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

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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

 

Welcome to Summer Camp!

At 7:15 am on Monday I pulled in to the local Dunkin Donuts parking lot to meet up with four local teenage girls that I had never met before. Their parents were dropping them off so that they could catch a ride with me to Lost Canyon YoungLives Camp in Williams, AZ. We were all headed to camp to volunteer with the Childcare for the week. We introduced ourselves, gathered in a circle for prayer – lifting up the week ahead, praying for ourselves, the teen moms and babies and leaders that would arrive on Tuesday. We were excited, curious, energetic, and ready to hit the road!

It didn’t take more than a few minutes in the car with these girls to figure out that they were really special. Here they were, giving up a week of their summer break to go serve amongst their peers that had babies. They each had such respect for these teen moms that were juggling everything they themselves juggled AND a baby! They couldn’t wait to get to camp, meet them and help out with the babies.

Seven hours later we pulled into camp to the biggest celebratory welcome EVER! Tucked into the mountains of Arizona, you enter into an amazing setting of cabins, lodges, zip lines, a small lake, horses, beautiful flowers, trees, blue skies, huge white and gray clouds…simply breathtaking and not what you would imagine a youth camp looking like. But then THE welcome!!!! As we drove across a small bridge lined with summer staff and work crew all whooping & hollering “WELCOME!!!” and high-fiving us through our open windows – we were blown away. One of the girls whispered to me, “is this all for us?!” We were given rain jackets, tee shirts, our week’s schedule, our name badges, room numbers, ice cold drinks, and snacks. We were given opportunities to enjoy camp experiences (I chose a horse back ride) and get rested before the arrival of teen moms, babies, and leaders the next afternoon.

 

 

On Tuesday we welcomed in the buses of campers with the same enthusiasm we had been shown. What a beautiful sight watching these brave young women step off those buses with their babies. For some of them, it was their first time to leave home with their baby knowing they were fully responsible without family members to help. For all of them, it would be a week of being treated with overwhelming kindness, love, good food, and camp experiences that would stretch them physically and spiritually.

37110382_10102685572134017_907692487051575296_nChildcare helpers were introduced to the little ones on the basketball courts that had been revamped into a County Fair. Music, balloons, games, ice cream…so much excitement…and trepidation…and concern. We knew we were strangers to them, not yet to be trusted. Before long, though, we were given the chance to love on and care for the littlest ones while the moms were loved on and cared for by the leaders, program directors, and staff.

IMG_1652In Childcare, we are with the little ones for five days…five to seven hours a day. We are there to play with them, love on them, protect them, help them to feel safe and secure. But the bigger picture is…we are with them so that their mamas can redeem some carefree time. So that their mamas can be given a message of hope. So that their mamas can see that by God’s love and grace, others want to know them, want to walk alongside them, want to help fill in gaps that they may have. Throughout the week we watched from the various camp nurseries lives being transformed. Hearts being softened. Mamas being encouraged. Jesus setting people free from bondage, guilt, shame, fear. These brave and courageous moms becoming braver. Confidence being built. Walls being tore down. Laughter, smiles, dimples and giggles abounding. Tears that had been pushed down were released. Burdens were being shared and becoming lighter. For some, decisions were being made to allow God into their lives.

 

 

After saying good-bye on Saturday morning to the little ones, their mamas, the leaders, and my co-workers in the nursery I was back in my truck with the four teens that drove with me. We were definitely all exhausted but far out-weighing the tiredness, was the extreme gratitude and joy we had for being at camp and watching girls experience “the best week of their lives”. That I got the opportunity to be a part of Summer Camp week is a priceless gift. Lucky me!

Colleen Drew, Area Office Administrator and thankful Camp Childcare Volunteer

 

 

 

Trading Hands at the Annual Craft Fair

What an amazing day! Our 6th Annual YoungLives Pancake Breakfast & Craft Fair Fundraiser. Though we were up extra early, even with kids, it was a blessing arriving to Lake Park bright and early to see so many setting up tables, laying out their crafts, and bringing their art to life, all in the name of love. While the men, mostly, were making sure stomachs would not be left empty by way of a five dollar breakfast consisting of pancakes, sausages, juice and coffee, we saw all sorts showing up to help make the day memorable. 

DSC_0438As kids filled into the bounce house, or cashed in for a scenic hay ride around the front of the boy scouts cabin; jewelry, cloth, clothes, flora, paintings, photographs, oils, dolls, and freshly picked tomatoes and even eggs from the garden, traded hands.

Not only was the day a success because we were able to raise money for the cause of sending local teen moms and their babies to summer camp, but everywhere you looked, the community was at work, doing their part, smiles on faces and all.

While my family and I are engaged through out the year in so many special YoungLives events, this one sits atop our list as a favorite. There’s something about being out in a park, where people gather, simply eating food, connecting, and yes I can say it, pouring out love.

As the early morning fog began to withdraw there must have been hundreds who made their way out. At one time two truckers, and their 18 wheeler came by for a meal, probably due to the many kids, my son being one of them, dancing atop the brick built in bbq yelling at passers by to, “Come and get yer pancakes!”

IMG_1178Writing this and looking back, as one who is involved in the process from start to finish, seeing all the emails, phone calls, collecting required permits, along with the buying and creating that goes into the day, I can say in all honesty that as soon as the last table is folded, and even as the last car trunk is slammed, you drive away from Lake Park on that day a little let down that you have to wait a whole 365 days until we all get to do it again.

The blessing? That YoungLives is only able to do so much, because so many, have given so much. Through this event, many teen moms will be leaving this coming Tuesday for an unforgettable week of camp for even more encouragement and love.

With much love, Tracy Sumner

(Tracy teaches crafts to the teen moms at our monthly Club Nights as well as the Craft Coordinator for the Annual Pancake Breakfast & Craft Fair)

Let’s Get them to Camp!

Kids jumping, pancakes flipping, sausage sizzling, coffee pouring and crafters displaying their unique talent of handmade gifts was the agenda for the morning. With over 20 volunteers (and most of them have been volunteering for several years) this fund-raising event has to be one of the highlights of the year for me. To see the community come together to raise thousands of dollars so that every teen mom can attend, is a testament to how great our God is.

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Faithful volunteers

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Kiddos jumping in the bounce house

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Handmade cards made by a teen mom

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Crafters of all ages!

I feel that the greatest transformation of the heart happens when you get to experience God. Young Life’s Lost Canyon Camp is a place of refuge and retreat. A place for the teen moms to be a teen and be waited on and spoiled by young Christian adults their age while their children are being cared for on a one-on-one loving environment. Hundreds of volunteers are there to pour into and love onto them every minute of all 6 days. The speaker intentionally builds up the message with their daily club talks and ends with a spiritual crescendo on the last night of camp. It is so beautiful to witness these moms sitting alone under the stars with graceful voices singing songs that echo throughout the canyon. It is a time for reflection and silent prayer where they seek Jesus and ask Him to come into their lives and guide them. Lives are transformed.

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Mamas and babies arriving at Lost Canyon Camp

I recently learned that the week before the YoungLives moms attend Lost Canyon; the Young Life teens from our area attend that camp. My hope would be that years from now, when the babies have grown into young adults that they are attending a Young Life camp that precedes the one their moms attended years ago. That is my full circle prayer!

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-Kimberly Walsh-Sorensen
Committee Member

 

I Did It For My Son

THIRTY FIVE graduating teen parents in YoungLives walked at five of the schools’ graduation ceremonies over the last few weeks in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana.

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I had the opportunity to attend Lorin Griset and Valley Vista’s graduation ceremonies, and there’s something just so special about continuation schools’ graduations. You know it was hard for these kids, to first care about a high school diploma, then to care about the week-to-week assignments, to take attendance seriously, to try and stay out of trouble; the students didn’t ever imagine they would transfer to a continuation school, and here they were graduating from one, completely changed. The student speakers were full of gratitude for the teachers and staff who actually cared about them enough to keep pushing them.

To just say that the 35 teen moms and dads “made it” is an understatement. They fought for it, they earned it, and I do believe they changed generations because of it. They changed the way that they will lead their family, the way their children will see education as an opportunity, and how they will achieve goals in the future. They had a million other responsibilities pulling them in different directions and had to focus in on a goal, and they finished that goal!!

Watching them walk across the stage with confidence was such a proud moment for me, sending chills running through my body and my eyes welling up with tears, I then imagined how much greater their families were feeling for their sons or daughters. I looked around and saw whole families cheering and crying, siblings holding up signs, grandparents nodding their heads with affirmation, and through the crowd I was able to spot some of their babies and toddlers.

After walking across the stage and receiving their diploma, I asked the moms “How did it feel?” A common answer was that it feels surreal and they couldn’t have done it without the support of many, and that they did it for their son or daughter. And I found myself all emotional again because OF COURSE THEY DID! They finished high school for the benefit of their child’s future. They don’t want to be just another statistic. They constantly tell me they want to give their children an even better life than they had growing up, and the determination, strength, perseverance, and COURAGE that comes with that, is unstoppable.

We are beyond proud of all our graduates this year who we have gotten the opportunity to know through YoungLives, would you join us in praying for them as the next chapter in their lives unfold, and new obstacles come their way? To Graduation and Beyond!

Sarah Spillman, Costa Mesa YoungLives Coordinator

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Grateful Gatherings

Each year in May as we are winding down the YoungLives school year activities, we try to express our thankfulness to our volunteers. It’s hard. These are friends that have given so much. Have done sooooo much. There really is no way for us to repay them, nor do they ever expect anything in return. But – we reeeeeealllly want to serve them for once. To tell them how much they mean to us, to the ministry, to the Lord. And…so we try! This year, Maria & Laurie – our Santa Ana and Huntington Beach Club Coordinators and couple other team leaders put together beautiful, intimate gatherings. 

Laurie – Every month during the school year we get the fun privilege of putting on Club for YoungLives. Club is a party-like atmosphere for teens with a gospel message, music, games, crafts and a delicious meal. Each Club event needs around 30 volunteers to make it all happen. From organizing crafts and games to singing and playing music, cooking and serving meals, mentoring & hanging out with teenagers, and taking care of their beautiful babies. None of it could happen without our volunteers. 

On a Saturday morning we had the awesome opportunity to appreciate our volunteers through a beautiful brunch! Our Childcare Coordinator, Amanda offered her backyard for the event. Place settings and chairs were set up in one long family style table providing a cozy atmosphere. The Good Flower Co. provided beautiful flowers for the dining tables and a lovely arrangement for the food table. 

 

We served coffee, juice, bagels with all the toppings, a chia seed pudding bar and delicious homemade quiches from a friend. 

It was so nice to get to sit and share a meal with the people that we serve alongside at YoungLives each month. So many great conversations were had and it was just so good to spend unhurried time together. 

img_0780.jpgEach person was also given a cool Young Life Thred Journal as a gift. We could never do enough to show how much we appreciate our volunteers but I pray that the brunch gave them an idea of how loved and valued they are!

Maria – Gather at Our Table!

We gathered at our table to celebrate this past school year’s accomplishments and God’s blessings. My family and I opened up our home and invited the precious volunteers that serve at the Santa Ana Club.

 

What’s better than a home cooked meal?! My hubby’s specialty is smoking meat, so we served BBQ smoked pulled pork and brisket. We also served  delicious antipasto salad and sides. As an added treat we spoiled our guests with a delicious tiramisu, brownies and cream puffs. These volunteers have diligently served and given their time away from home this past school year, and we wanted to make sure they knew how much we appreciate their dedication to this ministry.

IMG_2582As we gathered in our back yard, I felt a sense of fulfillment. The yard was filled with not only my family but also my YoungLives family. Our table not only had a delicious meal but the conversations that filled the tables were full of laughter, great conversations and  praise reports. It was a sweet time while we shared some of our favorite stories of serving in the YoungLives Ministry.

img_2583.jpegIMG_1295Towards the end of the event we gave each of our volunteers a Thred  Journal as a gift. Myrna shared how the Thred Journal would be a great addition to our daily prayer and devotion time.

In the past we’ve opened our home to host young teen moms and their families. My heart is filled by God allowing my family to host this year’s Volunteer Appreciation lunch. It is evident that the volunteers have made a positive impact in the teen family’s lives. We have seen lives transformed and this gathering was a celebration of all that God has done. I will say that the fondest  memories are made when you are gathered around the table.

 

 

Prom…Another Milestone

There are a multitude of milestones in our lives and society tells us that they are supposed to come in a particular order… but life does not always work out in the order that we envision, especially if you find yourself in the position of a YoungLives parent. The teens that come through the doors of the YoungLives clubs have found many of their milestones all out of order; but, we know they are still worthy of the high school experiences such as prom.

The prom of their dreams is exactly what many of our participants got, when teen parents from Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, and Costa Mesa areas came dressed to impress and danced the night away. On Friday, June 1 of 2018, teen parents got to safely drop their children off with childcare volunteers (without whom none of our clubs would be possible) and were chauffeured by golf cart to the Halecrest Clubhouse in Costa Mesa. As they entered, they chose a key on a gold chain with a word which spoke to them… HOPE, LOVE, PEACE, STRONG, ENOUGH, FREEDOM, COURAGE.

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The room was decorated beautifully and was brought to life in different shades of gold, for the theme, “All That Glitters is Gold”. Big gold 2 – 0 – 1 – 8 balloons commemorated the event and vases with roses and jewels adorned the center of every table. Once everyone got settled, the dinner buffet opened and guests were treated to an assortment of pastas and salads from Corner Bakery. The dinner was topped off with a variety of homemade desserts, which are still making my mouth water! The festivities were rounded out with professional pictures and of course a live DJ who for sure got the party started.

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The highlight of the evening came directly in the middle as Myrna Bittar, our fearless leader, encouraged the teens and mentors with a moving talk. She reminded the parents of all that they had accomplished over the last year and congratulated them on overcoming obstacles. Graduates were crowned prom queens and king with sashes and tiaras and given their proper applause. She encouraged all of the parents to continue to chase their dreams and to never lose sight of the gifts which they have been given. She gave specific examples of how God blesses us and how Jesus explained those blessings through the Beatitudes. She drew the entire evening back to the words on their keys and reminded everyone that these words are not only blessings, but also are promises: because of God we have HOPE, because of God we have PEACE, because of God we have FREEDOM, because of God we have COURAGE, because of God we are STRONG, because of God we are ENOUGH, and because of God we are LOVED.

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There was so much to be grateful for that night and the love was seriously flowing.  Because of the childcare volunteers the parents got to enjoy the evening as teenagers and because of the mentors many of them got rides and hugs and got to feel God’s love. Because of our dinner helpers all of the bellies were full and because of the decorations our senses were on overload. Because of the DJ our feet hurt and because of the photographer memories were captured forever. But most importantly, because the young women and men who participate with YoungLives accepted the challenge of becoming parents and weren’t afraid to ask for help, YoungLives gets to do what they do and share God’s love through amazing events such as Prom.

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Please be praying for the Grads who will be tackling all new challenges this coming year. Please be praying for the moms and babies who will be going to camp in July.  Please be praying for the mentors who are waiting to be called by God to attend camp with the record breaking number of girls. Please be praying for our summer activities which are being offered each month. Please be praying on how you can become part of this amazing ministry and joint us next Fall when we start it all over again.

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Theresa Stack, Mentor & This Week’s Guest Blog Writer

Tightly Stretched Between Motherhood & High School

Remember the days in elementary school when it felt like summer vacation was a million years away? I remember it feeling like an eternity. A little dramatic, I know, but it dragged on forever. Now it seems like months fly by unnoticed. We had our final meeting of the school year for YoungLives Club last Thursday and it seems like we were just getting started. Wasn’t it just Christmas?! The girls still have a few classes to complete and finals to take but, for the most part, this school year is behind us. Of course, we still have prom in a couple of weeks so we do have that to look forward to. But Club is always a very special time of sharing and fellowship with these teen families and it’s always a blessing. The structure is always the same but the actual events differ greatly from week to week. We have the privilege of being part of their lives as they navigate family life and teen life.

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Imagine a day in the life of a teen mom as she’s tightly stretched between motherhood and finishing high school. As if one or the other isn’t a monumental task in itself. These moms are amazing! Their love for their kids and families is fierce and the one thing that stood out to me this year is that most, if not all, are focused and determined to create a future for herself and her baby. More than that, they’re willing to do the work that will lead to that end.

This week, two of our leaders shared intimate stories about events in their lives that greatly impacted their faith. Both were challenged to look at their circumstances and then reconcile what they saw and felt with their understanding that God loves them and has a perfect plan and purpose for everything that they face. We were reminded that God is the Creator of all things and that He can make beautiful things out of dust and ashes. That He can bring something good from the pain that threatens to cripple us. That even in the depths of our sin He stands with open arms waiting to welcome us home, into His presence.

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Sarah shared a beautiful story and visual demonstration of God’s grace and love.

May these precious mommas believe that no matter what her circumstances or how bad life treats her, no matter how far she may feel from God He is making us new and He makes all things beautiful. Above all else, may they know and believe that nothing can keep us from His love. Will you pray with me this summer that the seeds of faith planted in the hearts of these young men and women will be watered and tended to and that the joy of the Lord will be their strength? ~ Sue Groff, Committee Member

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Sue and her granddaughter Londyn

“Change-ing” Lives

Hello my name is Cristen, I am not much of a blogger but I am passionate about this ministry and the opportunity to share how you can “change lives with your spare change’”!

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all…”               Galatians 6:9-10b

This verse has always been an encouragement to me. And, although I may not always see the fruit of my labor, God’s Word promises that there will be a season of reaping if I do not give up. Not everyone is called into the same ministry, we are all given specific giftings to serve, but as this portion of scripture suggests, as believers in Christ we should be doing good to all, as we have opportunity. What does this look like practically? Well, I suppose it can be manifested in many different ways, but one way could be as simple as gathering our loose change to impact two generations this summer.

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If you don’t already know, for the past 5 years, the North OC YoungLives staff and volunteers have been encouraging teen moms to experience a wonderful gospel focused camp in Arizona. This camp is special because the teens (from many different areas) can bring their babies and it has made such a positive impact on those that have attended in the past. It is a time of really fun activities and focused teaching that reinforces all they’ve learned the past school year at Club night events.

 

 

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As you can imagine, camp is a pretty big expense but something that I and the North OC YoungLives Committee believe is well worth raising money for! One of the ways I’ve personally been excited to help with camp fundraising is our annual Baby Bottle campaign that launched on Mother’s Day and will wrap up on Father’s Day. We get the chance to hand out empty baby bottles to different churches, friends, co-workers, etc… and they get to participate by filling up the bottles with coins, cash, or checks. It’s an easy way for everyone to get in on the action of sending these young moms and their babies to what is touted as being “the best week of their lives!” at camp.

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If you want to join me in this opportunity to do good and share, get a baby bottle by contacting us at northocyounglives@gmail.com.

Cristen Gerum, YoungLives Committee Member