It Started With Maria

It started with Maria, one of our YoungLives leaders reaching out to us.

She wanted to replicate the flower bouquets the teen moms would typically receive at the May Club Nights in honor of Mother’s Day. How to do that when we weren’t gathering would be hard. She offered to personally put together 20 bouquets along with some really pretty jewelry (donated by friends that have online shops), and a handwritten note. She then reached out and asked if we would be able to gather volunteers to help deliver the special surprises to 20 of the young moms. We were overwhelmed with the sweetness of the offer and thought, could we get others to step in and make some additional bouquets? Well, that idea of 20 bouquets turned into 85+ bouquets and notes gathered and delivered by 25+ volunteers to at least 10 different cities in Orange County! I mean come on!!! How INCREDIBLE are the hearts of these volunteers we get to be involved with?!!! Hearts that move by the love of Jesus. Hearts that desire to be light, bring smiles, and say, “Young mom, we see YOU and we think you are AMAZING!”

During this pandemic, the already challenging circumstances of being a teenage, single mom has elevated to a whole other level. Juggling 24/7 child caring, high school distance-learning, in some cases jobs, and the ever looming economic hardships are just a few reminders of their fragility. Please pray for these brave + strong young women.

We are truly humbled to serve alongside so many selfless people.

~North OC YoungLives Staff

His Little Feet

“I needed clothes and you clothed me…” Matthew 25:36

When the Coronavirus started gaining ground and we knew we weren’t going to be able to have Club Nights with the teen families in the month of April we thought that the plans we had with an organization called His Little Feet were going to have to be set aside to another time. So much for all the shoe sizes we had collected. 
 
But, then, everything fell into place. His Little Feet wanted to go ahead and get all the NEW NAME-BRAND tennis shoes they’d collected for approximately 60 of the YoungLives teens and little ones into their hands, ummm – I mean, onto their feet. A lot of communication and logistics had to happen (everything is just more complicated with the social distancing) and then, we were able to go pick up the shoes. Once in our possession, they were bagged individually for each family, and since we felt it was about time to get a second round of diapers and baby wipes out to the teen families, we added these logistics into the mix as well! All of it done keeping within the social distancing guidelines. Oh yeah, one more thing, these shoes were already sorted by each recipients name for us AND a special little hand-written note of encouragement tucked into each pair.

Honestly, the people that we get to meet along the way in this ministry continues to blow us away. I mean really…new shoes for each of our teen parents? Who does this???? Thank you His Little Feet – you have really made an impression on us!

~YoungLives Staff

Let’s Get Him Back to Work

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Genesis 50:20

This pandemic is no joke. We all see the rising numbers of confirmed cases, and the deaths. It is hard to not let sadness set in. For some even harder to not let it settle into hopelessness. 

But God. 

We are weary of being inside, thinking about the missed opportunities, disappointments of unmet expectations, and the overall unending changes that are by-products of the Coronavirus. 

But God.

Here at YoungLives, just like everyone else across the world, we have had to learn new ways to reach out. New ways to remind the teens that we are still here for them. That can seem overwhelming when a ministry such as YoungLives consists of so much contact time with local teens and their kids, one-on-one time, group events, etc…

But God. He has His eyes on these families and just as He has always done, He has provided a way for us to continue to tell them they are seen and loved.

LET’S GET HIM BACK TO WORK!

Just a few days ago this photo was sent from one of our alumni teens. A young man working hard to provide for his family, his truck was broken into, and all his tools were taken. Feeling pretty defeated, he cancelled the jobs he had lined up. Thankfully though, he reached out. Then we reached out. Then God reached down, showed all of us He sees us. Within two days, thanks to so many people, tools were given, monetary donations, gift card to the tool store – and just like that, this young man is back in business. But God.

~North OC YoungLives Staff

Necessities + Niceness

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Some of our YoungLives families are really struggling. Lost jobs for multiple people in their households, fear of the unknowns, bare cupboards, and hungry little ones. We live in a wealthy county compared to many places around the world with access to food pantries and free meals which is honestly a gift that does not go unnoticed by any of us. Nonetheless, not everyone in this wealthy county has had the opportunity to “save up” or have “extras” on hand of other necessities that the pantries may not provide – the day-to-day here in Orange County is costly. So, when this virus pandemic hit and practically overnight EVERYTHING changed, some of our friends were catapulted into really tough circumstances. Not everyone can wait for the virus stimulus to show up…there are immediate needs. You may wonder how we find out about the needs. Actually in a lot of different ways. In the last couple weeks we’ve heard from three high school teachers that had concern for some of their teen parent students, we’ve heard directly from teens themselves, sometimes it’s been a mentor that’s heard of a need, and sometimes it’s what we see being shared on social media. Here are just a couple examples of what we have got to witness in the last week with church partners and other friends of YoungLives.

First Christian Church in Huntington Beach allowing families to fill out their own on-line shopping list, with their specific needs has been a tremendous gift. On top of the list being fulfilled, the items are then being delivered to the family’s doorstep. Talk about respectful ministry – wow…so beautiful!

Several mentors and volunteers of YoungLives have been excited to get to help out with some immediate needs as well…and the thing about these that we always love hearing about from the recipients is the extra love that was thrown in…a handwritten note of encouragement, some unasked for treats for everyone, or maybe a larger package of an item. Extra love that reminds them that the Lord is showing up for their family. When they ask, “why do you guys do this for us?”, the answer is simple – Jesus in us.

Thinking of you while we are all following “stay at home orders”

North OC YoungLives Team

Crafting + Caring

I learned about YoungLives through the school I work at. Volunteers from YoungLives come and speak to our high school teen moms and they love it. My first involvement was last year at the Prom they hold for local teen moms and teen dads – I helped out with childcare. From there I dove in and went to Summer Camp at Lost Canyon in Arizona and helped with childcare for the week. I initially signed up for the camp hoping to get the young moms at the school to go – you know, help them to feel a little more comfortable with going and bringing their children since they know me from school. Summer camp was an unbelievable experience! From then on, I knew I wanted to get more involved in this wonderful organization.

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I attended the YoungLives Fall Kickoff (volunteer interest meeting) back in August. I figured I could step in and help with childcare since that’s what I know. Well, until lunch  when I sat next to Myrna. She put a little bug in my ear saying that the Santa Ana Club was in need of a craft person and she heard that I like crafts. Myrna asked me to think about it and pray about it. I was unsure and nervous. I felt like it was a big job and I just wasn’t too confident. I came across this quote and it fit:

“When God calls you to do something it isn’t your job to decide if  you’re good enough or if you know how to, or if it fits into the plans you have laid out for your life. It is simply your job to obey.” To say the least I’ve been leading the craft at the Santa Ana Club every month since then!

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During the monthly Club craft time, we all join at a long table, the moms and the leaders,  which gives us a chance to share and talk with one another while enjoying a little craft time. Getting to know the girls and their families is so nice. Some of the girls have started asking me at the beginning of each club what the craft is going to be. To hear them say that they look forward to what I set up for them along with their excitement fills my heart. Club brings so much joy and everyone makes you so welcome.

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At times I feel that I might not really be doing much in my small role yet when a mom comes up, hugs me, and calls me by name it makes me so thankful to be a part of their lives, even if it may be for a small moment in time. I feel God led me here for a reason.

It is an honor to serve with YoungLives and all who are involved.

~Yvette Reynoso, Craft Leader

I Knew First-Hand

My journey with YoungLives started almost eight years ago. I became a mother at the age of 18 when I gave birth to my son. Right after I turned 21, I decided I wanted to encourage and work with teen mothers in some way. I knew first-hand how important it was to have a strong support system when bringing a child into the world at a young age. YoungLives fell into my lap and after attending the first barbeque I knew this was something I had to be a part of.

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Over the years I have attended many clubs. I have played games, sang songs, eaten lots of delicious food and watched mothers grow up alongside their babies. The most important thing I have witnessed month after month is the lives that have forever been changed because of messages shared and love shown through volunteers.

This past month was no different. Every month YoungLives club has a theme, and the month of February is obviously the month of love. When talking about February and love most people think of valentines and the romantic kind of love. While those things are great, there are many other kinds of love that can be celebrated: love for a friend, love between a parent and child, and the love shown to us by our Heavenly Father. All of these different kinds of love were celebrated at YoungLives this last month.

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I am still overwhelmed when I think of all the volunteers who showed up to make this night so special for our teen moms and babies. Hair stylists came and offered to give the children haircuts. I watched as some of the babies I have known since birth received their first haircuts ever. After eating homemade tacos and hearing an important message on what sin is, the moms were asked to split up into small groups so the fun could begin.

 


Volunteers had set up different stations for the moms to participate in. The stations included make your own floral bouquets, a makeup and eyebrow bar, pictures in front of valentine’s backdrop, and a hair braiding station. While the moms moved between the different stations, mentors held their places at the table to go deeper into the conversation of the message that had just been shared.

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My heart melts thinking of the mothers walking out of club with their hair braided and smiles on their faces holding handfuls of flowers and heart shaped cookies. All of these gifts were such blessings, but at the end of the day the best gift we can give to every mom, dad and baby who walks through the door is the gift of God’s love showing through us. I have personally seen this love poured out month after month and because of this my life will never be the same. I am so grateful to be a part of this ministry.            ♥ Cassandra Snook ~ YoungLives Mentor

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Cassandra (in the center) with two of her YoungLives friends.

Young In The World + Raising A Child

The first time I heard about YoungLives, my heart could not stop recalling James 1:27… it says: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Teen parents often face many of the same struggles a widow would face… young in the world and raising a child often without a support system to encourage them or financial means to bear the weight of parenting.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard it would be to do that alone. God laid heavily upon my heart that each one of these kids is a future world changer, but without guidance, encouragement, and someone to fall back on they may never have the opportunities to become what they are capable of.
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Ever since that day, I knew this was an organization I could get my heart behind.  In the midst of all that, my husband and I were beginning the process of church planting and I knew that YoungLives would be something we would immediately rally around as a church. Even though we are still 1-year young, I am excited for all that we will be able to do in the years to come. So, for now, we do what we can!
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Our goal is to recruit the body of Christ to become mentors and volunteers, and to “sponsor” a club meeting 2-3 times a year to bring a love gift above and beyond a normal club.  In times past we have done giant packs of diapers, groceries, wipes, and baby care kits.  But with THIS month being love month (February), we wanted the parents to know that THEY are worthy of feeling God’s extravagant love.  That means not just covering the needs, but sometimes covering a desire.
Our church rallied this month big time and we were able to provide services AND goods for the kids.  Dads and kids were provided fresh cuts by some incredible barbers, and the moms were given mani’s and makeovers.  On top of that, the dads received a $50 restaurant gift card to celebrate Valentines Day out on the town and the moms received a Sephora goodie bag along with 3 full sized makeup/skincare products from Sephora. Once everyone was all fresh, we took photos for those who wanted a nice professional photo.
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I believe that God asks us not to give just the leftovers, but to give our BEST. For whenever we show love to others, we show love to Christ. I want Christ to feel that extravagant love poured out, not just my leftovers, but my BEST. That’s why we go all out whenever we can.
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We’re just getting warmed up and I believe God has much bigger plans to bless the kids in Santa Ana. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
~Natalie Iguchi, Co-Pastor of Voice Church and YoungLives mentor + friend

Tools in the Toolbelt

My story starts out as a 16 year old girl, who is about to go on a journey of a lifetime in the world of parenthood. I had no idea how many amazing things the Lord would do on this journey, but looking back now is both breathtaking and miraculous. When I first found out that I was going to have a baby at the age of 16, well before I felt I was ready, I was scared to death. But God knew the plans He had for me and for my little one.

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Virginia as a teen mom with her little boy Eli

I believe that we do the best with what we have, but I feel like I didn’t have much back then. I was terrible at communicating to others how I felt, I didn’t really know how to be a selfless, good mom, and I had so many things that I still needed to heal from, from the first 16 years of my own life. And yet, I was given this beautiful responsibility of being a mother to the most beautiful little child named Eli.

“How in the world am I going to raise this little guy?” I thought. Scared to death of being put in the position of this little ones welfare and safety just about knocked me to the ground. I wanted so badly to be able to do well. But from the get-go, I knew I didn’t have the tools I needed to do the job I really wanted to do. But God saw me and He knew what I would need. So, in the faith step of choosing to trust that God had my back, I remember telling the Lord, “I know that I can’t do this without you so please do it for me” “this child is yours, I commit him to you.” From that day forth, the Lord’s hand was in every detail of my life and my son’s. He placed people who I respected to come alongside us and unconditionally love us in our sweet little world of being mom and son. It didn’t matter that I was young. All that mattered was that we were loved, encouraged and taught new ways of doing things. The most important key of all was the unconditional love. There were many people in the last 19 years that were crucial in raising up such an incredible young man, and to them I am beyond grateful for all the love they poured into our lives.

 

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Today, Virginia with her grown up Eli!

In life you come to find out how important and what a gift it is to have tools in your tool belt. Some of these tools are faith, compassion, the gift of communication, forgiveness, healing, knowledge, and most importantly, unconditional love. When we are given these tools, and when we see how valuable and absolutely necessary it is to have them to build the life we want and dream of, we have the natural inclination to pass on and give these tools to others.

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Virginia with one of the teen moms.

This is what YoungLives does.  They come alongside and love and support however they can. We take the tools we have been blessed with and we hand them down to amazing teen parents who will in turn be master builders of theirs and their children’s lives and futures. Let us be those who share our gifts and knowledge with those so precious.

I am so blessed to be a part of such an incredible ministry. Virginia Vargas ~ Mentor 

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Virginia, Area Director Myrna Bittar, and Cassandra (another of our amazing mentors!)

Virginia and her husband currently pour in to teen moms and dads as mentors as well as running mixer games at the club nights for the young parents.

They Are Worth All of It

Huntington Beach Club nights are where it all started eight years ago. Gathering together teen moms, teen dads, their babies, and a group of volunteers to get to know each other, share a meal together, hear an encouraging word – a message of hope. This last Thursday, eight years later was not much different than those first nights. Of course, the high school aged parents have changed and we have new volunteers (and some of those original volunteers still serving with the ministry as well!!!!), but for the most part not much has changed. I don’t say this in a negative way. It’s in the BEST way. The simplicity, consistency and comfortability of YoungLives is what keeps it going…what keeps it authentic….what keeps it sweet.

IMG_6968.JPGThe night begins with volunteers coming in to set up, cook the meal, pray for the evening. Tables and chairs get set up, childcare rooms get stocked with supplies, snacks, and bubbles, the decor team comes in to add special touches, the food team has a complete healthy & tasty meal hot and ready to serve, there are donations of baby clothing, diapers, and accessories all spread out, and the craft room is set and ready. Then we wait for the mentors to arrive with the teens and little ones. A smaller group of teen parents than usual arrived. BUT, that is okay. We never really know how many will show up…it definitely ebbs and flows. Sometimes there’s sickness, or job schedules, or family things.

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We don’t always know. At times it may seem like A LOT of work goes into the evening “for just a few”. And at times it may seem like we are serving each other…the volunteers serving the volunteers. But I’m reminded & encouraged with this…the Lord would leave 99 behind to reach just one. So, though only a small group were there last Thursday night…the Lord knew those kids needed to know they are worth “it”. All of it.

~Colleen, Area Office Admin

Without YoungLives…

On September 28th, 2019, I attended the 4th annual North OC YoungLivesGiving Gala.  This year it was held at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana.  And it was incredible! Not only was everything just perfect, but it was amazing to see how much God keeps pouring into this ministry in such an extraordinary way.

I’m so thankful that YoungLives continues to ask me to be a part of this special night!

This time around, I was blessed with the opportunity to greet and check-in guests as they arrived. It was an unexpectedly windy and grey evening and the check-in table was outside. I was not prepared for the weather and it was cold. However, as soon as the guests started to show up all of that changed. The light and love of Jesus coming from those in attendance – people who continually, willingly, and lovingly support YoungLives– exuded a sense of warmth that not even the sun could have replicated.

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I loved being able to see and assist everyone as they arrived, especially the teen parents.

During dinner, I saw some Teen Moms and Teen Dads get up and make their way to the stage.  I knew what was about to happen. They were going up there to share with everyone how YoungLives has impacted their lives and the lives of their children. This is one of my favorite parts of the night because it’s so special to be able to hear directly from these parents how YoungLives has encouraged and affected them. They always have such beautiful and genuine examples of what God and YoungLives has done for them and their confidence, courage and strength always blows me away.

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They thanked YoungLives for being there for them, for motivating them, for helping them to know they had a fighting chance. They shared their personal dreams for their children. Dreams that their children would see them as an example of what is possible, that they would know they can do anything if they just put their mind to it, that their children would understand their parents fought hard to graduate school and take care of them — that their children would grow to know Jesus.

Halfway through the group of teens I heard, “Without YoungLives, I don’t think I would have ever graduated high school”

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Tears came to my eyes.  Those words were coming from a young woman I met just one year ago at this very same event. A young woman who told me she wasn’t sure if she was going to make it through high school.  A young woman I encouraged to stick it out.  I could tell just from talking to her that she had what it took to get through.

And now here she was, standing on stage declaring that she had done it; she had graduated. Not only had she graduated, she was about to start her college classes. I was overcome with emotion.  And not because of anything I did, but because of what God did for her through the YoungLives ministry.  A ministry she now wants to give back to; where she can help others to overcome similar challenges she has had to face.

Each year, YoungLives is able to provide more and more assistance to teen parents in Orange County because of what God has done to stir the hearts of so many people who come together to make it all happen.  It’s so wonderful to see so many people who consistently step up and step into the lives of these courageous teens who chose life for their children.

Lives are being dramatically altered, hearts are being changed for the better and God’s will is being lived out through your actions.  And all because you’ve chosen to live a legacy worth leaving.

Amber Matos, Volunteer and YoungLives Friend

 

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Amber with one of the YoungLives moms