Grace and Unconditional Love

I always get super excited leading up to the first Tuesday of the month because that means it’s YoungLives Santa Ana Club night! I have been part of YoungLives since November and each gathering has been so special in it’s own way. Not only is it so much fun hanging with these young teen parents, loving on their littles, and catching up with the young moms or dads I’ve gotten to know so far, but the “talk” time is also super cool.  This last Club night Myrna shared from Luke 15, which tells the story of the “lost son” or the prodigal son, who took his inheritance from his Father, went off to a distant country where he lived wildly and spent everything he had only to realize he had sinned against Heaven and his own father. When the son came back to his father, the father ran to his son, threw his arms around him, kissed him and had a feast to celebrate his son’s return!  Wow, what an amazing illustration of grace and unconditional love!

After the club talk, we gathered into small groups with the young moms and dads to chat and it was so cool to hear their perspectives and hearts. Some shared that knowing that God loves you so much makes you feel safe even when you sin. It was such a vivid reminder to me of how our Heavenly Father is always waiting with open arms for us to come back to Him despite circumstances were in or decisions we’ve made.

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During craft time, the mammas got to decorate a coffee mug with Valentine’s themed decor and I was so impressed by their creativity. Some moms wrote their children’s name on the mug, some used heart-shaped stencils and others wrote dates that meant something special to them on their mug. I loved how one mom wrote her favorite scripture on her mug. I was also privileged to spend some time traveling to and from Club with one momma and her sweet two-year old boy. It was a great night and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next time!

~Kelsey Calderon, mentor

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My Camp Experience

Last Saturday, I went to my first Young Life Camp in Ramona, California with North OC YoungLives. The camp is called Oakbridge. We took seven teen moms, three teen dads, and their babies and toddlers from both the Huntington Beach and Santa Ana clubs. As a leader, I had the opportunity to be with the moms for the weekend which was special as I am a new mother myself with another on the way. I didn’t know what to expect, but I pictured a more “rugged” camp experience remembering my church camp days when I was a kid. A close friend had assured me that Young Life Camps are “really nice,” and boy, was she right! After a much-needed group pit stop at In-N-Out for dinner, we arrived Friday night around 8:00 p.m., entering the camp down a dark, winding dirt road. Even in the dark with the lights illuminating the campground, I could tell this would not be that “rugged” experience I had as a kid. There was a nice swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, and even beach volleyball.  The cabins were really nice too.

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Leaders Lynn & Jessica with Kelsey

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Club time!

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Messy Games

After the leaders, teen moms, and the babies unpacked and got settled in to our two very nice rooms with multiple bunk beds, babies were delivered to childcare and campers and leaders met up for our first club night. For those not familiar with Young Life, Club is a time where we all piled into a room set up like a small auditorium with a stage. A band played fun pop culture music, which we all sang along to. Then the infamous skit happened – Hurricane and Tornado entered the room to an 80’s heavy metal song dressed in full-on 80’s heavy metal band attire, (i.e. silver shiny pants, big hair wigs and fingerless leather gloves!) The skit unfolded as the two remained in character about being an infamous air guitar band there to perform at Oakbridge Camp.  That’s when the crazy games turned up a notch. A leader and a student got called up from the various Young Life and YoungLives locations in southern California. The games were all a bit crazy, such as leaders having to chug a 2-liter bottle of diet soda through their student’s sock as fast as they could.  It was all in good fun and very entertaining and hysterical and also, a little gross.

After games, the most impactful and memorable part of camp happened – the teens got to learn about Jesus. The camp speaker for the weekend was Robbie Boyer, the Area Director from Newport Mesa Young Life. The theme for the weekend was “Who Is God and Why Do We Care?” Over the course of the weekend, we had four club events together that included four different stories for the teens to learn about Jesus. Robbie shared the story of Jairus’ daughter when Jesus stops for the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, the story of the woman caught in adultery that the Pharisees wanted to stone but Jesus saves, and finally the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.

After each club, we had cabin time where each group went back to their cabins to talk about the message. Through this intimate time, the teens got to learn more about Jesus, ask questions, and be open and honest with where they’re at with various struggles in their lives.  I believe these were the most impactful times for the teens.  For some, it was the first time they had someone to really listen to them or answer their questions. It was really cool to see how they were learning about Jesus and his character through these stories Robbie shared – that Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them despite what they were struggling with in their lives.

The weekend was filled with fun, good food, silly and messy games, hanging out, holding and caring for cute babies, and getting to bond with these amazing teen moms that I couldn’t admire more for all their hard work and sacrifices they are making for their children.  I feel so honored that I could attend this camp as a leader and am looking forward to seeing how Jesus continues to work in these teen moms and dads’ lives.

~Jessica Watkins, YoungLives Mentor

 

Get Out There & Serve!

Meet Laurie Bradley, our Huntington Beach Club Coordinator and Committee Member sharing her experience as the Childcare Lead for the Young Life Oakbridge High School Winter Camp.

I had the wonderful opportunity of going to camp this past weekend! We took seven mamas, three dads, and six sweet children to the foothills of Ramona. I didn’t really know what to expect. This was a camp for high school teenagers, not teen parents.

How would this work? Would it work?

Upon arriving on Friday afternoon we went to work to transform a lounge and a game room into “nurseries” for our own North OC YoungLives babies and toddlers as well as the other 16 YoungLives little ones from the San Clemente and Escondido area clubs. It was really fun to work alongside my friends (that would also be caring for the children), transforming these spaces into safe and welcoming areas for the babies. We moved furniture and game tables, brought in toys, swings, play pens, craft supplies and LOTS of snacks. We were ready for the moms and babies to arrive!Laurie,Cristen,ColleenAround 7 pm we rushed down the hill to meet the car loads of teen parents, babies and volunteers. I was so excited to get started! We had no idea what to expect as the babies were dropped off with us that first night. In the “Newborn to Walkers” room we had 10 babies under the age of one. We had five “helpers” in our nursery, three of them were pretty inexperienced but willing to do anything! I was humbled by the way these young people dug in and did what was necessary to care for these little ones. The first night was a late one, we had babies until almost 12am. I was really worried about having them that late but that first night was so good. The babies all fell asleep and we had such a sweet, peaceful night. There were literally babies everywhere, we had four playpens, two swings and five sets of arms – every place held a baby. We even had one young man volunteering with us that wore a front pack with a baby in it because that was the only way the baby would fall asleep. It was great!

The next day was full of activities for the teens. We had the babies for about seven hours total. The day was so full of joy and fun as we held babies, rocked them to sleep, and got to interact with their moms. It was so cool getting to spend some time with the moms of these babies as well. As long as I’ve been involved in YoungLives I have been amazed at how brave, strong, and capable these young moms are. This weekend experience gave me an even closer look into their lives as they often came into the nursery to nurse, change, or check on their babies. I was able to have sweet conversation with a few of the moms and was impressed again that these girls are doing an amazingly hard thing raising their babies while most of them are trying to graduate high school.

The girls and guys that attended camp heard the gospel clearly presented and were given an opportunity to move closer to Jesus. I am humbled that God allows us to be a part of what He is doing. I want to end this by encouraging you to get out there and serve! There is truly no greater blessing, it gives us the opportunity to get outside of ourselves and our own circumstances and focus on others. Whatever form serving takes, it’s always a blessing! We go into it thinking we’re going to be the ones blessing others and we end up being far more blessed ourselves!

2018OakbridgeGroup“You my brothers and sisters were called to be free, but don’t use your freedom to indulge in the flesh. Rather serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Just A Volunteer

Before coming on staff with North OC YoungLives in August 2017, I was, in my own words, “just a YoungLives volunteer”. That’s how I thought of it. I loved it, I was committed, I talked (a lot!) about it. I was excited to be part of Club nights, pancake breakfasts, golf tournaments, etc… But, I never thought I was doing anything extraordinary or special. THEN…I came on staff. I find it absolutely mind blowing on just how extraordinary volunteers are!  I’m seeing them with a whole new lens. I see how self-sacrificing it is on their parts to make Club nights (as well as many other events!) happen for the teen parents and their little ones. Many of them leave families at home to come serve. Students that set aside homework, whole families interrupting their mid-week schedules to be there. When I was “just a volunteer”, I didn’t realize just how much YoungLives depends on those that serve with their hearts, their talents, their minds, their hands, their hugs, their words, their humbleness.

Last week’s Club night in Huntington Beach perfectly exemplifies what I’m talking about. The Gerum guys showed up more than an hour before club to pull out and set up all the tables & chairs and then disappeared making it look like we walk into a room ready to go. Laurie and Cristen available to answer questions about the details of the night and filling in wherever needed. Both of them greeting and hugging the other volunteers as they show up – I love watching them. Tracy came in with a smile and her calm spirit, a roll of table wrap, a basket full of flowers, and bags of conversation hearts – and transformed the room into a sweet, sweet setting for the teen families. Emily Ray, filling in as Childcare Coordinator for the evening, arrived early to set up the nursery & childcare rooms and beautifully welcomed in and prayed for all the childcare helpers. Mentors and other volunteers arrived with the families. Kimberly and the food team brought in a delicious chili dinner – making it look like it’s no big deal to feed a crowd!  The little ones headed back to the open arms of childcare help. Eddie & Kelsey showed up with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, strung them out four feet above ground, and convinced four participants to competitively eat them. And when those donuts landed on the floor…well, it was only a moment’s hesitation before the true competitors willingly raced to the finish by eating them off the floor! fullsizeoutput_eea
As everyone quieted, Amber opened in prayer and so articulately began to share her heart. She shared some very personal fears and anxiety that she had to face in her own life that caused her to see how much she needed Jesus. Beautifully she shared a list of seven reasons why we ALL need Jesus. Seeds of hope and truth were planted. Craft and chat took place with mentors asking questions about the club talk, sharing their own experiences and listening. Guys circled together in the other room and did their thing. Others began quietly cleaning up the evening as the night came to an end.

I know that it is Christ in these volunteers that stirs their actions. Christ in them, that has shown them that these young families are worth every sacrifice. This all blows my mind. This is extraordinary.

Colleen ~ Area Office Admin

In Faith, We Wait & Watch

“Fervent prayer produces phenomenal results.”  Woodrow Kroll

As the Prayer Coordinator for our North OC Younglives, I can attest to this truth that “fervent prayer produces phenomenal results”! I was asked to assemble a prayer team of people who are committed to pray for our ministry and I send out the prayer requests once a week or sometimes more if urgent needs arise. This is my volunteer job and I love it.  I feel like myself and the prayer team get a front row seat in watching God move through this ministry. Each Monday, I receive prayer requests from Myrna and sometimes from the volunteers and the teen parents who often reach out and ask for prayer. I send these precious requests out to the team knowing that each team member is taking these requests right to the Throne room of God Himself.

And in faith, we each wait to watch and see how God will move,

what He will advise, what doors He opens and what doors He shuts,

who He taps on the shoulder

to come and serve in this ministry, donate to this ministry,

what school He wants us to work with and so much more. 

Sometimes we get our answers that very week, often other times we wait months for the answers, patiently waiting on God who we believe still moves, heals and guides His people. This past year especially, I felt like I couldn’t even keep up with what God was doing. I would joke with Myrna and tell her, you need to call or text me more often so I can keep up with what is going on because if I missed a few days, I was missing out on movements and miracles of God. It really is a joy to be a part of this process. Does every prayer we send up get answered? Of course not. God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We know and understand this and when discouragement or doubt starts to set in we pray and ask for more fervency and faith from God.  And we wait. Waiting is so important. We are so used to getting everything we want so quickly – want a book, download it in a minute, want food, click on that new app and they will bring it to you, want to get a hold of someone, text them.

Last week I wrote an old-fashioned letter to someone. Some of you may remember; you set aside time to sit down and write out your thoughts, place the card or stationary in an envelope, get a stamp and put in the mailbox and then wait. Wait, hoping they answer back. I felt so connected with these people across the country whom I was writing to.  Prayer is an opportunity to feel so connected to God when we set aside time, sit down and submit our requests to Him, put a “stamp” on them with our “Amen” and wait.  Waiting isn’t really so bad.

Maybe this next year, we can appreciate the wait time, trusting that our Heavenly Father who loves and cares for us, whose thoughts are not our thoughts and ways are not our ways, will answer us. Sometimes it’s not what we want and other times it blows our socks off – like being invited to share at Fish Fest, or having someone partner with us to put on the most amazing fundraising banquet, seeing 100 teen moms and dads show up at Christmas club, receiving emails from new schools asking for YoungLives to do parenting classes and make connections with the moms and dads – I could go on, and on.  (If you missed any of those stories and want to read more, explore our website). And so, in 2018 we will continue to sit before the Lord, ask Him what He wants for this ministry, submit the requests of everyone involved and wait for His answers, wisdom, healings and movement.

If you would like to be a part of our prayer team, please email northocyounglives@gmail.com and we will get you connected but I’m warning you, be prepared to watch some amazing moves of God!

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Chick Bryan ~ Prayer Coordinator, baby cuddler, mentor, committee member, and so much more!                      

Ears & Mouth – Listen & Encourage!

Be the hands and feet of Christ.  This has been my hearts desire for quite some time now.  Figuring out how to actually do that has been more tricky than one would imagine; especially when you’re naturally wired to be a projects person rather than a people person, like me.  I have been hanging out with YoungLives since September of 2017. Getting ready for January’s club was fun for me.  I got to assemble sparkly Happy New Year centerpieces and included my 14 and 13 year olds in that process.  I also got to run through Targets’s after-Christmas markdown section and snag some fun makeup and nail polish sets that I thought the young moms would like to win in the raffle.  Some detailed texting back and forth with Maria about logistics and I felt good to go.  Set up went smoothly and before we knew it, the young moms and dads were arriving.  Like I said, projects are my thing.

TriciaP.jpgSo I guess being the hands and feet of Christ isn’t my challenge because you could say that that involves DOING.  Being the ears and mouth of Christ – – – – that’s a little tougher for me; it’s more in the BEING realm.  And I’m discovering that that’s what matters A LOT.

During January’s club, I got to sit with a teen dad and get to know him more.  I usually handle the craft and if I hang with people, I gravitate toward hanging with the moms, but this month God had a different idea for me.  I got to listen to his story – his school, his job, his family.  I really worked at listening and in working at it I felt the Holy Spirit telling me “when you listen and ask questions, you show him that he is seen, that he matters, and that you want to know him”.  There’s always a little awkwardness when conversation doesn’t flow freely or naturally, but God keeps giving me more and more OKness with that.  He tells me that it’s OK for there to be long pauses.  It’s OK to get one word answers and delicately ask more.  When I was the “Ears of Christ” then I really HEARD this dad’s story.  I heard his sense of accomplishment about getting a job.  I heard his pride in the possibility of graduating early.  And in hearing I felt equipped to be an encourager.  I loved the point in the evening when he and I exchanged high fives – real heartfelt high fives.

So as I move into 2018, I want to spend more time being the ears and mouth of Christ.  I want to listen well to these young people’s stories, and in listening, I want to encourage them in the challenges that they face.  I guess you could say that January’s Club was a success and that the young parents had a great evening.  You could also say that January’s Club also gave birth to one of my personal goals for 2018 – Ears & Mouth – Listen & Encourage!

This week’s blogger, Tricia Poissonnier shares in the leading of crafts, is a mentor, and stepped in to doing table decor for Santa Ana Club this month. Five months in to helping with YoungLives and you can see that Tricia isn’t afraid to follow the Lord’s leading!

 

Chunks of Joy

Every now and then we are approached by an individual in the community that wants to bless one teen family personally. Since we have the privilege and honor of knowing so many of these beautiful teen families, it’s always hard to choose just one. We just like to go with our gut, the first little family that God brings to mind.

In this particular instance we were asked for one family’s wish list. Three days later, Christmas landed on a porch to a very grateful momma, dad and their baby.

In the words of this beautiful mom when asked what it meant for them to be chosen this time she said, “It was a blessing. We felt excited and very honored. I had so much going on. It felt like somone actually cared about us. It was like reaching a high peak to a mountain. It made us all smile at the thought of receiving a little chunk of joy from these wonderful people.”

As we head into 2018, let’s all keep sharing little chunks of joy where and when we can. Happy New Year friends!

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2017…gone just like that!

Highlights from 2017 bring back such sweet, sweet memories! From returning young families to new faces, we embraced these YoungLives to our fullest! We had monthly clubs in both Huntington Beach and Santa Ana, we were on various high school campuses teaching Parenting classes, we went to both winter and summer camps. We welcomed new births, we celebrated graduations, we threw a Prom, we helped with necessities, we shared prayers, hugs, love, and day to day life.

We had an army of volunteers that made sure these events could happen from the committee, mentors, childcare workers, and prayer warriors to those who drove, performed skits and music, played crazy games, cooked, baked, crafted, and more!

We were brought together in community by raising funds & resources through dinners at local restaurants, home parties, a golf tournament, pancake breakfast & craft fair, concerts, a banquet dinner, giving trees, among other Passion Projects.

YoungLives has a way of drawing in from all walks of life, from the young families being reached to those that are doing the reaching. But, really, it’s not YoungLives that is pulling everyone together…it is Jesus Christ. He commanded a few willing vessels and they heeded His call…this is North OC YoungLives!

A Love Story Unfolded

Last Friday’s Christmas Club & Boutique was, in a lot of ways, indescribable. This would become the biggest Christmas Club that North OC YoungLives had ever hosted. With nearly 100 teen moms and dads attending with either pregnant bellies or one to two little ones in tow.

Entertain me for a minute or two…please, just think about it…nearly 100…ONE HUNDRED (!!!) teen parents joined us last Friday night!!! They came from Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Westminster, Anaheim, Garden Grove, Buena Park, Orange, and Fountain Valley.

2017_Christmas_TeensBabies_GroupEach of the families were fed a delicious home cooked meal, had Christmas portraits taken by a professional photographer, and they sat at beautifully decorated tables. There were childcare volunteers to cuddle, play, comfort, and love on their little ones. They had the opportunity to shop from a “teen room” of clothing and accessories as well as to shopDSC_0531 for items for their children. They were each given a raffle ticket for a chance to win brand new toys, gift cards for themselves, iPads, make up kits, and more. And they left that night with a “goodie” bag that had makeup, a Children’s Bible story book, and a Target gift card.

There were also close to 100 volunteers that pitched in to make the night happen. From the family that collected & sorted ALL the Boutique clothing and accessory donations to another family that rented a truck to haul borrowed clothing racks from one location to another and return them the next day. A set up crew of 25 that prepared everything for the 6 pm gathering. Our friends from a life group who annually cook the Christmas meal showed up…even though they were in the midst of a pretty big heartache. Countless drivers and mentors got the young families safely there. The bakers baked dozens and dozens of cookies, a sweet music duo sang, the crazy game & skits team did their thing. Nearly 30 childcare volunteers had open arms and welcoming smiles. And when the evening came to an end, another ministry came to pack everything up to pass on to others the next day.

In the midst of all those wonderful love gifts described above that the young families were treated to, there was a 15 to 20 minute moment in time that became the turning point of the evening and for some, the turning point of their lives. At this particular moment, Myrna played a video with a couple clips from the Titanic movie. Seriously, it got so quiet in that room. Soooooooo quiet. The clip portrayed the intense love story between Jack & Rose. Myrna went on to share that deep down within we all want our own love story. In her words, “We all have a desire in us to be fully loved, fully known, and fully understood. That is how we were wired by God, the creator of this universe.” She continued on explaining to this Q U I E T room of young parents how only Jesus can fully understand us and love us unconditionally. And that He wants each and everyone one of us to accept Him as our own love story. “I don’t ever want to get so focused on jingle bells, Christmas presents, ornaments and trees, stockings, red and green, decorations, and basically the accumulation of more stuff that I forget what it is all about. That Christmas is here because Jesus loved us so much that He was born as a baby to Mary and Joseph and lived, breathed, and walked this earth because of His great love for us.”

Myrna went on to pray over the room and lead a general sinner’s prayer. Then she asked
for the teens to be brave. To raise their hand if they prayed that prayer for their own life. And in the midst of the quiet, on Friday, December 15th, 2017, hands were raised and ultimately, lives changed. Generations of lives. A love story unfolded last Friday night.DSC_0511

Merry Christmas, Colleen Drew (Area Office Administrator)

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas Club

‘Twas the day before Christmas club, when all through the town,

Volunteers were scurrying up, down and around;

Getting everything ready for the big night ahead,

Celebration, gift giving, and breaking of bread.

Toys were delivered, and clothing galore;

Word was out that YoungLives needed more.

The donations were piled up high to the sky;

The Bradley family wondered why? oh why?

Hundreds of fliers circulated with their address,

Telling all to drop off their unwanted best.

Tops, pants, and shoes, diapers and toys;

All of this dropped off for the sweet girls and boys.

There was food to be prepped, shopping to be done;

All to make sure the teen families have fun.

Rides were arranged and confirmation texts sent,

The kids would get to club, nothing would prevent.

Childcare workers were getting their rest,

They knew that Friday would require the best;

Rocking and loving, building blocks, and throwing balls,

All of this would happen down through the halls.

Clearing their schedules to be with the teens,

The mentors are priceless by all means!

They give their hearts, their time, their ears to listen;

All to encourage these teens to glisten!

This night is made special by the Word given;

A reminder that only by Jesus, we’re forgiven.

The message and story, thoughtfully prepared;

Hope, encouragement, Good News to be shared.

The set-up team, the music duo, the clean-up folks too,

All volunteers, this night could never happen without YOU!