WORKOUT BONDING AT THE LAUNCH PAD

Workout Bonding

One of the residents at the Launch Pad recently asked someone on our staff if they could work out together (The Launch Pad has a gym on campus). They started working out then asked the Launch Pad Resident Coordinator to join, as well. Shortly after that, another TLF staff said she wanted to workout too, so by the end of the evening we had two more residents join us! For some, it was the first time they had ever worked out. Everyone worked out together; they laughed and pushed themselves!

That was one of our residents’ favorite evenings at the Launch Pad; they all bonded and really got to encourage one another. It was not about the workout or fitness as much as it was about team building and doing something together!

Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/219377

We have all decided that working out together was going to become a thing to weave into our summer plans at the Launch Pad for our residents and team to experience!

This is camp… by Shelly; TLC volunteer

I am home from camp and there are a million things I want to say and share, but none are really enough. I wish you could really know and understand, but unless you were there, unless you took it all in, unless you were walking it and breathing it all in, it’s virtually impossible to even begin to explain it. You see for me, each of these teens have a name, and a face, and a story uniquely their own. But even in a weekend you cannot possibly KNOW them. And really, the goal of camp is not to hear their stories, but rather to give them a place to just BE – to live OUTSIDE their stories even if only for a brief moment. So many of them have lived in circumstances that are incomprehensible. They are stronger than they should have to be. They have known a side of life that is heartbreaking and brutally unkind. Some are more like parents than kids. Some live in a constant state of chaos and fear. Some have watched the most unspeakable things unfold before them. Many do not know the seemingly ordinary of simple things like sleeping in their own bed, or healthy meals three times a day, or a new pair of shoes at the beginning of the school year. And I would venture to say that most if not all do not enjoy what we might remember as highlights of childhood like slumber parties and having friends over to play.

So when people ask me what the highlight was from camp this year, it isn’t a deep or significant moment. For me, it was a teen eating an entire pizza Lunchable in one bite and the room erupting in cheers. it is a water balloon game that didn’t work in the slightest – it was utter and complete chaos. But as I stood in the middle of the game, and saw the smiles spread over their faces and listened to the deep and resounding laughter, it was like I was experiencing a small taste of heaven. In those moments, the teens were safe, and loved, and free. They were surrounded by the family of Christ and embraced EXACTLY as they are. They are the same kind of different with the same kind of hard. I wish I could push play on that sound – it was pure joy – perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

ThI hope that moment will forever be buried deep in my heart and that from there hope and love may spring forth and Praise Him for being a GOOD Father and choosing me to love these amazing teens and writing me into a tiny part of their stories. I know I can never do enough. I cannot write a new story for them, but I pray with all my heart that I can speak truth into their lives and remind them that there is hope for a great future because of the love of Christ and His all surpassing power. I pray I can give them a side hug on a hard day and remind them they are seen and heard and covered in prayer. I pray in a dark moment there is some small piece of their hearts that holds tight and clings to the memories of laughter and remembers that there are people that care because OH MY GOODNESS there are people that care and carry them close regardless of how far away they feel today.

Wheel of Change

In sharing some of Teen Leadership Foundation’s new and expanding programs in this newsletter, I realized it might be helpful to give you an overview of the progression of TLF’s programs. Our intent is to provide foster teens with a pathway to a better future through eternal relationships and educational experiences. Looking at the wheel of change below, you’ll see that starts with Teen Leadership Camp, which brings foster teens together for a 3-day mountaintop experience. Then there’s mentoring, which solidifies those personal relationships made with volunteers from camp. The Knot is a monthly youth group designed to bring continued community with positive, caring adults. The Network our independent living skill workshops, prepare teens for life beyond foster care. And for emancipated youth, there’s The Launch Pad, our transitional living housing program. The progression of our programs is intentional, and as a volunteer or other community partner, your involvement is intentional, too. Through your commitment and care, these teens will transition into adulthood prepared and backed by a community that loves them that will forever change the trajectory of there lives.

wheel without key

Inspite of the rain

This weekend was a gift of God’s goodness in so many ways. The weekend was one of the most peaceful, simple family feeling camp weekends I’ve ever been a part of.

Saturday afternoon rain lead us to a time of tug-of-war and playing in the mud pit which was a perfect anaology to talk about “exploring the messy stuff’ in our lives. We brought up a couple who live in one of our neighborhoods and have been a part of our mentoring team for the past couple of years. The couple shared of past grief and addictions and the healing they have received. There was honesty and vulnerability as we sat in a circle and listened to each other share stories of pain and hurt and talked about how much God loves us to not only enter in that pain with us, but to give us each other to walk through it together. That unexpected Saturday afternoon was the most precious to me from that conversation we gave opportunity for campers to respond with a counselor to pray, and they all lined up.  Later on, one of those boys, Erik, came to me and asked, “Meg how come when you pray for someone else it makes you cry and feel God’s love more than when you pray for yourself?” He also articulated that he feels like the “tables have changed and that he feels older as a leader for others now.” Wow.. for us, the reality of these boys having older guys to look up to who aren’t in the gang is a HUGE answer to prayer to the gang reality that dominates our neighborhood. TLF certainly understands that there is a different fruit that comes in invested time. It was fun to see that through this weekend.

Another praise that came from this weekend came in the posted pictures on social media after when one of our students tagged “Maple + Garnet = Family.” with a camp picture. This is significant because we work in 2 rival gang neighborhoods. Typically at camp we’re intervening in the neighborhood repping and trying to keep fights from breaking out, but this weekend just felt like a family vacation.

Teen Leadership Camps, the curriculum, the intentionality, the reach – it’s obviously blessed and being used mightily by God. Your generosity has been such a huge blessing to our teens at Solidarity, and your tenacity and compassionate heart has been a personal example and inspiration. We use the  brilliant TLF mentoring training curriculum every semester and it’s greatly enriched our team and volunteer mentors. Thank you so so much for allowing us to be a part of what God is doing through TLF.

Thank you from the bottom of our heart’s.

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, he will comfort you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:17

 

A glimpse into the Community of TLF

As I arrived at camp Saturday prior to our evening chapel time I was greeted by long term volunteers. We don’t go into “Hello, How are you?”  or the typical “What is new?”  Instead the conversation goes straight into matters of the heart.

Jeremy begins the evening with letting me know how the group home his life group does a Bible study with are all at camp and are having some great conversation. He lets me know that Debra “one of the youth in the homes” with childlike love has a simple ask; “will you adopt me?”  As Jeremy and I stand unpacking the youth pile out for a quick game of Frisbee.

I see a longtime advocate and friend Gina; she goes into a larger conversation of our nation’s values and how we need to take hold as a faith community and make moves on value correcting. We dive into this as she shares some of the youth’s story she has been sharing the weekend with.

We are told its time to head to chapel; the worship and speaking team is ready. As we arrive I run into a board member who attends camp every year. Our engagement entry point is about how a few youth and a group of men spend 2 hours that day talking about purgatory.

I glance over and see that part of the worship team is a man that I volunteered almost 10 years ago with. Our eyes connect and we have an easy greeting;   “I have missed this camp; what powerful stories have unfolded in my own life from these weekends”

I take a place near the back of the amphitheater and gaze to the huge sky sparkled with sporadic stars. I drift off to creation and begin a journey of my own until I am startled by the sound that is around me all singing:

He is jealous for me..loves like a hurricane I am a tree…

I feel a whisper in my spirit and become settled from all the conversations that took place prior being reminded we are drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.

The transition to the speaker eventually happens…

The message on our identity and being adopted into Christ as His own child was a great transition from the night prior around Grace and the meaning of.

It was a short message as Joanna; a former foster youth was invited to come share her story with the youth. She talks about seeing her mom being murdered and she herself dropped off on a street corner by a strange man; the spending ages of 8-15 in foster care and being adopted by a sexually abusive family. She tells of how he used to tell her she was not worth anything. She lets the youth know of her powerful new life in Jesus, her masters in Psych and her life now. But then….

She calls the youth down to the stage… I watch as they all take the journey down the huge sandy steps of the amphitheater with curiosity. They form a circle and as they do she tells them. “We sang one of my favorite songs tonight and she asks them to join her in the chorus.”

There they stand holding hands singing “Oh how he loves me” Oh how he loves me so”

I am moved flooded with tears. But then I am interrupted by the heaving crying behind me. I look and a volunteer is in the arms of a friend. I see a Sr. volunteer headed over so I engage back to the circle of youth now all streaming with tears as well.   She was a new volunteer being impacted by this nations crisis of youth in foster care. Her heart is forever changed.

Joanna sends them off with a circle of love and as they head back to their seats I hear shouts “more worship”  “more worship” coming from sounds of campers.

The guitar starts up and I see movement of volunteers and youth headed down to the fire pit and begin gathering around in a circle all hugging and singing.….

Oh how He loves US … Oh how He loves Us

Grateful for this journey,

Lisa Castetter; Founder TLF

 

Creating Systematic & Sustainable Change

Teen Leadership Foundation continues to be a powerful force linking the faith community to local governments. By supporting our partnering organizations with assistance, awareness and organizational training we are able to promote systemic and sustainable change in the lives of emancipating youth.  TLF continues to be recognized as a growing nation-wide organization that is continually creating a voice that would not normally be heard. Recently TLF was asked to write an article in Fostering Families Today on how we work to provide better outcomes for youth in care. TLF’s founder, Lisa Castetter, decided to write the article from her own personal journey in mentoring, the path through it and the outcomes from it. 

The article is titled: Closing the Chasm of the Team

As we approach the summer months and prepare for our multiple leadership camps around Southern California and the Pacific Northwest contact your local church partner for more information on how you can become a long term life changing mentor to a youth in foster care.

-Teen Leadership Foundation

Lisa will be speaking at Summit 9 in Nashville, Tennessee May 2-3.

 

 

Hats

On the way up to the weekend for teen leadership camp I was thinking – I am over 6 decades older than John… will I make a difference?  John had not participated in anything and the afternoon was almost over. There he lay, on the edge of the grass with his baseball cap covering his face. I went over, knelt beside him and had my face inches from his.

It did not take long for him to realize someone was there.

I asked, “Are you OK?

“Yes”

“Is anything wrong?”

“No”

“I like the color of your hair, a mixture of brown and black.”

We sat side by side facing each other and I discovered he composed poetry. I told him I was impressed by his ability and I encouraged him to write a couple of poems while at camp this weekend.  He went on to let me know his ball cap was special because his mother gave it to him.   He last saw his mother 2 months ago.

I sat….pondering how to reach him.

Because he said he liked intellectual things I decided to give him 2 questions to think about over the weekend.

#1 what am I going to do with the rest of my life?

#2 what makes for a successful life? NOT “what makes for success in life?’

Saturday morning I gave him another thought.

#3 the way you play the game in camp is exactly the way you play the game of life. He agreed and said he isolates and finds peace in marijuana.

We found ourselves together on the field where he asked, “Where is God?” “I pray and see no answer.” We sat on the stone wall for about 20-30 minutes discussing this.

How do you answer this question of a 15 year old boy who has been bounced around and smokes marijuana?  As we talked we also admired the beauty of creation, especially the bright stars scattered across expanse of the sky.  Sunday morning we had to clear out of the cabins. I was the last to leave and found a piece of paper on the floor with a poem

Thy light that shines throughout the starry night – That gives us hope and shines our doubts away

That shines like a beacon and tells the world it’ll be OK

Never at peace ;full of uncertainty –  Wanting to hope; in the Almighty

A response

He’s been searching for me; all this time – And I never realized it

He’s here – He’s there- He’s where I need Him- He’s when I need Him

It’s my choice; My choice to join Him; To become a follower; not just a fan; For this I was created

To praise His Holy name;  To praise Him;  Just like the stars in the sky

As the bus was ready to leave, I gave him my baseball cap to add to his collection. To my surprise he took off the cap he had been wearing all weekend, the one given to him by his mother, and put on my beat up old cap.  He said the camp was much better than he had expected and he looks forward to returning next year.

Lisa Castetter | Founder, Executive Director