HEALING THROUGH VOLUNTEERING


My name is Audrey and I am a member of Free Chapel, Orange County. I have been involved with Teen Leadership Foundation since the summer of 2014 and have served as a mentor and budget coach for the residents of
The Launch Pad. In August, I stepped into a bigger role, aiding with events for The Knot and The Network. 

I first heard about Teen Leadership Foundation when one of the campus pastors had stated that if only 3,000 households in Orange County were to take in one child in foster care, none would be without a home or a family to love them. That really struck a chord with me, especially because I know what it’s like to feel alone and abandoned.

By the time I was born, my parents were legally separated. I never knew how it felt or what it was like to have both parents under one roof. The earliest memory of my father wasn’t until the age of 5; For those first five years all I knew was my mom, brother, and maternal grandfather…It never occurred to me that [my father] was missing from my life. Up until his first arrival, I thought my life was pretty normal, and when he eventually showed up, the world I knew and loved started crumbling down.

As I became more involved with TLF, those reasons started to reveal themselves—I had to suffer so I could be of comfort to those that suffer. My life experiences have taught me compassion and humility. I can identify with foster youth— making them aware that they are not alone in their feelings.

Feelings of abandonment, neglect, and being unwanted overcame me. He tried to win me over, but because his presence was inconsistent I did not allow him into my heart. He was verbally abusive, a bully, and an alcoholic.

As a young child, I was sexually abused by my babysitter’s husband. I had blamed my parents, because had they never divorced it could have been avoided. As I grew older, the hostile relationship between my parents was too much to bear and I became suicidal in my teenage years. I suffered terribly throughout my adolescence (and early adulthood), and never understood why God allowed all these things to happen in my life. I thought God did not love or care about me. I felt alone in the world.

As I became more involved with TLF, those reasons started to reveal themselves—I had to suffer so I could be of comfort to those that suffer. My life experiences have taught me compassion and humility. I can identify with foster youth— making them aware that they are not alone in their feelings.

At a very early age I knew I wanted to care for children (other than my own), so that none would ever have to experience what I experienced, and by year’s end, I will be a certified foster parent.

Partnering with TLF has been life changing for me;  I’ve also been able to make sense of the pain and find my life’s purpose: “To comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

I am so blessed to be a part of Teen Leadership Foundation. Joining forces with TLF has been one of the best decisions of my life, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us individually and collectively. Thank you, TLF, for allowing me to be a part of your journey!

Photo by Chelsea Francis

AN UNFORGETTABLE ADVENTURE

For our first session together, Jorgina and I attended the International Festival at Mariners Church. We learned about the different international ministries and the work they do to help others around the world. We stopped by the Mexico Child sponsorship booth and learned about their Faith Adventures (mission trips) to Mexico. I was interested in sponsoring a child and we were both interested and wanted to go on one of their day trips to Mexico.

At first, the December trip was full and we were on their waitlist. But, miraculously God worked it out and we were both able to attend! Many of my conversations with Jorgina have been focused on volunteering and going outside of our comfort zone. Not letting fear of the unknown hold us back. We both looked forward to going to Mexico to experience a different culture and to meet the local children. This was the first time for Jorgina to travel outside of the United States.

Even though we didn’t speak Spanish and it was challenging to communicate, we experienced so much love, happiness and pure joy. Meeting new people, laughing, singing, hearing their stories and seeing their love for Jesus was inspiring to both of us.

The day started early at 6:30am. We drove to Mexico with about 40 other volunteers to help set up for a local church’s Christmas Party just south of Tijuana. We had a puppet show, sang songs, made Christmas crafts, ate tamales and passed out gifts and books to all the children. Jorgina stepped right in and helped out with the puppet show, learn Spanish songs and made crafts with the children. She loved seeing how happy all the children were throughout the day—and loved the opportunity to be a part of that joy. We were able to meet the little girl I sponsor and her mom and little brother. Even though we didn’t speak Spanish and it was challenging to communicate, we experienced so much love, happiness and pure joy. Meeting new people, laughing, singing, hearing their stories and seeing their love for Jesus was inspiring to both of us.

The local pastor and his wife were so grateful for all of us to be a part of the Christmas Party and there were many happy tears at the end. It was very rewarding to hear how much of a difference our presence made and how much it meant to the children—especially to Jorgina. Both of our hearts were full that day and loved being able to step outside of our comfort zone to be used by God. With open hearts, we personally experienced how we are His hands and feet to love and bless others during the Christmas season.

Going on a service trip with my mentee broke new grounds in her life. It empowered her to be a difference maker, and to know that, no matter what her story or circumstance held, she has a part to play in impacting the world.

For more information on how you can be a mentor, and empower local foster youth to be difference makers, click here. 

Photo by Andrew Neel

MENTOR SNAPSHOT: AMELIA


Amelia is one of our church liaisons in Orange County and one of many committed to Teen Leadership Foundation and its cause.

Amelia has directed our Teen Leadership Camps for the last few years and is instrumental in bringing more consistent community around foster teens after camp in her area with two programs, The Knot -a monthly youth group, and The Network –a series of life-skills class that meets every other month.

Recently, we caught up with Amelia to talk about the new programs that are going to take place at her church and how that has impacted her life.

It takes quite some work to direct a camp and lead a team of volunteers but Amelia seems to always find a way to put her heart into everything she does! It is no surprise her church’s camps are fun and well done; she says the success of their camp is due the awesome ministry action team who works together in every little detail and the generous spirit of their church.  Amelia has a huge heart for these teens and it shows through her giving spirit.

Her life has not always gone the way she had planned. There were some bumps on the road and Amelia grew up under difficult circumstances. But by the grace of God and the support of her church, Amelia has shown that she has a lot to give and much love to be shared. She says that it is almost a full circle of where she was and where she is going.

One of the best things to know about Amelia is that she is the kindest and warmest person we have ever met-But, beyond that, Amelia is a lion-hearted, servant leader.

It is people like Amelia, who use their own story to change the lives of our youth in TLF, that make our programs possible and our impact measurable.

Photo by Andrew Neal 

 

 

FROM BYSTANDER, TO CAMP COUNSELOR, TO MENTOR

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My name is Myrine and I have been attending Mariners Church in Irvine for over 2 years. One Holiday, my church announced the Foster Family Christmas Party and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. It was a great experience to help out families in our community during the Christmas season with a fun afternoon of food, crafts, games and gift-giving.

I have friends that have been camp counselors with TLF, and have always been interested, but apprehensive because I’m not a very “outdoorsy” or athletic person.

I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and not let fear stop me from getting more involved.

I prayed God would use me and pair me with a sweet, nice girl that I would be able to relate to and encourage. He definitely answered my prayers because I was paired with one of the sweetest, kindest girls I know. I was really impressed with my mentee because not only was she kind but also very open and honest with me from the start. 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 and we learned that God Never Gives Up on us and loves us no matter what. The messages and worship was so uplifting and encouraging. In just a matter of one day, the kids were so much more open to hear God’s word and sing and praise Him.

Camp gave all the youth time to getaway from their normal and allowed them to just be kids and have fun…to laugh, play and be loved on by 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 be used by God to help and encourage a youth. I was happy to hear the same girl I connected with at camp was interested in a mentorship too! I’m excited to see what God has in store for us in our new mentor/mentee relationship. I look forward to spending time together, learning new skills and serving our community. 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 taught me to stay strong, keep moving forward and never give up no matter what life has deals us.

Interested in being a mentor or going to camp? Click here for more information!

HOW ONE COFFEE DATE CHANGED MY LIFE

I have been a flight crew member for about 6 months, primarily helping my mentee with parenting questions and concerns. We usually meet for coffee and discuss how things are going with her daughter, which that usually leads to discussing other areas of life. If we talk about a parenting strategy that involves the use of certain items, I try to bring them to our meeting or provide them after the meeting to help make the implementation easier for her. I am also helping her to gather the necessary information about her next steps in school and what assistance is available to her.

My mentee is a beautiful young woman with a huge heart. She has a daughter that she is raising and is going to school part time while also working. She is a woman with so much on her plate but manages it with great care and intention. She has the kindest smile and helps others whenever she can. I am excited to be a part of her life and watch her progress. I admire her very much!

My last coffee date with my mentee left me in tears. It is a great feeling to know that I am part of something bigger than myself. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve learned that the more I depend on God the more He is able to supply me with what I need to be a better mentor and friend to her. He empowers me to empower her to be the best mom, student, and person she can be.

For more information on how you can become a mentor, click here.

 

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

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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. 

TAKING THE LEAP, IN HIGH ROPES AND LIFE

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This past weekend at camp we watched one of our campers overcome a HUGE fear of heights.

It was the encouragement of her friends and the volunteer counselors cheering her on that empowered her to get back on the ropes course, and hop across logs that swung on ropes in mid-air. Tears were brought to her eyes as she looked back and saw what she just conquered.

Tears were brought to her eyes as she looked back and saw what she just conquered.

It was a moving moment to experience; throughout the rest of camp I watched this camper do more and more bold things. She eventually was the first to speak in group discussions and even prayed out loud-something that took great courage for her in particular.

It is hard to describe the amount of growth seen in the campers in such a short amount of time. In fact, it seems near impossible. God works in miraculous ways that time does not stand against.

I watched these unfold right before my eyes and still can’t fathom it! Even the small accomplishments made huge impacts. One camper only made it to the harness-he couldn’t jump or go on the high ropes course-he wasn’t ready. But for him to take the step to at least attempt, was a HUGE decision for him. His counselors’ affirmations for how brave that was forever impacted his life.

I am beyond moved by these kids. It was such a privilege to be a part of witnessing how God is moving and using Teen Leadership Camp to give them something to bring home into their daily lives to see they can do it. To learn from their ability and bravery to accomplish and never give up, even among fear, impacted me deeply, and challenged me to see how I can be braver in my daily life and step into what God is asking of me, even if it seems scary. It was such a privilege to be a witness and even a part of this process.

Teen Leadership Camp is impacting more and more youths’ lives every year-see how you can play a part in making a difference here.  

WHAT A TRIP TO TRADER JOE’S TAUGHT ME ABOUT BEING A BETTER MENTOR

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I am always a little nervous every other Sunday leading up to my scheduled meets with Mary. Will I make a difference today? Will it even matter if I show up? What, if anything, can I really teach her about life?

As I drive down the freeway, I ask God to guide me and help me to listen more than talk; the Sundays I get to meet with Mary, the sun is always shining-it’s like God’s way of showing me early on that he hears my ask for help.

Last week I especially enjoyed our time together during our regular excursion to Trader Joe’s. Mary’s roommate, Marsha joined us this time because they were “really low on food!” Marsha had moved in during the summer, and now the two roommates seemed much more comfortable with each other.

I was amused with the two sisters (who are both the same ages as my daughters), discussing what they were going to eat for dinner – it was going to be “Mac ‘n cheese…from scratch!“…meaning the box. Both totally agreed also on making banana bread again, so I grabbed 2 bananas at 19 cents each. Down in the pasta aisle, I convince them to buy the pound of rotini for a dollar instead of the mac and cheese box.

“Homemade macaroni and cheese, so easy!” I say. “Half stick of butter, lots of grated cheddar cheese, and whole milk!” The girls seemed excited.

On the way back to their apartment, I was surprised when Marlene asked me if I would help them research and shop for a used car at Carmax. They had a budget, and Mary knew what colors she did not want…no white and no red.

I was caught off guard because I think it was the first time Marlene addressed me by name, thoughtfully asking, “Josie, can you help us figure out what type of car to buy?” It wasn’t just a question or a request. What I heard was an invitation into her life. I felt permission to give her my advice. She wanted and trusted my advice. It was so cool, and so humbling.

It wasn’t just a question or a request. What I heard was an invitation into her life.

Mentoring is not just about making budget goals and a market list. And, It’s not always about achieving something. It’s about caring, and sharing bits of yourself-and letting the relationship grow on its own.

People don’t care what you know until they know that you care!

For more information on giving, and learning how you can invest in a youth’s future, click here.

HOW I USE MY PARENTING EXPERIENCE TO IMPACT GENERATIONS TO COME

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Sarah is a woman with a huge heart. She has a daughter, full time job, and is going to school part-time. She has a lot on her plate, but manages it with great care and intention. And I have the privilege of being her mentor.

As her mentor, I have the opportunity to watch her grow and progress. I admire her stamina and hard work, and her willingness to help. Her smile brings me so much joy, and I am honored to be a part of her life.

I don’t have all the answers and it is awesome to see that the more I depend on God, the more He is able to supply me with what I need to be a better mentor and friend. It’s amazing to me how I came into this wanting to serve and give, but I have been blessed and learned more in return.

I absolutely love spending time with her. I mostly help with parenting questions and concerns over coffee and the conversation usually leads to talking about other areas of life. I bring in certain parenting strategies with tools to help her as she grows in parenting (it’s a tough job for all moms!). I also guide her with the next steps she will be taking for school and her her find helpful resources to use for that.

It is such a privileged to be a flight crew member. I don’t have all the answers and it is awesome to see that the more I depend on God, the more He is able to supply me with what I need to be a better mentor and friend. It’s amazing to me how I came into this wanting to serve and give, but I have been blessed and learned more in return. I am humbled by how God continually provides His tangible love for us.

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. 

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO LEAVE THE LAUNCH PAD

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I have been living at the Launch Pad for two years now. I am both sad and excited, because I am stepping out to my next phase of life.

I will be taking all I’ve learned at the Launch Pad and living on my own…I cannot name how many things Teen Leadership Foundation has done for me. They have helped me in getting my license, finishing school, set and order my priorities, and they have helped me reach my goals. They have encouraged me and my roommates in showing us how to respect those we live with. It goes a long way to think of relationships to create warmth in a home setting! Something I’ve never experienced before.

I now know God loves me and because of His work through Teen Leadership Foundation, I now carry that with me to my next season of life.

My mentor has been a HUGE help to me in these goals. She simply started off by driving me to my appointments. She then became so much more to me. I know she really cares for me by listening and knowing me. I also have a budget coach. She truly cares about me and has helped so much-we talk about so much more than money. Her advice has impacted my life forever. Another mentor stepping in to help me get over my anxieties about driving and eventually get my license-something I never thought possible.

My mentor has been a HUGE help to me in these goals. She simply started off by driving me to my appointments. She then became so much more to me. I know she really cares for me by taking time to listen to me and know me.

It has been a deep and lifelong blessing to be a part of Teen Leadership Foundation and living at The Launch Pad. I cannot wait to grow further and use the skills I have learned. I now know God loves me and because of His work through Teen Leadership Foundation, I now carry that with me to my next season of life.

See how you can play a part in the change happening at the Launch Pad by clicking here.