Interruptible

Has anyone else ever heard in church services that one way to walk with Jesus is to be interruptible?  Well, I have… truth is my pastor loves to talk about the miracles that can happen if we allow ourselves to be interruptible. It seems that this trait is reiterated throughout Jesus’ entire life… he was interruptible. I have experienced mini miracles when I follow this way of life, but I had a perfect example of it the other night at our Santa Ana YoungLives Club.

I have been working as a mentor with this program for two years and I have only ever missed one club night, but boy was I trying to talk myself out of going on Tuesday the 12thof February.  You see, I was drained both physically and emotionally and all I wanted to do was send a text with my apologies and take the night off. My family (including our three kids and two 5 month old puppies) had literally returned from a weekend in the snow just hours before club began and I had work the next day.  Gratefully, my husband has always been supportive of this ministry and reminded me that I had agreed to transport a teen and her daughter and that all I needed to do was be there.  I wouldn’t have to make dinner and plus our own teen daughter wanted to volunteer in childcare… so I went, fully planning on hiding in the background.

I picked up our teen friend and her toddler and smiled as they reconnected with my daughter, allowing them to lead the majority of the conversation. I walked into the hall, satisfied that I had done my job and ready to give into exhaustion, only to be greeted by another teen mom with a huge smile and a hug.  She exclaimed, “Where have you been, I’ve been waiting for you to get here?” Out went my plan to transport and then hide. I listened as she shared some changes in her life and tried to offer support and encouragement.  I helped her do some “shopping” from our donations table and looked forward to relaxing, eating and catching up.

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Just when I was about to find a place to sit down, Myrna (our fearless leader) found me and asked for my help.  She said that we had a large amount of new girls coming and asked if I would greet them and make them feel welcomed and settled. I said yes because I could tell that she had her hands full with one of the largest clubs we have had yet. She was trying to facilitate a diaper donation for each family and just plain old busy doing what she does (which is a little bit of everything). Of course I said yes, because after all… that’s what Jesus would do. When someone asks for help, you help.

So I put my plate of food down, ignored the pain in my feet, and put a big smile on my face while I looked for new girls. Boy was I surprised when not one, or two, but car after car of new teen parents came. I’m so glad that I allowed myself to be interruptible for these new girls specifically because I got to see how God’s plan would unfold throughout the evening.

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I got them settled with food and then acted as their own personal shoppers so that they could eat and visit. I then tried my best to check in on all the moms and dads and saw that everyone was paired up with all of the other amazing mentors and everyone was good. I then checked in on the childcare workers, many of whom are students of mine who volunteer each month and thanked them for being there. I watched as my own teen daughter mingled and felt a twinge of serious emotion as fatigue mixed with sentimentality. I felt the magnitude of the fact that 18 years prior, I myself was preparing to be a single teen mom and was just overwhelmed by amount of love and support there was in one room for the families which God had put together.

By this time my food was cold and Myrna had asked me to get the new girls involved in the games. I had missed the directions from sleep deprivation, but I tried to help. Finally, I got to sit and listen to the message. A message about forgiveness and grace and about how Jesus has the ability to forgive any sin if we just ask. I honestly thought my job was done until I was reminded that a mentor’s key role is to facilitate a small group discussion about what was heard and this is where God’s miracle really began to played out.

 

You see I found myself drawn to the group of brand new moms and was suddenly fielding questions like, “Do you do this because Jesus tells you to” and “why work with teen parents”. I got to explain how first off yes, I believe the mentors are there because Jesus calls us to be… but that it is so much more than just that. We are there because we have a huge amount of respect for each and every teen parent that comes through the doors. I shared how we are well aware that being a parent in today’s society is a choice and we super respect the choice that these parents have made to be parents.  I shared that I knew first hand that it is not an easy path to take on the responsibility of being a teen parent and the mentors just want to help in any way we can. If we can make even a minute of a young parents life easier, then we have done our job of sharing God’s love, forgiveness, acceptance and grace.

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Most importantly I got to direct the conversation back to the message of sin and forgiveness and by the end each and every girl had shared something for which they wanted forgiveness. I witnessed them drop their sin into a solution and spin it around and saw a visual change as they began to take in the magnitude of God’s love. Some were skeptical that forgiveness can be that easy but they were willing to listen, and that is the first and hardest step. Some shared their journeys and some kept them to themselves, but the end each and every one joined hands as we prayed out the evening and hugs were given all around. Many of them asked for phone numbers and said they wanted to return the next month.

The moral of the story is, yes it was an exhausting experience but I didn’t feel tired the next day. Instead I felt filled up from the love which I had witnessed by everyone involved and for everyone involved. I got to share with people the miracle which is the YoungLives program and I now get to encourage people once again to get involved.  We never know how many teens will show up or how many babies will need to be held, but God’s miracles always abound each and every month. There is always enough delicious food, there are always the perfect amount of child care workers, there are always mentors ready to give their all and most importantly there are always teens that are ready to be loved on.

I am so grateful that I allowed my life to be interruptible and showed up for my commitment to YoungLives, because the fact is that if you show up… God will use you and each and every time it is a miracle.

Theresa Stack, Mentor

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Full-Blown Mentoring

During the Summer of 2016 I took my six-week old baby girl to camp with North Orange County YoungLives just a couple of months after turning 18 years old myself. To describe the way I was feeling, anticipating camp for the first time, I would pick the word terrified.

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I was so scared. I had never left my baby with anybody for a single minute, and I ended up leaving her with the amazing childcare volunteers at camp every single day! That week, I learned what it meant to put all of my trust in God completely.

During the Summer of 2018 I had the privilege of returning to camp with North OC YoungLives as a Junior Mentor! God used this opportunity to stretch my heart, allow me to reflect on my own journey as a young mom reaching out to Jesus, and to help me grow in practicing hospitality toward others. I will never forget camp as a Junior Mentor.

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Last week, I attended my very first Mentor Meeting! I didn’t really know what to expect when I showed up. The meeting ended up being more like a mini Bible study for mentors! We read scripture, discussed some questions, shared stories, and we talked about some of our insecurities in mentoring. It was so nice to have that space and time with the other volunteers.

I am so excited to step into full-blown mentoring with YoungLives and to attend camp this Summer as a mentor! Each young parent that I have met at club has a uniqueness about them. They are the best mothers, and the best fathers to their children. They are encouraging, resilient, and incredibly hard-workers. My biggest prayer lately has been that God will fully open my heart up to whoever I get to mentor, and that He will guide me in my interactions with that person to glorify Him!

I remember what it felt like to crave connection as a young mom. I still crave this connection, and I still receive that love and fellowship from my own YoungLives mentors. God brought the right people into my life when I needed them the most, and I am so confident and thrilled that He will continue to use volunteers and mentors in the lives of the teen parents in our community.

Jayanna Hendley, Mentor

One Small Step

As I prepare to embark on a move across the country with my husband, I can’t help but reflect on the similarities of the journey to where I am today in life and my experience with YoungLives. I was first introduced to YoungLives by a woman in my Bible study and was looking for a way to get involved in ministry. My first time volunteering was for the Christmas boutique two years ago, and I spent the entire night loving on little ones while their parents enjoyed whatever was happening outside of the nursery. It wasn’t a grand, life changing experience in that moment but it was a step in faith to where God was calling me.

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I ended up registering for Fall Kickoff volunteer training the next August and in those eight months thought about all of the ways I was going to serve those girls and the ways I was going to impact their lives. I had checked off Mentor with enthusiasm on the application and decided to take a look at Committee positions as well because a couple of the roles peaked my interest. Well, that first year I wasn’t a Mentor as I had been planning but I stepped into the Committee role of Community Outreach Specialist. Community Outreach Specialist? What does that even mean? What did I get myself into? I have no idea what I’m doing. This was not my plan. These are the thoughts that went through my head as I accepted the position. Turns out the role involves reaching out to businesses and people in the community who may want to support the organization in either specific or general giving. I figured, OK, not so bad, there isn’t much pressure and I can figure this out.

A couple of months later the decision was made to hold another Giving Gala the following year, in 2018. It is by far the biggest event of our year and it is a wonderful experience for all who attend. Part of the Giving Gala is a silent auction and guess who was in charge…yep, that’s me. I can not even lie about how terrified I was to take this on. Am I even qualified? What if I fail? Another step in faith and although I still didn’t believe I was qualified to head this up, God held all the power in the situation and it wasn’t until I learned to relinquish the power to Him that the whole experience became much more enjoyable. With help from other Committee members and members of my church community we were able to make the silent auction a big success!

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It was definitely a time of spiritual growth as I learned to ask for help and to lean into God. I continued in the Community Outreach position the rest of the year and into the next. I was also eager to step into a Mentor position so I could really have an impact! I felt ready and I did get to mentor as I had hoped I would. Terror again. What if the girls didn’t like me? What if I said something stupid? Oh man, Nicole, what were you thinking? The first night I drove a girl to club, my stomach was nervous the entire ride there but the ride home was much easier and every encounter after that got better and better.

 

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I also volunteered to teach YoungLives Parenting Classes at a local high school in Garden Grove. Twice a month, Myrna and I collaborated to prepare a lesson for a group of about 8-10 girls. The teen parents warmed up a lot faster than I anticipated and soon were asking questions and sharing from their hearts. Each time we met, Myrna would invite them to the next club and I would encourage them to go. I don’t think even one of them showed up until November and it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. That is, until the Christmas boutique this past December. Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing about a half dozen of the girls you have been loving on, walk through the doors to experience all that YoungLives has to offer. The entire night was amazing. My experience this second time at the Christmas boutique was much different than my first. Having built a relationship with other volunteers, and getting to know the girls through club and the Parenting Classes really changed my perspective regarding how this event played into the big picture.

What I had anticipated would be a way God would use me to serve teen parents was also a way in which those teen parents served me. The past two years that I have been involved in this ministry has stretched me out of my comfort zone, has deepened my relationship with Christ and has shown me that all it takes is a step of faith over and over again to where God is calling. I know now that God does not choose those who are qualified but he qualifies the called. He has provided not only for me but also for this ministry because it aligns with His will. I am confident that God will continue to provide for this ministry and as difficult as it is to step away from the North Orange County chapter and step into this new chapter of my life, I know that God has His hand in it and that this first step of faith is only the beginning. Thank you Young Life for persevering in your mission to reach teens and young adults with the Word and for continuing to support YoungLives as they love on teen parents and their babies. Thank you Myrna, Colleen, Committee and volunteers for all of the ways you work to serve those parents without judgement. Thank you, whoever you may be, for subscribing to the email list and reading this post. If you have ever had an inkling of an inclination to get involved but something has held you back, I encourage you to take that small step of faith now and trust that God’s plans are greater than your own.

Nicole Vidal, Committee Member and Mentor (and someone that we will greatly miss!!!!)