Plans to Prosper

Christine Boyle was just days from leaving for college when the 18-year-old found herself in a place she never thought she’d be — the examination room of an abortion clinic.
 
Just one week earlier, Boyle discovered she was pregnant. And that day brought her to a place she knew she needed to be — at the feet of Jesus.
 
“I was raised going to church every Sunday, and I knew right from wrong,” Boyle said. “I knew this was not God’s best plan for me, but I had drifted from that. The day I found out I was pregnant, I told God, ‘I can’t do this,’ and I gave my life to Christ.”
 
The sonogram revealed Boyle was already six months into her pregnancy. When the technician announced she was too far along to receive an abortion in their clinic, Boyle wept with relief.
 
“I didn’t want to have an abortion, but there was so much pressure. I didn’t know what to do,” Boyle recalled. “That day in the clinic, God taught me that He had it under control. God protected me from all the consequences of an abortion. From that moment on, there were dramatic changes in my life.”
 
An answered prayer
Meanwhile, Betsy Stretar, once a teen mother herself, was forming a teen moms club in Cleveland, Ohio, called Young Lives. The day after she came on staff, Stretar received a phone call about a girl in trouble who needed somebody to talk to. That girl was Boyle.
 
“They literally brought her to my doorstep,” said Stretar, who is now the mission’s director of Young Lives, Young Life’s ministry to teenage mothers and pregnant teens. “In Young Lives, contact work takes the form of a one-on-one mentoring relationship. So we began meeting weekly and spent hours building that relationship. It was a journey of helping her hand over every obstacle to God while learning to trust Him with her future.”
 
“She was there for me and loved me through everything,” Boyle said. “She gave me input when I needed it, but lots of times, she just listened. She always gave me Scripture to help me through. She was the most reliable support I had.”
 
Stretar shared the promises of Jeremiah 29:11 with Boyle in a special way.
 
“The way I read it — ‘I know the plans I have for Christine, plans to prosper Christine and not to harm Christine, plans to give Christine a hope and a future’ — gave her a new principle of truth to live by,” Stretar said. “I wanted to help her embrace God’s unconditional love for her. After hearing it over and over, she started to believe it.”
 
Growing through the hard times
The day Boyle went into labor, Stretar sat by the phone and waited for the good news. But after hours passed with no word, Stretar left for the hospital. When she arrived, she knew something wasn’t right.
 
“Her family was crying; Boyle was crying; and I started to pray,” Stretar recalled. “The baby was in respiratory distress and was put on life support for the first 24 hours of her life. She spent her first month in the hospital.”
 
As time passed, it was obvious Boyle’s daughter, Courtney, had been born with severe disabilities and was diagnosed with Moebius syndrome a few weeks after birth. In her first few years of life, Courtney had a 60 percent hearing loss; she could not walk or talk; she had limited vision and facial movement and many other developmental delays. Courtney is now almost three years old, and will struggle with her disabilities for life.
 
“It has been amazing to watch Boyle learn how to trust God in the hard times,” Stretar said. “This has been very difficult, but you can see the Lord’s strength in her. And she is so grateful. She is quick to give the credit to Him.”
 
Sharing with others
Stretar’s relationship with Boyle has been a labor of love, and it has birthed a deeper ministry with the young mothers God has sent their way. Last year, Boyle, now 21, took on leadership roles in the Young Lives club and Campaigners. She also became a mentor to a young mother in the club offering her clothes, a crib and a shoulder to cry on.
 
God has also provided Boyle with a broader audience to reach through her story. She has shared her testimony in various schools in her community as well as at a Capernaum conference, Young Life’s ministry to students with disabilities.
 
Boyle’s work with Young Lives has inspired her to reach out to her own world, specifically to the women she encounters each day at Courtney’s school. Her hope is to start a support group for young mothers who have children with disabilities.
 
“I’ve seen her growing spiritually,” Stretar said of Boyle. “Her testimony shows not only how God has changed her, but also what He is doing in her life now. It has been a real joy for me to see everything come full circle — from the brokenness she experienced to God using the brokenness.”
 
Boyle said it was not only Stretar’s words, but her life that helped make that circle complete. At 17, Stretar became a mother. Today, Stretar has eight children and is happily married. 
 
Hope for the future
Last fall, Boyle married her husband, Dan. Though this young family faces challenges each day, Boyle can’t stop smiling. She knows she has been blessed, especially when she sees how her past pain helps her reach the girls in her club.
 
“These girls can look at me and know that I’ve been there,” Boyle said. “God gives me the strength I need day after day, and He doesn’t give me more than I can handle. I still use Jeremiah 29:11 with these girls so they’ll know that God is not out to hurt them; He wants to prosper them and care for them. I can show them that this is not the end of the world and that God is on their side.”
 
Stretar said people like Boyle open the door for other girls to walk through.                 
 
“What Boyle offers them is her honesty — about the emptiness, the peer pressure and all the struggles,” Stretar said. “Our goal in Young Lives is to get the girls thinking about the future God has for them, because apart from Him, there is no future. He is their only hope. I know the Lord will use her in amazing ways to touch a lot of lives. He already has.”