MENTORING IS NOT ONE SIDED: WHAT I’VE GAINED FROM MENTORING A TLF YOUTH

I learned about TLF’s Teen Leadership Camp from other past counselors at my church. I was a little apprehensive at first because I’m not a very outdoorsy/athletic person but I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and not let fear stop me from getting more involved. I really cried out to God for his guidance and help in stepping out of my everyday, and He definitely answered my prayers! While at camp I was paired with Jorgina**, one of the kindest girls I know. I was really impressed with Jorgina because not only was she kind but very open and honest with me from the start, which is not common. We had a wonderful experience at camp – meeting new people, taking part in team building exercises, high ropes and zip lining. The theme was Never Give Up, with an emphasis on the truth that God never gives up on us and loves us no matter what. The messages and worship during Chapel time were uplifting and in just a matter of one day, the campers were so much more open to hear God’s word and sing along with the worship band. Camp gave all the youth time to get away from their everyday, which can be stressful and not like their peers’, and allowed them to just be kids and have fun, laugh, play and be encouraged all the counselors.

Camp gave all the youth time to get away from their everyday, which can be stressful and not like their peers’, and allowed them to just be kids and have fun, laugh, play and be encouraged all the counselors.

I’ve been wanting to be a mentor for years but have been putting it off. I knew after camp it was time to step up and be open to being used by God in a youth’s life. Jorgina was open to having me mentor her, which has been so special and rewarding.

I look forward to spending time together, learning new skills and serving our community together. I hope to be a positive role model for her and give her an outlet to have fun, see the world in a new way and become closer to God. In return, she has already blessed me with her kind and open spirit and has encouraged me to stay strong, keep moving forward and never give up no matter what life has deals us. I have just as much to learn from her as she does from me. It’s a team effort.

I’ve been wanting to be a mentor for years but have been putting it off. I knew after camp it was time to step up and be open to being used by God in a youth’s life.

**Names changed for privacy purposes

There are lots of stories like these, where mentors are making an impact as they walk through life alongside their youth. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, or supporting the efforts of Teen Leadership Foundation click here.

Camp Returner

I was so ecstatic to return to camp this year. I was even more excited to meet new people because of how much fun I had last year. I felt really confident this year too, since last summer I have had my mentor by my side.

My favorite part of camp  was the night hike and the ropes course “of course”. My friend also got to do some of his magic tricks, and that was really cool. I also really liked the worship and prayer, I got to experience a lot more of that this year and got more involved. My mentor has been taking me to church and I really like it.

I am definitely going to keep coming back every year I can and hopefully continue on to becoming a Jr. counselor when I am 18. If there is one think I would tell someone who hasn’t been it is to GO, because it change their life. It has mine.

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.

books

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.

 

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