Fostering Faith

Sarah, our newest resident at The Launch Pad, excels in academics despite tremendous obstacles. But she never considered herself “college material,” which sadly is the mindset shared by many foster youth. Fortunately, Sarah has been paired with Michelle for several years through the TLF mentor program. Michelle saw Sarah’s drive and aptitude and became her cheerleader, pushing Sarah to go beyond her self-limiting beliefs. Sarah had a dream of attending a local private college, but doubt crept in – how could she possibly be worthy of such a school? Secretly she prepared for another path, imagining her first choice would not work out.

Determined to help Sarah see that her dream was possible, Michelle championed Sarah through the university’s scholarship and financial award process. Together they found creative options, including a few academic scholarships. Sarah was accepted, and she is thrilled. She will be the first Launch Pad resident to attend a four-year Christian college. We are so excited for her and cannot wait to watch her take off into a promising future!

Michelle, you are the church in action! Thanks for fueling hope for Sarah!

Beyond Simple Tutoring

I am a recent tutor for a resident at the Launch Pad. I volunteered with this position seeing a very practical way I can come alongside God’s work with TLF at the Launch Pad. It combined my love of the medical field and training as a nurse with my faith of seeing what God could do with my experience and knowledge. It was interesting to see how He uses this relationship to even break the borders of expectations I had in the most basic ways.

I had been tutoring a resident at The Launch Pad for a couple months and noticed the resident having a hard time focusing. This was done rightly so with her toddler running around and being so active. The solution was very simple to me, I didn’t even think twice. The toddler just needed to be entertained, so I purchased a toddler toy car to do this. This has impacted our work together tremendously! My mentee has been able to focus and making studying so much more effective for her, even in our time not spent together.

I am humbled to see how God used such a simple task. I didn’t realize the impact of something I didn’t necessarily see as a huge blessing, but as a practical step to entertain a toddler. My goal was to help in educating my mentee. This is still my goal and the way God is using me as a vessel. He, however has plans I cannot foresee and in the most simplest of avenues. The Church in Action is the vessel God uses to help a mom studying with a distracted toddler. So simple, but the biggest and personal sign of love and care for this resident.

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MENTORING IMPACTS MORE THAN JUST THE YOUTH…

I am a caregiver of two precious siblings.

“Jackie” is 11, and her brother, “Steve”, is 16. My “caregiver confession” is that I, alone, cannot meet all the needs of these children.

But, I’ve learned, that I don’t have to. It is very hard to find quality time for myself on a consistent basis between homework, practices, projects, household chores, health challenges, etc. I cannot put into words how much having mentors for each of the kids has helped. Having such a positive role model in their lives to spend one-on-one time with them is tremendous. They gain positive experiences and do things they probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to do otherwise. Both children have gained direction in their futures and have grown in self-esteem and trust.

In the past six months that Jackie has had a mentor, she has become more responsible, thoughtful, and considerate of others. She and her mentor have gone to see plays, they go to church, go out to eat, and the mentor attends all of her volleyball games! Jackie’s favorite thing to do is go to the beach, and they do that a lot. It is so encouraging to me to see them do the very simple things I wish I had time to do with her myself.

Steve and his mentor first met 18 months ago. They go out to eat and talk about future goals and college. His mentor helps him discover interests, and they have created a book club with a list of classics to read together. Having someone to share his love of reading reminds him that he is not alone. Through time with his mentor, he’s matured and he has a greater sense of direction. He is more responsible, going to school early and staying later to talk with the teachers, and now has his mind set on college. He is already figuring out which one to go to and is looking for a job. He is currently working on improving his grades with his mentor and plans to start driving soon!

I am so grateful for TLF and the ways they’ve impacted not just my youth’s life, but my life as well. They have impacted our entire family for the better.

**Names have been changed for privacy purposes. 

To learn more about how you can support the efforts of Teen Leadership Foundation, click here. 

 

 

Music Lessons

Before we left the church on Friday, I’d been talking with Amber, who mentioned she’d wanted to learn to play guitar. I told her I was leading the music this weekend and would love to set aside a few minutes to teach her a couple of chords. After our Friday night movie, I was praying and asking the Lord to guide my thoughts and words for the next day, when I remembered our conversation. Knowing how many of the kids had grown up with broken promises, I wanted to be certain I had integrity with them and not be another promise breaker.

When I saw her and her counselor the next morning and made arrangements for the lesson time. Amber’s face glowed, like she felt she had value and was important. She learned her two chords well and even picked up a strum as she changed back and forth between chords. I gave her my favorite guitar pick: bright pink with the word “Pick Jesus” on it, as a token to remember that time.

-Deborah, TLC Counselor 

Gaining a Teen Mom’s Trust

Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/170164

Teen Leadership Foundation was a light for me when a Church leader mentioned the work they were doing with foster teens and those who have emancipated out of the system. Immediately, I was moved by the work they were doing and felt heavy hearted like I needed to reach out.

God woke me out of my routine and reminded me of how much He’s brought me through in my own life. I understood what it was like to be alone as a single mom and to feel unloved. My hardships and tears made me into a person who could relate to people in difficult situations.

So I followed my hunch and signed up for training with TLF in hopes of becoming a mentor. The training was eye opening to say the least. What struck me most was hearing that some youth pull away from you when they are afraid to lose you. This truth broke my heart and meant I would need to love unconditionally. I was to go all in and not turn back. I believed I could do that so I signed up.

The day came when I got to meet Anna. At first it was awkward. I got that skeptical, mistrusting up and down glance and thought, yikes, this might be harder than I thought. Who was I any ways? But little by little, and visit after visit, she let me into her world. It was such a privilege she trusted me enough to share her struggles and woes. She also was a single mom, so I knew God placed me with the right person.

Anna became so easy to love. I saw through to her big heart so hurt by past memories. Any doubts I may have had of myself to be enough, to impact and help someone else in this way, soon passed away. Her trusting spirit and determination was a gift for me. And her love for her son gave me such joy to witness.

Challenges come and go like seasons and she continues to blossom. It’s beautiful I get to be a part of such an amazing young woman’s life and her precious son. She’s helped me to see when I step out in faith into the unknown, get my feet wet, and then my whole body, true life begins.

Miracles come when you walk out of your comfort zone. Anne has given me a new stride and an everlasting gift that will out run and out live this life. She’s taught me to trust where God is leading me and to see His wonder as He makes us whole again each time we step out.

 

A Story Of A Mentor

Greg has been Juan’s mentor since 2009, and the two have spent hundreds of hours together.  Greg has remained in Juan’s life as he navigated through foster care, providing guidance and consistency. This year Juan turns 18 and will emancipate from the Child Welfare System. Defying the odds against teens leaving the foster care system, Juan is about to graduate from high school and has already been accepted into a four-year college. Juan contributes this to his mentor who has been his role model. But the impact goes both ways, with Greg noting that his relationship with Juan has helped him grow and has made him more compassionate for God’s heart for the disenfranchised. When they were first matched six years ago, Juan asked Greg how long he planned to be around. Greg’s reply was simple: “This is for life. I am not going anywhere.”

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From Stranger to World’s Best Mentor

Kathy P & Journey FFCP 2015

I learned about Teen Leadership Foundation’s mentoring program when I went to Teen Leadership Camp last summer.  I was asking the Lord to lead me in the direction of a new challenge and adventure. A 3-day camp weekend with a group of teens was where He led.

Journey was on the younger side of the youth TLF serves – but incredibly bright and full of life!  After camp;  I was soon matched and we had our first outing. It  was awkward,  like meeting a new friend, wanting to ask 100 questions, but too shy to ask.

I’ve since been on several outings with Journey and each time, I am grateful to how the Lord had His hand in pairing us up. It turns out we have a ton of things in common. She is a super special kiddo, very spunky, observant, smart and full of questions and a desire to learn.

She is changing my life. She makes me look at my world differently. Every time we are driving back to her house, she asks, “so what are we going to next time? When are you coming again?”  It’s great to hear that she’s just as excited about spending time together than I am.

She was so excited to give me her Christmas present.  When I opened the gift and saw what she got me, I wanted to cry. A coffee mug that said “World’s Greatest Mentor”.  It is a gift I will treasure the rest of my life!

Ask and He will answer!  I am certain I am on the path the Lord has paved for me. I look forward to the adventures He has planned for us. Who are you mentoring?

 

 

Sacrifice

Jeanette was put in foster care due to truancy and her Grandmother’s inability to respond to the education laws. She became an active participant in Teen Leadership Foundation.  Since age 11, Jeanette was a part of TLF, she went on to serve as a Jr. Counselor, graduated from high school as a varsity basketball player, and a 4.0 student. With the help of a scholarship from TLF and ROCKHARBOR’S First Fruits ministry  Jeanette’s, is thriving in her first year at Biola University. This is Jeanette’s story.

When I was 11, I was invited  to a Teen Leadership Camp. I was a depressed, lonely kid. It was the first time I was exposed to the Word of God. I remember listening to the speaker and wondering, ‘Who is God? I want to know more.’ After camp, I experienced hope. After the 2nd and 3rd camp, I experienced Jesus.

Jeanette always had Biola in mind for college. During high school she’d visited the campus for events with her bible study group. Even then, she knew she wanted to go to a Christian university for the relationships. Biola is the only school I applied to. I prayed and didn’t stress about acceptance. I knew God was in it.

Jeanette’s TLF Mentor speaks fondly of the College Freshmen. There’s something soft about Jeanette. She can walk into a room of people that she doesn’t know and she’ll make friends. She seeks those on the outside. With those who avoid eye contact, she finds them. She’s like the frosting on top of cinnamon rolls. Even in Jeanette’s family and generation, she is unique. In a culture where most young people are constantly on their phone, her gut instinct is to survey the room and see how people are.

Jeanette speaks candidly about her first semester at Biola.

 One thing that stands out are the people that God has placed around me. It’s hard to be away from home. When I ‘d break down, God would surround me with people. I’m especially blessed with my roommates. They remind me that God is in control. The three of us see Him working in our lives.

Jeanette recalls a specific conversation with her floor-mates. One night we were sitting outside, stressed about finances, when we paused, and asked ourselves, “What are we doing? We are here.” This helped us stop and reverse our mentality to be thankful to be at this college for now. It made us thankful for what we had.

Being at a Christian university, where I get to take bible classes, has helped me learn more about Him and His Word through experiences and being out of my comfort zone. Going through transition is crazy, but especially while trying to grow spiritually. It’s made me closer to Him, even in the difficult times. It’s taught me a lot about not trying to take control and praying instead. It’s taught me to think biblically and how to love God with all my mind, all the time.

I recognize I’m not here for myself, but for the people that helped me get here.

When considering how college life has surprised her, she responds, The level of independence, and that I have to hold myself accountable. No one is going to do it for me. I appreciate that.

In regard to how she is a different person because of the people at Teen Leadership Foundation, she says this about her experience: It’s made me stronger. They have shown me the immensity of God’s love. Where before I was completely lost, I realized that I’m not alone. There’s something to look forward to. I have purpose now.

Jeanette says if she could freeze her thoughts about God now and go back and tell her younger self about who He is, she would say,

No matter what you are going through at the time, God is love and He is there for you. He is watching over you and working in your life, even if you may not see it. Even when you are stuck, He is working. 

Jeanette reflects on when she felt most stuck in the group home. I remember feeling numb and lost. I was depressed and tried harming myself. There was a Teen Leadership Foundation staff member who talked with me about God and gave me a Bible. I didn’t see it then, but God gave me a person.

As she continues her freshmen year at Biola, Jeanette asks for prayer. To continue talking with people and mentoring others. She hopes to one day be a therapist for foster youth. But for now, she is content needing Jesus.

story written by: bekahp ( a RH community blog)

 

 

The Human Heart

Interesting thing about the human heart… it’s an organ essential for “life” but it’s also an organ essential for life. One can go an entire “life” with a heart only used for pumping blood or one can allow the Holy Spirit to work and open the heart to allow life.   The difference being simply getting by with a pulse or allowing the soul to open, thus being a conduit of the Holy Spirit in the world.

A word of caution though; allowing life allows a heart to be broken, crushed and yet allows the possibility of being tenderly massaged, stretched and grown at the same time.  A paradox only God can properly navigate within each one of us.

I have been a counselor at Teen Leadership Camp for several years.   This past year I spent several hours in prayer sessions prior to camp asking for protection for campers and counselors, prepped hearts, willingness to hear/grow and (here’s the dangerous part) connection with campers.  Holy Schnikies did I get more than I bargained for…

I’m not sure if it was what Christ was/is doing in me, doing in the kids, prayer over the camp or some other divine circumstance (sneaking suspicion it’s a combination of all the above and more…) but last year’s camp wrecked me in a beautiful way.  I have never had more kids hug me or have the desire to hug more of them.  From thirteen to seventeen it was magnificently clear these kids are starving for care and affection from safe people and my little heart is overwhelmed at the opportunity to provide a sliver of hope in that arena.

I went into the weekend open to the idea of mentorship “or something”.  With the weekend over, I’m in awe of the need and in desperate need of prayer for which way to go.  Group help, monthly gatherings, one-on-one-mentorship… There is so much need…  And we serve a God that wants to bless us by being engaged in their lives.

I’m reminded of the story on a poster in a friends bathroom which read something along the lines of; “There were millions of starfish washed up upon the shore.  A little boy was saving starfish by picking them up one at a time and throwing them back into the ocean.  A “grown-up” asked the little boy what he was doing; to which he replied in a boyishly firm declaration, “I’m saving the starfish!”  The man said, “Boy, look at all these starfish, you can’t possibly make a difference.”  To which the little boy responded by picking up another starfish and throwing it into the ocean and said, “I made a difference to that one.”

William Wallace said, “Every man dies.  Not every man really lives.”  I’m saying this as much to myself as anyone reading.  Are you willing to make a difference even in a single younger person’s life?  Will you allow the Holy Spirit to pour His blessings through you?  Will you choose life?

 

…TLC Camp Counselor

Mentoring in a group home

I signed up to volunteer with TLF, unsure of what I was really getting myself into. I had a bit of previous experience with foster youth, but the prospect of working with teenagers brought about a whole collection of fears and insecurities. However, from the moment I met Emily at camp, God reminded me what I was there for–to show her that despite anything she has ever been told before, she is precious and loved. Seeing Emily and all the other campers preparing for a weekend of fun away from home first made me see them as just a group of teenagers, but in that moment God reminded me what it was that set them apart from other kids their age. That quiet thought helped me focus on pouring love/kindness into the campers and give them positive and happy memories.

From that point on, I was blessed to see the work God was doing in Emily’s heart and mine through our growing friendship and through the camp as a whole. I was amazed by the little victories and planting of seeds that occurred throughout the weekend. After chapel service the first night, Emily told me, “I don’t know why but those songs were making me cry. I couldn’t help it.” In this moment God opened such an awesome opportunity for me to share with her the ways He touches our hearts, and even though she didn’t make a life decision to follow Christ at that moment, I know the tears at service and the time I got to share with her right then was something God is going to use to continue working in her heart.

I saw Emily opening up and beginning to trust me over the weekend in a way that I never expected. It started on the bus ride to camp after we had some time to chat and get more comfortable with one another. We were getting along really well and there was a lull in the conversation in which Emily interjected, “So I have this boyfriend and I think I want to break up with him; what should I do?” I couldn’t help but laugh as I told her that I had broken up with my boyfriend the day before. It was so amazing to see the way God brought us together at such similar times in our lives and then use that as an opportunity to give her advice gain her trust and respect as we drove to camp. I think God presented this opportunity to show me that beyond all of the things she had faced, Emily was just a teenage girl who on top of everything else, was dealing with all the things I felt to be mini-tragedies when I was her age. The conversation about our boy problems allowed Emily to see that I was not afraid to be honest with her and treat her like the young adult she is (within reason of course!) by telling her the situation I had just gone through and the way it affected my life. This bit of opening up led to Emily sharing about her abuse and later letting me hold her as she cried for all of the things she has had to face in her young life. Seeing her confidence grow as she overcame fear as well as her joy and pride in her abilities brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion, because this is what camp is all about. It’s not about the huge victories; it’s about all the little ones that slowly chip away at the painful and scarring pasts of the campers.

After camp I could not just walk away from what I had been a part of there and join my old life. Hearing the stories of all these teenagers who had been broken and abused by the people closest to them was hard enough, but knowing that all of this was going on in my community, by my church and my house really struck a chord. There’s always that weird feeling after a mission trip where you see such devastation and poverty that makes you realize all that you have, but it’s so easy to forget once you get on the plane and go back to your comfortable life. This camp showed me the emotional devastation that resulted from the horrible abuse these teenagers have faced, and there was no flying away from it. I knew that when I drove home after camp I would pass by areas where certain girls from camp lived, and when I went any number of places I would be so nearby these kids who so desperately need God and need to feel loved. God stated it so plainly in my heart during and after camp that this isn’t finished, so I started the process to begin visiting the group home where Emily lives.

Even in the everyday conversations about life while I visit the group home, I can see the evidence of Emily healing simply in her ability to trust and confide in me. I got all the updates on friends, school, books, boys, and life at the house while we took goofy pictures and painted picture frames. It was such simple fun, but it was obvious that Emily and the other youth loved the chance to hang-out with each other and adults who only want to love them and invest in them.

~ TLF mentor

 

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