Santa Ana Club Night

Maria, our Santa Ana Club Coordinator and Committee Member takes a look back at Club Night in Santa Ana last week with a great recap.
Last week we had a Halloween Theme for Santa Ana Club. As preparations and set up got underway, the first thing I noticed was Laura and the food team setting up the food table, and second, I saw Tricia decorating the dinner tables with very creative Halloween themed centerpieces. The room quickly filled with families, volunteers and even a group of high schoolers from Santa Ana High School that came to help out.

Laura  surprised us with a special lasagna dinner and as an extra special treat, a couple of ladies brought dessert to sweeten up  the evening. Halloween candy was found in several areas making for a festive evening!

During the Club Talk, Theresa, one of our mentors, shared her personal testimony. She shared about a big storm that she had to walk through but how God got her through that storm and answered her prayers. Her testimony was not only personal but I also believe that a lot of the teens in the room could relate her story to storms in their own lives. Theresa shared a story of hope and also a testimony of how God answered her prayers. After Club Talk, the teen parents had small group time with mentors and friends giving them the opportunity to express themselves and ask for prayer.
At the end of  the night the  teen moms enjoyed craft time that I had the honor of leading.  The  young mamas were able to make a Halloween theme bead bracelet.  I love
craft time since it gives the girls a chance to break away from their every day routines and get a little creative.  I enjoy seeing each one of their personalities and creativity expressed  into the craft.  Craft time also gives the teen moms and mentors  the opportunity to get to know each other, bond, and have a few giggles in between.
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♥ Maria and a YoungLives alumni

On a personal note, I love what God is doing in the YoungLives ministry. This year we have been blessed with many new volunteers and I love getting to know them as we walk through and serve in this ministry together.

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We Are the Story

I walked in to the YoungLives Giving Gala on October 5th with my brand new friend and teen mom, Stephany.  I was already feeling God’s presence as He had so carefully orchestrated Stephany and I meeting that evening. We instantly clicked and had already begun to have an open and pretty vulnerable conversation that was creating an incredible connection only God could have made happen.

The room looked beautiful. The ceiling was illuminated with string lights bringing warmth and comfort to the space. The tables were decorated with exquisite displays of delicate flowers, vintage books and old metal keys; an alluring juxtaposition of past and present, beauty and brokenness.

YLGala_2018-16A few dedicated people were there making sure everything was just right and waiting in anticipation for what the night would bring.  My photographer husband was walking around being sure to capture photos of everything in the calm before the storm.  The food was being prepared and smelled delicious. Catering staff appeared ready to go. Everything looked and felt perfect.

What made this whole thing even more amazing was that it truly was one big display of love; showcasing what YoungLives is genuinely all about.  The entire event was sponsored to ensure ALL of the money raised that night would be given to North OC YoungLives to support the sincere efforts of getting resources, love and assistance to the teen moms and dads in Orange County.

 

God’s presence in the room was overwhelming.  I prayed quietly to myself that He would open the hearts of those attending to see the truth of how YoungLives was impacting the youth of our community.

The theme of the evening was “We are the Story”.

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One of the most special parts of the night was when that theme really came to life and some of the teen moms and dads got up to talk about what YoungLives had done for them, their children, and ultimately their lives. Stephany was one of the moms speaking.  Even though she was a little nervous, I encouraged her not to worry because what she had to offer was so important and God would give her the right words. I was excited for her to get up and share with everyone.

As the teen moms and dads were on the stage baring their hearts in front of a group of strangers, I thought about how strong each and every one of them was.  First of all, to have been courageous enough to give their babies a life when they knew it wouldn’t be easy, is an act of bravery like none other.  Now, to get up and share some of their deepest thoughts and feelings so people could see the impact that YoungLives has had on them, their families and their futures? It showed how absolutely fearless they can be as well as how much they believe in what YoungLives is doing and has done for them.

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Stephany with Area Director, Myrna Bittar

Stephany shared so many wonderful things with me about how YoungLives has completely changed her, her perspective and her motives through reintroducing her to God and making her realize there is so much more to life.  So much so, that she was already talking about wanting to come back and volunteer with the program.  I am excited to continue to walk on this journey with her and see where God takes her.  She is determined to finish school this year and I have no doubt that she will.  She is tenacious and a fighter.  I can’t wait to celebrate her graduation and huge accomplishment with her and her son.

Having been a very young parent in a not so great situation, I’m so thankful for this ministry and all its doing.  I wish I had something like this during that tough time in my life.  However, I’m glad I can at least share my story with others and encourage them that there is hope; that life is not over because you’ve had a baby.  No. Life actually has become something more.

To the teen moms and dads out there, you have made the right choice. You can do this. You are strong. You are loved. You are admired. Keep going, ask for help when you need it, walk with God and know He will use your story to encourage others.

To YoungLives thank you for allowing me to be a part of your story.

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Amber and her husband Tony

Amber Matos, YoungLives Mentor

Shaping Lives

For those of you who may not know me, my name is Nicole. I am a nurse practitioner by trade, newly married, I absolutely love Jesus, and I am in love with YoungLives. I love encouraging others whether it be in their faith, their careers, their home lives, school, you name it. The teenage years are a prime time in youth development. Teens are finding themselves and forming their own identity. The choices they make will shape the rest of their lives. Those teens that are currently involved in YoungLives also have the responsibility of caring for another human while trying to figure out who they even are themselves. This year I have the honor of teaching parenting classes at a local high school. Last week I taught a group of 8 girls the importance of language development in their children. What I love about these classes in the intimacy of our setting. We gather around a table in a small room. On the other side of the wall their children get to run around and explore their own development under supervision of enthusiastic caregivers. There are no desks, no slides, and I am not standing up in front of a classroom. This is not your typical high school class. So, we sit down together and dive into a box of donuts. I pass around a couple of handouts and we dig in. I find that these lessons are most impactful when the girls get involved. It’s only the second class of the year so we are still learning to trust one another but these girls will soon see that I am here for them on this journey. After chewing on the importance of language development I get the girls to put it into practice.

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What better way to get comfortable reading to your child than through reading to your peers? The girls look at me like I’m crazy but once they realize I’m serious they humor me. After the first one or two take their turn, the others do so with less hesitation. I’m grateful for their willingness to participate and in the end everyone seems to have enjoyed herself. Girls start firing questions related to the topic and I’m comforted to know they truly care. Next we explore the concept of baby sign language. Again, the demonstration provokes laughter but the girls seem genuinely intrigued. I love the hour I get to spend with these girls. I get the privilege of empowering them to shape themselves into the best moms for their children. If you don’t have children it’s hard to imagine the sacrifice it takes to be a mom. What I can tell you is that I have witnessed the love these young women have for their children and their willingness to do whatever it takes to provide the best for them. I am looking forward to getting to know the girls as the year progresses and seeing them next month to hear about how the lesson has impacted their lives.

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Nicole Vidal, Mentor & Committee Member

When the “Justs” are Life Giving

Last Thursday night kicked off the season at our Huntington Beach Club location. For me, this is my 4th year serving with YoungLives and it felt like I was walking into a huge room full of friends. And some, I had never met before, but still the feeling of joy and unity seemed to permeate the room. There is a Community Group from Branches HB church that started showing up last year to serve. They would walk in and say “what do you need us to do?” and we would find ways they could help. Every other month they walked in and said “what do you need us to do?” Last Thursday I walked in and saw that this same Community Group had prepared a delicious dinner for everyone and then served it. Then they headed to Child Care to look after the babies while the teen parents had some time to enjoy the evening. They “know” what to do! And everyone has benefitted from their commitment.

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After dinner, we did the usual – a fun game that got everyone laughing, music by Stevie to get us all singing, and a great message from Myrna to get everyone thinking and reflecting on God. Because at the core of what YoungLives does, the heart of this night is to get everyone thinking and reflecting on Who God is and how does He fit into our hearts and lives? After the message, all the girls head into the craft room and we assembled in small groups to talk about the message and then create. On this night, Tracy and Eden showed how to make pretty slime. Not the typical green slime, but pink, purple, blue and glittery slime. The moms loved it and I’m sure their kiddos loved it the next day! As all the teens headed out for the night, they each had the opportunity to pick out new backpacks that had been donated for them.

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While driving one of the moms and her baby home she said, “I wish you guys had this every week.  It’s the highlight of my month.  You don’t need to make it all fancy and serve dinner every week, just get us all together.” That really moved me. I sometimes don’t realize how much these club nights mean to these moms, dads and babies. Those of us who help out think – well I’m “just” driving a teen to club, or I’m “just” welcoming and checking everyone in, or I’m “just” cooking dinner and serving it, or I’m “just” watching babies, I “just” mentor, or I “just” come and play a few songs, or I “just” tear down afterwards and clean up. These “justs” are LIFE GIVING and possibly LIFE CHANGING.  So, if you ever feel the nudge to serve, but wonder what your small part will mean, please remember that all the small parts come together to mean the world to these young parents. And they appreciate all you do. God appreciates all we do for His children. I’m thankful I “just” get to do something here at YoungLives.

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Lisa Bryan ~ Prayer Team, Committee Member, Club Volunteer

Obedience + Faith + Love

It’s a pretty big step to go from YoungLives Committee and sign on to become a teen mom mentor, but one that Nicole Vidal has been excited to take…listen to her recap from her first Club Night in Santa Ana!

It’s the first club of the year and I have been eagerly awaiting this day for over a month. In a way it feels like the first day at a new school, anxious about what to expect but excited for the possibilities. I’ve spent most of the day worrying if I was dressed appropriately, if the girls would like me, if I would fit in, if I was really cut out for mentoring teen parents. Thank goodness for the teen I’m driving. She is a club regular and I’ve met her once before so at least there will be a familiar face.

We chat a little on the way but there are both a little reserved.

When we arrive the room is full of life. The sound of voices fills the air and little ones scatter about in excitement. More familiar faces appear and I am put at ease. The teens all seem so happy to be there. We sit together and enjoy a delicious meal while catching up on summer happenings.

DSC_0608During the Club Talk, we heard a story about Jairus, a man who seemed to have it all… wealth, status, fame, family. One day his daughter falls ill and like any father would be, he is grief stricken. Afraid she won’t make it he turns to his last hope…Jesus.

The small group discussions that night were a little quiet. Some teens were hesitant to share and who could blame them. They don’t know who I am and how can they know they should trust me?

DSC_0620It’s easy to think that you failed, that you’re not good enough, or that you just aren’t enough. In those moments I take a step back and hear Jesus say to me, “You were made for this.” Jesus doesn’t ask us to be perfect, he doesn’t ask us to show up once and make a profound impact. What he does ask for is obedience, faith, and love.  The obedience to take a chance and trust that God’s plans are bigger than our own. The unwavering faith that ultimately brought Jairus’ daughter back to life. The same love Jesus showed us when he gave his own life on the cross. A sacrificial love that puts the needs of others above ourselves.

SAClub20918That is exactly what YoungLives is about; showing up, meeting needs, and sharing the love of Jesus with those who may never have known him. I don’t view that first night as a failure. Instead, it’s a first step to lasting relationships and real impact because I refuse to give up on those teens. This is what God has called me into and ultimately it will be by his Spirit that lives are changed. Fears that may have immobilized me are defeated by the light of Christ. The car ride home with my teen was completely different. Conversation flowed naturally and without ceasing. We realized that despite our backgrounds and age difference there is a lot of common ground between us. The first club of the year is over and seeds have been planted. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next several months.

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Nicole Vidal, Mentor & Committee Member

Finding the Sweet Spot

Last weekend was YoungLives Annual Fall Kick-Off.  This day is set aside to inform, equip and inspire current volunteers and future volunteers. I personally like to see and chat with new people who come because it’s obvious that God has tugged at their hearts and they’ve taken the brave, sometimes uncertain step in coming to the Kick-Off. I love to watch God move in people. Some people know right away which area they will serve in, some aren’t so sure but they sit and listen, ask questions and allow God to guide them.

This year was a little different because volunteers and leaders from other southern California areas of YoungLives joined our North OC area. We’re all part of this beautiful ministry and we felt the unity, all of us playing a part in this Young Life/YoungLives story.

Kristin and Sandy from East County (in San Diego) started off the day with a hilarious skit that had us laughing out loud! After this, Emilie Schreiber, the YoungLivesWestern Divisional Coordinator shared the history and vision of YoungLives. We then broke into small groups based on where we thought we might feel called to serve in the ministry – Mentors, Childcare, Club and Committee.  Each role is so vital and important to the success of this ministry so it was good to gather more in-depth information and have a chance to ask questions. The truth is that if people can catch the vision and heart of this ministry, it will make all the difference in how they serve. It helps to remember the WHY on those hard days or weeks and it inspires everyone to keep on going.

IMG_8527During the “Taco Guy” lunch we had more time to mingle with others, learn more about each other and share why we were there. Following lunch, we entered into one of my favorite parts of the day – a Personal Health and Growth speaker. Myrna always finds a speaker who inspires and challenges us to grow in our relationship with God and personally.  I for one never want to stay stuck, fall into complacency or apathy and so I look forward to these talks that always lead me to sharpen myself a bit more and be prepared for the upcoming season. This year, the Young Life Sr. Vice President of the Southwest Division, Brent Cunningham spoke to us and shared with us an “Abundant Life Pyramid” that consisted of tools and tips to live out an abundant life.  He encouraged us to continue to make Christ the center of our life, memorize scripture for those days when something gets thrown at us, be people of prayer, maintain ourselves spiritually, relationally & physically, have vision, love others, empower & serve others and be YOU – spend as much time as you can using the strengths and gifts that God has given YOU.  He calls this the “Sweet Spot”.  And it’s true, when you are operating out of how God has gifted you, a Holy Joy rises up inside.

2018FallKickOff-BrentCunninghamJoy – it’s a joy to serve in this ministry and walk alongside other people who also commit their time and talents to love on the teen parents and their children.  If you missed the Fall Kick-off but still would like information on how you can serve, please email Colleen at northocyounglives@gmail.com  If you can’t serve physically with us, but would like to serve through praying for this ministry, also email Colleen and she will have you added to a prayer team that receives weekly email prompts to pray for the ministry.

Chick Bryan :: Committee Member & Prayer Team Leader

Passion Golf

A few years ago we rolled out our Passion Project idea. Simple – if you are passionate about something, turn it into a way to fundraise for YoungLives. If you’re running in a marathon – why not get sponsors, and have the monies go toward sponsoring teen moms & babies for Summer Camp? An essential oils gathering – great…how about raising funds for Club Nights. Hairstylist? – fabulous! Perhaps you can host a ‘cut-a-thon’ for a couple hours and donate the earnings towards Parenting Classes. You get the idea.

20375794_10213425380047416_1836449644261320563_nBut then, along comes Mike Nelson, a passionate golfer. He proposed to put on a golf tournament benefitting North OC YoungLives. A whole, entire GOLF TOURNAMENT! We think – WOW, that sounds amazing! (honestly, I thought – Mike, you’re crazy, that’s so BIG!) With the Lord walking alongside him as he figured it all out, prayed into it, and gathered volunteers, Mike passionately and successfully pulled off the 1st Annual North OC YoungLives Golf Tourney. Well over 100 golfers participated. There were prizes, lunch, dinner, silent auction, raffle prizes. A sweet testimony by one of the teen moms capped off the evening. Money was raised for Summer Camp and immediately (running off adrenaline I’m sure!), Mike reserved the golf course for 2017. And once again, with prayer and a lot of hard work – another successful event took place and a sweet gift given toward the Summer Camp fund. You can probably guess…Mike booked the course again for 2018.

13707568_10209798871786976_2780609845867228573_nAnd so here we are, reminiscing about the 3rd Annual Golf Tourney that took place August 1st. This one came with a few unexpected obstacles – several less golfers had signed up due to vacations and work obligations and just days before the tournament, Mike ended up in the hospital with an extreme case of vertigo. Of course, we all prayed relentlessly for Mike’s speedy and full recovery. We prayed for ourselves too because we didn’t know how to pull off Mike’s passion project without his passion! Most of us that volunteer for the tournament day don’t even play golf! Collectively, we prayed for the best, reminding each other that this was the Lord’s tournament. Thankfully Mike was released from the hospital, rested at home a few days and his sweet wife Chris began running with his directives.

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IMG_5559Tournament day arrived and though there were less golfers, they were not lacking excitement! For many of them, this was the third time they had played for YoungLives. They were ready for all the day had in store – goodie bags, a box lunch, 18 holes of golf, several ‘extras’ at the holes including root beer floats, professional shoulder massages, a chance to win a brand new truck, ice cold drinks, and prizes. The golfers were treated to a delicious pasta dinner, winning trophies, silent auction, raffle prizes, and a chance to hear how they are impacting local teen moms, teen dads, and their children. Area Director, Myrna Bittar shared the YoungLives mission and introduced a precious teen mom named Diana who articulately shared the ways that YoungLives has changed her life and the life of her little girl. A teen mom standing in front of 80 golfers (the majority of them men) who quietly, intently listened – isn’t that amazing?!

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Mike and Chris Nelson

Though he didn’t feel 100%, Mike was not only at the tournament, he worked so hard making sure everything ran smoothly, and guess what?!!!! The most successful golf tournament to date! Isn’t that just like the Lord?!!!

Colleen Drew, Area Office Admin

 

You Don’t Owe Us Anything

In July North OC YoungLives was able to host our first ever summer “dad’s camp weekend”, with some of the teen dads we’ve mentored over the last school year. God showed up BIG time over this weekend and we were blessed beyond belief with great conversation about Jesus and who He is to these dads. It was amazing to see how God works in the simplest ways by allowing these guys a weekend of fun and fellowship, away from what can often times be tough and stressful situations at home. I was able to see Jesus show up in the joy on these dad’s faces as we hung out over the weekend.

We were given the opportunity to stay at an amazing home with a pool, basketball court, BBQ, and awesome backyard setting.  We took the dads to a trampoline park, the beach, and spent a lot of time cooking and eating some great meals together. In the schedule, we had set aside specific times to talk about God but it was so cool to see the dads wanting to talk about life and God a lot more outside of these times as well.

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On one of the days we were driving home from the beach, one of the guys asked me, “Why do you and the other mentors do this? You take off time from work, time away from your families, and you don’t owe us anything.” This question really took me aback and I had to think about it and then responded with the answer, “Jesus would do it, and we want to show you a glimpse of how Jesus loves each and every one of his children.”

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The ability to work with these young dads has been an amazing blessing to me and has made me realize truly how much Jesus loves us and how simple it is to be an example and a light into these dads lives simply by showing them love and having some fun! I have seen God show up in some miraculous ways during my times at club, camps, and in mentoring the dads.

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Joey (on the right), with one of our YoungLives guys.

Joey Wagner, YoungLives Mentor

My Second Trip to Camp

The first time I went to camp, I was a teenage mom with a six week old! I experienced so many different emotions at that camp and it’s where I truly decided I was entering an everlasting relationship with Jesus.

Last month I attended YoungLives camp for the second time.

abfc14b9-e736-4ed0-85f1-77332b0991af.jpegOn the long bus-ride to camp, I remember looking out at the mountains we were passing through and studying all of the sediment that made-up the mountains. My immediate thought, which became my prayer for the week was this: Lord, you placed every single piece of gravel and rock on these hills. Every plant growing here holds a purpose in your kingdom. Your creation is so beautiful, God. Of course you also placed each of these young moms, including myself, in our current situations to fulfill our purpose in your kingdom. Thank you so much God. On top of all of this, I was able to bring my now TWO year old along with me!

I returned as a Junior Leader. This trip to camp was so different, and such a week of reflection for me. I met moms that were in similar positions and had similar struggles that I did during my first trip to camp. I was able to relate to them, listen to them as they opened up their hurting hearts, and most importantly I was given the opportunity to give the moms a glimpse of what God’s love looks like. We as leaders demonstrated this in so many ways, including serving the moms first at meals, making sure that the moms and their kiddos showered first, watching babies in the cabins while moms experienced free-time activities, and more.

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There were moments where balancing being a mother and a leader seemed impossible, but those moments only turned into more opportunities for me to demonstrate my faith in Jesus Christ to these young moms. I was given opportunities to be very raw and real with them about mothering a toddler. Some days are so hard and even frustrating, but with Jesus I know that these days are so worth it. I was able to demonstrate that yes, leaders will fail you. There were moments when I had to put my job as a mother before my job as a leader, because nobody on this earth is perfect except for Him.
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Going back to camp as a leader is something that I will never forget. Getting to know each mom and pieces of their stories was incredibly impactful. Being on the other side of YoungLives was also eye-opening to see just how much our leaders and volunteers do for these moms and their babies. I am looking forward to stepping into a mentoring role with some extraordinary teen moms one day to share the love and acceptance of Jesus that was shared with me!

♥ Jayanna, Summer Camp Junior Leader