Congratulations Graduates!

Graduating from high school is a huge accomplishment! Many people don’t realize that it is an even bigger accomplishment for the teen moms and dads that we get to walk with in YoungLives. With a 50% dropout rate for teen moms in our county and seemingly many odds against them, year after year we celebrate the moms and dads that push through to the finish line! This year we celebrate with 17 teen moms and 3 teen dads that received their High School Diploma! Juggling childcare, a part or full-time job, and parenting a little life makes attending high school and passing classes all the more challenging. But these young men and women didn’t let those challenges get in their way! We are encouraged and inspired by their perseverance and we look forward to seeing all that God has in store for these individuals. I have had the opportunity to witness many of their stories firsthand and have no doubt that these young men and women are stepping into a wonderful future. This is only the beginning of what they will accomplish for themselves and for their little ones.

Congratulations graduates!!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” -Hebrews 12:1

~Myrna Bittar

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Beauty for Ashes

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Tasting baby food while blindfolded!

Last night was our last regular club gathering of the school year (next month we have PROM!). And we wanted it to be a great night, a perfect night. We wanted to end the year on a high note and so we planned for that. We had a silly game where girls were blindfolded and had to determine the flavor of baby food. We had a fabulous lasagna dinner our volunteers lovingly made. We had a fun, summer theme for decorating the tables. We had a great photo album craft planned. And we had a powerful message all ready to go. And then despite our best laid plans, life happened. Mentors had last minute change of plans and couldn’t drive girls. Girls had last minute work or school conflicts and couldn’t come to club. Volunteers who care for babies got sick. Traffic was horrible and people were running really late.  It was feeling like a recipe for disaster.

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Crystal, Fatima and baby Leah

If I’m honest, I started thinking, “Really God? But we planned a great night. And we wanted all of the girls to be here. And we had a perfect night planned and it’s about to be ruined!” And in that moment, I heard the Holy Spirit’s still small voice say, “I know all about it. Instead of complaining or freaking out, just talk to me about it.” So right there in the hallway, I prayed. “Ok God. I really don’t get it. But I trust that You do. You know who is here and I’m trusting it’s exactly who you want here. You know every little detail and I’m not going to worry about it because you know all about it.” I took a deep breath and headed back into the group.

Pastor Andrew Schey (campus pastor for Rock Harbor Huntington Beach) was sharing his story of meeting Jesus and the transformation that happened in his life. You could hear a pin drop in the room. Then he invited Myrna up to share her story. She shared boldly and honestly about some of her darkest and most difficult moments. How God has redeemed the hurt and shame of the past and turned it into something beautiful. How God called her into ministry to teen moms in ways she never expected. How God created beauty from ashes.

They were raw, moving examples of the Gospel – that Jesus died on the cross to save us and all we have to do is say “yes” to Him. Andrew gave everyone the opportunity to say stand up and say “yes” to Jesus. It was a bold call to action. Stand up in a room in front of your peers and say, “Yes. I need Jesus and I want everyone to know.” Slowly one girl stood. Then another. More followed until 5 girls were standing. And in that moment, none of the earlier chaos mattered. None of our planning mattered. The food, the games, the decorations, the craft…they were just extras. Because God was working in ways we couldn’t see. He was doing something far more powerful than we could ever have planned for. He was working in spite of the chaos, in spite of our best efforts. And at the end of the night, 5 girls said “yes” to Jesus.

This is why we are here. This is what life is all about. None of us can do it on our own. We need Jesus. We need the transforming power of His love. Only God can redeem the hurts and pains of the past. And only God can exchange beauty for ashes.

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“To all who mourn…he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3 (New Living Translation)

~Nicole Maiocco

Jackiey’s Story

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Me, Jackiey and Faith walking to school

About 6 months ago a sweet 16 year old mom name Jackiey added me as a friend on Facebook and our friendship began! As we exchanged messages, we quickly realized that we lived pretty much across the street from each other. Jackiey is the mother of a beautiful 2 year old, a senior in high school, and working full time! The more I talked to her, the more I was impressed by her maturity and her plans for the future. Because of Jackiey’s work schedule she has only been able to attend a couple of YoungLives events, but over the last 6 months we have developed a friendship. Jackiey helps out around her house by picking up her elementary-aged sister from school every day. Jackiey’s walk to the elementary school at 2 o’clock is our hang out time. We meet at the street corner and we walk to the elementary school, talk about life, the past, the future. I have been so blessed to get to know Jackiey and witness what an incredible mother and young lady she is!

Jackieys sister walking Habiby

Jackiey’s sister, Celina, walking my dog, Habiby

Jackiey would tell you that before she had her daughter Faith, she was up to no good – running away from home, lying, stealing, using drugs, and fighting with others. When her daughter was born, Jackiey realized she could lose her daughter if she didn’t make some real changes. She stopped using drugs cold turkey and decided to focus on school. On Wednesday of this week Jackiey celebrated being 2 years clean! One thing I have noticed about Jackiey is that becoming a mother has made her appreciate her own parents. She speaks of them very respectfully and does whatever she can to be a nurturing big sister to her siblings. I am inspired by Jackiey as I watch her prepare to be the speaker at her graduation ceremony next month at the age of 16! Jackiey – I have no doubt that you are going to be an incredible psychologist someday and little Faith has a beautiful role model to follow after.

~Myrna Bittar

Easter Club

Every month teen moms, dads and their children gather together with their mentors and other volunteers for a really fun evening! Last week we saw many familiar faces at club (and some new ones too) as we celebrated Easter together!

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Laurie Bradley, our Club Coordinator, plays a big role behind the scenes every week making sure club runs smoothly. This week she took the podium to share the club talk. She did an amazing job sharing her story in a real and honest way that encouraged us to focus on the cross as we approach Easter. She shared that it doesn’t matter what our past was, Jesus loves us and died on the cross to take the pain of the past away. At the end of the talk, we had an opportunity to nail our “sins” to the cross.

DSC_0741After experiencing the freedom of nailing our sins to the cross, the girls moved on to a craft – creating Resurrection Eggs! Each DSC_0637egg crate came with 12 plastic eggs and we filled each one with a tiny symbol of Easter. What a great keepsake and reminder of the true meaning of Easter!

 

While we joyfully celebrated the new life we have in Christ because of His death and Resurrection, we also got to celebrate new life with one of our moms! Congratulations to Cheridan on the birth of baby John who arrived on February 28th.

DSC_0649Cheridan and baby John

Every month we continue to be encouraged about the amazing work God is doing in our own lives as well as the lives of the volunteers and teen moms we are so privileged to know. We look forward to Easter with humble and grateful hearts knowing that Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to give us the ultimate gift!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 1:3