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.
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.
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.
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