Courtney