MY FIRST (AND DEFINITELY NOT LAST) CAMP EXPERIENCE

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It was my first time ever going to any sort of camp. I was nervous, unsure-I actually tried to cancel, but it was too late. I go through with it. 

And I CAN’T WAIT till next year! I wish I had come sooner, though, to be honest, I didn’t feel that way before I left.

Friday morning I got dropped off at the church, this is where the bus picked us up. I felt really shy because I didn’t know anyone. But, then I got really excited because all the other kids were laughing and telling me about all the fun things there are to do at camp-they had been before. Their stories were true; camp did not disappoint!

I had so many favorite parts about camp, I can’t just pick out one. We went swimming, the ropes course, zip-line, the big swing, the lake, paddle boarding and blob! Even the food was awesome! I loved the s’more campfire! The best part was hanging out with friends and paying around on the field.

I felt really shy because I didn’t know anyone. But, then I got really excited because all the other kids were laughing and telling me about all the fun things there are to do at camp-they had been before. Their stories were true; camp did not disappoint!

The theme this year at camp was “never give up” and I felt like I really took away a lot from it. I struggle a lot in life, but God has always been there for me-camp reminded me of that. It is hard because I do give up sometimes, but camp gave me a lot of encouragement to try harder and keep going.

I struggle a lot in life, but God has always been there for me…

I can’t wait for next year; I want every foster youth to experience what I got the experience.

There are lots of stories like these: lives changed through our annual summer camp, mentorships, and the truth of God’s love on display. To partner with TLF’s efforts to keep sending youth to camp to experience this once in a life time event, click here. 

A REFUGEE, AND PREGNANT: HOW TLF HELPED ONE FOSTER YOUTH TOWARDS A BRIGHTER FUTURE

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I came to the US as a refugee when I was 12 years old. Needless to say, life in America is very different from the Congo.

Not only was this a culture shock to me, but my first placement in the States was in Las Vegas…Bright. Loud. Different…The only thing I knew to do was survive.

I began learning English and went to a continuation school in Vegas.

By the time I was 15, I moved to California. This was when the fighting with my mom became physical. I was placed into a foster home by the time I was 16, and quickly after, I found out that I was pregnant.

Disagreement began with my foster family and I moved in with a friend. It felt safer.

I turned 17 and became a mother.

This is when my social worker told me about Teen Leadership Foundation.

I moved into the Launch Pad and started the program there. I cannot express the gratitude I feel in my heart for this opportunity. For the first time in a long time I feel like trust is a possibility. Not only that, but I have hope for the future of my daughter. I started a beauty school program, and have the support and guidance to graduate, something I never thought was a possibility. A few years ago, it simply wasn’t.

Thank you for the support and opportunity to develop the skills I need to open my daughter’s future and my own.

There are many stories like this, both heartbreaking and full of hope, happening at Teen Leadership Foundation. Your support and efforts through both time and financial contribution have created opportunities for stories like these to have a hopeful ending. For more information on giving, and learning how you can invest in a youth’s future, click here. 

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.

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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

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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?