Hello!

My name is Adrienne Garcia and I am honored to be the newest staff member with North Orange County YoungLives. I have been volunteering with this ministry for two years and am so honored to be able to work alongside them! I feel so grateful and humbled that YoungLives has invited me to be a part of this amazing organization and that I get to meet amazing teen parents and their kiddos. I will be teaching parenting classes at local high schools in Santa Ana, equipping and training volunteer mentors and facilitating monthly club gatherings for our teen families. It never ceases to amaze me that God allows me to work intimately with the things that are close and dear to His heart. Sometimes I do not fully understand why He has chosen me to be a part of something so special and beautiful; but I am so honored to share the love of God with the wonderful families we encounter. I love sharing how Jesus has changed my life and that they too can have a personal relationship with Him and have their lives radically changed.

A little about me…my husband David and I have been married for six years and have three beautiful children (Tayte, Rylie and Liyah). Our family has always had a heart for local missions and it is one of our core family values to serve together. I love that we can serve and build relationships with the teen families as a whole family. We live in Santa Ana and have such a heart for the community. Both my husband and I grew up in Orange County and we have personally seen the need for ministries like YoungLives in the community. I love how YoungLives genuinely and intentionally cares for the community God has entrusted them with. I highly respect that the ministry effectively trains and equips their volunteers, so that they can build trustworthy relationships with the teen families.

I am so excited to embark on this amazing new journey with YoungLives and continue to see God’s unbelievable love and work on display through teen families of North Orange County!

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One Is Where It All Starts

Courtney Villasenor who is a wife, mom of three, hairstylist, and a special volunteer who has been a part of YoungLives for the last four years, shares a bit of her own story and what being a volunteer means to her.

When I was 17, I was in a dark place in my life. I had a boyfriend with whom I had a toxic relationship with, and before I knew it I found myself “in love” and expecting a baby. I didn’t initially have the support of the father, so for a while I was scared and in this crazy situation alone! Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I couldn’t (initially) tell my parents in fear of disappointing them. So here I was 17 and pregnant, baby father wasn’t around, & my friends were off being normal 17 year olds. It was a really scary time!!!! I think back to those days and don’t know how I even managed to get through my days of going to school, cheer practice, and homework, all while trying to hide this huge secret.

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That sweet baby went home to be with the Lord before I met him/her, and it took me a lot of years to instead of being angry with God for my loss, know that He had other plans for my life before I became a mom. I know now that YoungLives was something meant for me to be apart of, so I could turn my sorrow into something beautiful by blessing these moms and dads. I know all too well what a lot of them are feeling everyday and that breaks my heart for them, but also pushes me to make their monthly club nights as special as possible. So for the few hours they’re at club they can just forget about the stress of the world and school and feel blessed. Hopefully they will feel the love of God through what we’re doing and that will in turn get them asking more questions about God and starting their walk with Him.

So many of these teens are going through what I faced for a short while everyday – scared, maybe alone in their pregnancy, not knowing where their next meal will come from, not having support or help from family, or how they’ll even get through school to graduate. I thankfully had parents who accepted my situation with open and supportive arms, but that’s not always the case for teen parents, and I can’t imagine going through that time of my life if I hadn’t had my parents. I hope to show these girls through my story, that even though they might be facing some dark days; God is still there. He’s still watching, & working, & most importantly no matter what, L O V E S them!

That’s where YoungLives comes in, we have opportunity to be that support system for them and try to do life with them as much as we can! Sometimes all they need is an ear, or something to look forward too when life is hard. The volunteers at YoungLives want the best for these mamas and dads and being able to support them and lend a hand is something so little, but in the end could be so impactful for their future!

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE a good party, so when they put me in charge of decorating I was stoked! I am not always the best with expressing myself or talking in front of people, but I can decorate the heck out of tables; and I thought, how amazing it would be to be able to make this place like a fun party every month for these teen mamas and dads! The greatest part about it all is my big kids, Emma, seven & Crew, five, are involved and it’s something special we get to do together every month. They’re still very young, but they understand that we get to throw these fun parties for mommies & daddies who work really hard and deserve a fun night! My kids are very blessed and my husband and I have always tried to teach them about giving back & blessing others. Through YoungLives they are seeing me do this, but also wanting to help me and enjoy making it so special for the other parents! They also get to help in child care with the babies when the moms & dads hear the message. My little Emma LOVES all the babies!!!! Her heart is so big and she looks forward to helping every month. This love for helping is so strong in their hearts and I pray that by them seeing me volunteer every month, it will grow deeper in their own hearts to bless others so that when they’re older it won’t be “just a fun time to help mom decorate” but instead they will feel called to bless others all around them and continue to spread the word and God’s love in the simplest ways.

 

Trying to find a way to serve God while in the midst of motherhood, with three little kids, and working, and homework… it can be super hard at times! Because for me, most days, I feel like I’m called by just being a mom and by doing my best to serve and teach God’s word to my own kids. But being a part of YoungLives, and having my kids serving alongside me, it’s become a regular part of our lives. Sometimes the simplest acts of kindness is all God expects from us. For me, to be able to hold a baby so a mama can eat, or hear the message and reflect on the Word with the mentors is such a blessing. At the end of the day if there’s 30 moms, and only one leaves with a full belly AND a full heart with the gospel, then it was a job well done! That’s the biggest goal we can have every month is to try and reach at least one heart. One is where it all starts.

 

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Belonging

The word that comes to mind when I think about monthly Club gatherings is BELONGING. I love how every aspect of club creates a sense of belonging for our teen families. From the minute they walk through the door they’re greeted by a volunteer and welcomed with a smile, hug, and conversations that show they are seen and cared for.

For a couple of families, this was their first time attending a club. Many of them had been to the Christmas Event and wanted to come and see what a ‘regular’ club gathering looked like and to reconnect with the volunteers they had met in December. It was such a beautiful visual to see these new families fit right in. Remembered, seen, and having a place of belonging.

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One of my favorite aspects of club is the donation table. There is never a month that goes by that we don’t have a surplus of donations for our families to choose from. It amazes me how there have been so many months that I have heard from the families that they were in need of a certain item or that they wish that they could afford to buy their child a certain toy and they have been able to find it at the donation table. To me that just speaks to the way that God can use tangible items to display His love for His children in very unique and specific ways to show these families that they are cared for and that He will even meet their most basic needs.

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I also love that we eat dinner as a “family” because it too demonstrates a sense of belonging and being a part of a larger community. It’s so fun to hear conversations and watch friendships being built around the dinner table. It displays that we’re there to support one another whether by simple things such as letting our mamas eat dinner while we hold their sweet babies or by just simply listening about their days and getting to know each other better.

Sarah led us in a silly game to start off the program and it was so great to hear our teen parents and volunteers laughing and having time to be carefree. One of the teen moms who attended camp over the summer shared her experience with camp and encouraged the other teen moms to start thinking about signing up to go this summer. The thing that impressed me about this teen sharing was that it was her very first time at club and she felt so comfortable with everyone that she couldn’t wait to share with the other teens. Her passion about camp spread throughout the night amongst the other teen moms and they were talking to Myrna about how they either wanted to go to camp for the first time or that they wanted to go again because they had such a great time last year!

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For Club Talk, Fred spoke on the need for God in our lives. It was so inspiring and personal and I could see everyone engaged with what he was sharing and at times able to relate with his personal story of thinking that He did not need God anymore and that he could handle his life on his own. He shared about some of the bad choices he made and the consequences that stemmed out of that, but because he grew up knowing who God was he was able to go back to those deep roots and rebuild a Godly foundation for his life. He encouraged all of us to look into our own lives and see the ways that God has been there for us in the good and bad times. He affirmed the teen parents by praising the commitment they have made to their children by being there to raise and care for them. He also challenged them to start thinking about what it would look like to start establishing deep roots about God in their children’s lives so that when they get to hard times in their lives they will be able to go back to those roots and remember that God is always there and wants to meet their needs no matter how big or small they may be. The group discussion time was so rich and encouraging because so many of the teens shared about their lives and the ways they have seen God meet their needs. They also shared about the people God has placed in their lives to help meet the needs they have. I loved looking around the room and seeing both volunteers and teens engaged with one another.

The night ended with the teen moms excited that the craft would be making slime for their kiddos and the dads spent time with our male mentors and getting to know each other better.

IMG_2019 copyThe overall evening was such an enriching time. Every time I leave club I feel so grateful and blessed that I get to participate and belong in YoungLives!

Adrienne Garcia, North OC YoungLives Staff

Fresh Start

There is nothing like a clean slate, a fresh start, new mercies. That’s what a New Year brings. We stop and think about what direction we’d like to head, the goals we’d like to meet, places we’d like to go, people we’d like to hang out with. BUT, it also stops us and gives us a minute to look back over the last year. At YoungLives, we are sometimes so busy planning our next Club Night, parenting class, committee meeting, fundraiser, etc… that we forget just how much fun we had along the way! Here’s a look at 2018 in pictures. 200+ teens and their little ones, 70+ volunteers, 30+ graduations celebrated, winter and summer camps, 10 Club events in two cities, weekly parenting classes, four major fundraisers, weekly prayer coverage, committee meetings, coffee meet ups, and sooooooo many things in between. What a blast!

If you’re reading this and aren’t currently involved, you should consider it – we honestly have so much fun together and the best part…lives are changing. Young lives are changing with the teens and their children as they are exposed to the Lord by word and by actions. Volunteers lives are changing also because that’s just how good the Lord is – the more we share with others, the more abundantly He blesses us – there is no outgiving Him. If you’re ready to start something new – YoungLives may be just what the Lord is calling you to in 2019. If so, get in touch with us…we’d love to talk with you!