We are restarting a Donation of the Month program. The Donation for June, July and August is diapers. We are looking for diapers in all sizes. We will have a donation box in several local churches and at our City Life Center on 550 Ontario St. in Schenectady.
B is one of our Teen Moms. She lives alone, receives no child support from her child’s father, and tries to get by in her subsidized apartment. B is one of our best moms in our program. she is completely devoted to her child, makes every parent/teacher conference and somehow manages to go to college full time and work 20 hours a week. She is within a semester and 1/2 of graduating with honors and recently housing raised her rent to the total amount that she makes per month. In their infinite wisdom they have decided that all her grants and loans that B has earned for college should be counted as disposable income. B called me(Ray) crying hysterically from the social services offices. She had gone there to plead her case for a reduced rent. But graduation only a few months away she was told she needed to quit school. She was living beyond her means.
What kind of world do we live in where the best we can offer a brilliant, hard-working, young single mom is welfare? Of course B will finish school. Ruth and I will make sure of that by borrowing from our retirement if necessary. As we sat and talked with B yesterday, we told her of a God and Savior who makes a way through the hard places. Her remark was “I can’t trust the system, I have to trust Jesus.” As we talked, I encouraged B to remember times when God had rescued her in her past. As the afternoon grew longer, the room grew darker and she shared stories of what she now realizes was God’s amazing grace. Hope and change don’t come from the system, they don’t even come from the finest, most well meaning people. They come in fact from the Creator and Transformer of all things.
Last night, June 9, 2011, ten girls graduated from our Teen Parent Mentoring Program. Some of them have been with us for 5 or six years and some less. Our program runs from age 12 to 21. At our graduation program we presented each girl with a beautiful Bible in pink and brown leatherette. As I presented each girl with her Bible, I told her what made her special to us. At the end of the evening we asked the girls to give us highlights of their time with us. Here are some of the things that stood out:
1. A four-day retreat to the Jersey shore (a gift from a donor for seven of our girls).
2. An evening at Fonda’s where Fonda shared her story while everyone hung out in the pool.
3. Christmas parties.
4. A series on nutrition put on by Cooperative Extension where they received a certificate of completion and were given some practical tips to use with their families.
5. One specifically mentioned how the girls in the group were a support system, and how relationships grew because they did not have a lot in common with their old friends
We hate to see them go but were both blessed and encouraged by the growth that we saw in the girls.
Ray has the opportunity to speak at the annual prayer breakfast in Danbury on Thursday April 14. He covets your prayers. Please pray as he prepares and pray for those who will be hearing that God will prepare their hearts for his message. Thank you
I took two teen moms with us and it was truly life changing for them. One girl (a Christian) told me that her spiritual walk was empty. She likened her relationship with God to that of a pen pal, who writes a letter to her pen pal, gets a response but never reads it, writes another letter, gets another response, does not read it and repeats the process. “I am that way with God. I write Him a letter (pray) and when I get a response I don’t read it and then I write another letter with more questions and more requests but I never bother to read His letter to me.” She made a commitment to spend time reading God’s word so that she can grow.
The other girl had shared her story at our annual banquet where she told us that she had not yet given her life to Christ. Ray then asked everyone there to pray for “Tia”. While at Excel, the speaker told a story of Spelunking and getting to a hole in the cave and not wanting to go through the hole. The guide said to him, “You cannot come this far and not go all the way.” This statement really resonated with “Tia” and Saturday night she gave her life to Christ.
Ray was once again conference pastor and had the opportunity to speak to the teens six times throughout the weekend. Sunday night three teens came to our room and asked to speak to Ray. One teen told how she had given her life to Christ at Excel last year but “I haven’t been living for Him.” She recommitted her life to Christ determined to live for Him this time. Another teen had given her life to Christ before was concerned for her mother. The third teen, a young mom, gave her life to Christ Saturday night and was determined to be a better mom to her son. They came asking for prayer that God would really help them live for Him. What a sweet time we had as these teens poured their hearts out.
Please pray with us that these dear young people will stand firm in their commitments and truly find the peace that passes all understanding.
I just spent 3 hours with one of our young moms navigating the bureaucracy for her to get a very specialized formula for her three and a half year old daughter who is on a feeding tube. After waiting at WIC for over an hour and wading through tons of paper work we finally were able to leave and start finding a place to get this special food. My young friend had already spoken to someone at CVS so she was sure that that was the place to go. When Kay came out of the store she was fuming. ”They won’t order the formula, they will not put it through Medicaid like they told me they would, she even told me to pay for it like normal people do. Don’t they know that I don’t like going through the system and that I would pay for it if I could? It’s embarrassing enough without her comments.” Then she turned to me and said, “I don’t think God likes me.” ”Why is that?” I asked. ”Because nothing is working for me today. I was in a good mood this morning too. I just don’t think God likes me.” As we talked further I assured her that God loved her very much but He did not promise an easy road. We tried a couple more places, still with no success and then we decided to try one final store. After Kay went into the store I called Ray and asked him to pray and then I spent the next few minutes asking God to show favor to Kay so she would truly experience answer to prayer and experience God’s abundant love. She called me from the store seconds later saying, “They have three cans on hand and they are going to order the rest.” God did much more than we expected. Not only did they have three cans there they were more than happy to order it for her. Please pray for Kay as she is not a follower of Christ yet. Please pray that her heart would soon be open to making Him her Savior and Lord.
Summmers are very busy times in youth ministry. Unfortunately this summer started out with our organization being in a tight financial situation and we had to spend many extra hours fundraising. May we just take a moment to thank all of you who give to make our work with kids possible. We honestly didn’t get into this ministry for the joy of fundraising, but it is an inevitable part of working in the not for profit field.
On August 4th we were able to rent a tour bus thanks to the special gifts of some friends of our ministry and take a group of 60 from our teen parent site to the Bronx Zoo. It was the first trip for all of our teen moms to that zoo and I wish you could have been with us to enjoy the sounds of excitement in the bus from our teen moms and children and to capture the smells of more than 20 little children and their diapers! The driver had never had a tour like this but was delighted with the enthusiasm of all who went. The zoo itself was an extraordinary experience for our girls and many expressed great appreciation that they could be part of this adventure. We actually had more wanting to go than we had room for.
The summer has also been filled with several pool parties that have provided us with the unique opportunity to talk to our girls one on one about their relationship with Jesus Christ. For them life has truly been a zoo as they juggle jobs , school, and parenting all at a very young age. Please pray for several girls who are in very troubled relationships and for one young married couple who is going through a very difficult time. Praise God with us for a young mother of two who is recently engaged to a young man who is determined to live for God. Praise the Lord too for two new moms who attended church last weekend and loved the experience. They weren’t invited by us but by another of our teen moms.
We work closely with other areas of ministry here at YFC. Last week we had the opportunity to work with our City Life team in presenting a week long urban camp called Blazefest. Blazefest seeks to reach young people using elements of the urban culture that can be acted on in a Godly way. Our responsibility during the week was to provide food for the young people, volunteers and staff. Working from 6 am to 6 pm each and all day Saturday is not as easy as it once was. We were able to provide between 1800 and 2000 meals. Thanks to donations from several companies and stores and thanks to some shrewd shopping we were able to provide those meals for just under $1000. That is truly amazing and part of the great grace of God demonstrated through his servants and those in the community who appreciate what we are doing without fully understanding. At the Saturday closing rally in the heart of one of our worst neighborhoods at a spot where several have been shot or stabbed this summer the Gospel was proclaimed. Hundreds of young people, parents and grandparents showed up for food, music and the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In conversation with one of our volunteers, one woman said, “I don’t care if I go to hell, it can’t be any worse than this life.” Please pray for “S” whose grandchildren attend our program. The children’s mother is getting out of jail soon and Ruth and I will be reaching out to that family with continued expressions of God’s love and mercy. “S” deeply appreciates what we have done for her grandchildren. Pray that she comes to know the Christ who motivates us.
During the week, we met a 13 year old girl who is pregnant for the third time. She told one of our volunteers that she has been sexually active since she was 9 and has had 2 abortions. At age 13 she has no sense of remorse or consequences. Please pray for wisdom in dealing with her and other young gals that come our way.
As I was standing at the Saturday rally talking with a young man for 45 minutes about Jesus, I was so keenly aware of the prayers of God’s people. Through your faithful prayer, God’s mercy and grace we continue to present the truth in circumstances that are sometimes overwhelming. As I was reading this morning in Numbers however, God’s arm is not too short to accomplish anything. What a wonderful God we serve.
Yesterday at 3:00 pm a number of us got together to begin setting up the end of the season Teen Parents’ picnic. Two young men from City Life, who are being discipled by Ray Villegas, stood with us as we gathered to pray. David asked God to open the hearts of the Teen Moms and Dads that they might have a good understanding of the Gospel. Several of us made pick ups of moms and kids throughout Schenectady. When we returned more than sixteen volunteers had prepared a picnic of salads, grilled chicken, hot dogs and lots of desserts.
After we ate, the volunteers watched the children while the moms and dads gathered outside in a circle. After a fun game led by Ruth that had everybody laughing, Ray stood up to deliver a message from Scriptures. He spoke from Mark 10, the story of a blind man healed by Jesus. He spoke of the need to be honest about our own issues, assume responsibility for ourselves and not listen to critical voices. He told of the blind man making a decisive decision to cry out to Jesus and challenged the young people to do the same. He spoke of Jesus’ healing power and the Savior’s desire to change lives today. When Ray offered the invitation to become a follower of Jesus and surrender their lives to Him, six young women prayed and surrendered themselves to the Lord. Please pray that as we follow up that these girls will grow strong in the things of God.
What if I told you that I was going to be a missionary to a land far away? You would not be surprised if I described it as follows:
It is a city made up of many people groups or tribes. Often time there is violence demonstrated by one group against another. Many of the people of the city do not have a copy of the Bible that they can read in their own language. Many of the men of the city spend hours a day sitting on the street corners drinking fermented beverages, smoking on indigenous weed that puts them in a stupor, or taking “medicines” made nearby that take away their pains. Women of the age of 16 or 17 routinely have had multiple pregnancies. Chickens run through the yards of some houses and on holidays a goat is slaughtered for times of celebration.
With just a change of a few words I have described the city where Ruth, Andy, Kate and I work. Gangs rule the streets by day and by night. Several young people have been shot this year. A young teen mom looked around our Thursday night meeting room and said, “if you got these same girls together on the street, there would be war.” Routinely we come across young people who have never seen a Bible and can’t read anyway, even after 10-12 years of school. Alcohol and drug abuse is a way of life among teens, both guys and girls, from elementary school on. Multiple pregnancies before age 17 are not uncommon anymore. We recently met a 20 year old who had had six pregnancies and was mother to 3 children. The chickens and goats are part of the life of an immigrant population that has made its home in our city. They add local color.
Here the light of Christ shines brightly against the darkness. To see this culture turned around is a slow process involving one life at a time. We do see lives changing but it takes great patience on our part and a steady application of God’ truth. As we work here we are very mindful of your partnership with us in prayer and giving. May God bless you richly for your kindness to us.