A Vacation Meant for Moms

Some of the young women’s stories would bring you to tears, said Betsy Stretar, mission director of Young Lives, Young Life’s ministry to teen moms and their children. One of them has been prostituted by her mom since the age of 12 to support her mother’s drug addiction. Another is caught up in gang activity and now faces cervical cancer. But this past summer at Lost Canyon, Young Life’s camp in Arizona, these teen moms and many others found hope during a Young Lives camp — marking the end of a long journey of survival and the beginning of living life to the fullest through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

This was the fourth year for Young Lives to offer a camp for the moms and their little ones, and it was the most successful so far, Stretar said. For one week last July, 91 teen moms and 86 babies from across the country — including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Washington — laughed, rested and bonded together while listening to a message of love and hope.

Many of the girls were accompanied by mentor moms — women who come to camp with the young moms and are mentors for them back home. There were 40 leaders and mentors in all, along with a team of Young Life staff assigned to the camp. A team of 100 volunteer childcare workers also served to make an incredible week for the young mothers and their children.

The pace of a Young Lives camp is slower than a traditional Young Life camp. There are strollers to maneuver, children to comfort and diapers to change. But the purpose is the same.

“Camp is the very same in essence; we want the girls there to have the best week of their lives,” Stretar said. “This is just another part of Young Life’s mission. I think this is what Jesus would do. He goes to extreme measures to lavish love on His kids. And we try to do the same.”

For two of the women who attended the camp, their lives — and the lives of their children — will never be the same after experiencing God’s lavishing love at Lost Canyon.

Never alone
For Monica, one of the campers, the week at Lost Canyon was just what she needed, and it changed her life. “I’d never been around so many teens that had kids,” Monica said. “It was a weird experience, but it felt good knowing I wasn’t the only one.”

Monica was six months pregnant with her second child during Young Lives camp and wasn’t able to participate in many of the activities during the week. On top of that, Monica didn’t have a mentor and was only marginally involved in her Young Lives club back home.

Debbie Griggs, trip leader and coordinator of Young Lives in the Northwest Valley in Arizona, desperately wanted to connect with her. “But I just never got to,” Griggs said. “There was so much going on — I never had the time to be with her. I kept thinking, ‘This is so hard for her,’ but every time during cabin time she’d say how much she loved watching the other girls and how much she was enjoying herself even though she didn’t get to participate. To me, that said a lot about her.”

Throughout the week, God faithfully drew Monica to Himself. She accepted Christ during cabin time, and her life will never be the same.

“I always went to church, but I learned a lot more about God at camp than I knew before,” Monica said. “I got closer to Him and saw Him more. The leaders really taught me a lot, and the speakers really made me think.” Since camp, Monica has found a mentor, Alyssa. These new relationships are changing how she’s raising her children, too.

“I know when I get stressed out with my kids, I can look up to God, and He will give me the strength to do whatever I have to do to be a mom,” she said. “And because of Alyssa, I always feel like I have somebody to talk to.”

Blessed to be a blessing
As Monica’s heart was drawn to the Lord, a girl named Tiffany discovered a desire to reach out to other young moms.

Tiffany’s mom and dad died when she was 3 years old, and she was raised by her grandparents. Throughout her teens she struggled with a partying lifestyle, but started to get help for her drinking when she became pregnant with Tristan, who is now 1 year old.

She struggled again with alcohol after she had him, but came to know God through Alcoholics Anonymous. Chris Miller, Tiffany’s mentor, was there for Tiffany when she had questions about God. The following spring, Miller saw God blessing Tiffany’s new faith in many ways — with a good job, a car and childcare. These things didn’t come without their trials, but Tiffany remained faithful to what she learned through AA: to pray daily and put all things before the Lord.

“At camp I saw how Tiffany had grown in her relationship with God,” said Miller, volunteer coordinator for Young Lives in Sitka, Ala. “She was such a joy in cabin times and a real witness to the other girls of how God can change the lives of those who seek Him. One night, she asked how old she could be to still participate in Young Lives. I said that if she wanted to be involved as a mentor/leader, there was no age limit, just a call from the Lord to serve Him in that way.”

At Say-So, a time at camp when campers share how the week has affected them, Tiffany told others about her past and that God had changed her life.

“She said how loved she felt at camp that week,” Miller said. “[Tiffany] also said that because of this experience she wanted to help other young moms. God brought her to a place where she’s ready to learn to disciple others. Next year, Tiffany is going to be a junior mentor for Sitka Young Lives.”

Forever changed
Whether it was a newborn baby or a newborn believer, every camper experienced the love of Christ at Lost Canyon this summer. From the childcare staff soothing crying infants to teenage moms who found peace for the first time, God was able to open doors and change hearts through the ministry of Young Lives.

“I saw Christ in the faces of the childcare and assignment teams every day,” Stretar said. “Young Life camp is a place for lost kids, including teen moms, to find the life-giving hope of Jesus Christ. We have been given the awesome privilege of impacting two generations for Christ.”

Young Lives Seeking Childcare Volunteers

Young Lives, Young Life’s ministry to teen moms, is hosting two camps this summer! Two hundred volunteers are needed to serve mothers and their babies as the “special forces” work crew. The crew will give young mothers a model of Jesus’ love by caring for their children so that they may enjoy the best week of their lives and hear about the hope found in Christ.

For summer 2005, Young Lives camps will be held July 7–14 at Lost Canyon in Williams, Ariz., and August 7–13 at Windy Gap in Weaverville, N.C.

Please stop and consider:

    • Is this an opportunity you might be interested in?
    • Are there others you know who might be interested?
    • Do you know of a church that would like to offer this opportunity as a mission trip?
    • Do you have an interest in starting or supporting a Young Lives ministry in your area?
    • Would you be willing to make a donation for baby equipment or for camp scholarships that support young moms and childcare?

If you are interested in serving in this capacity, would like more information or would like to make a donation, please contact the Young Lives Mission Office:

27070 Detroit Road, Suite 205
Westlake, OH 44145
(440) 250-0007
younglives@sc.younglife.org