Companions for the Journey

Haskielena Begay is not your typical teenager. For starters, Haskielena finished high school in just three and a half years while living away from her family. She did so well she earned scholarships for college. Now she works part time, but loves school, and hopes to soon begin training for a career as a medical records technician.

Haskielena is also the mother of a 1-year-old son, McCain — a fact that makes her achievements and goals all the more amazing. Life for the 18-year-old and her little boy hasn’t been easy, but Haskielena’s future is bright, thanks to the love and support of Beth Collier, who, through the ministry of Young Lives, has introduced her to the Light of the world.

Haskielena was raised on the Navajo Indian reservation in Chinle, Ariz., and lived with her grandmother until she died when Haskielena was 16 years old. At that time, she returned to her mother’s home. After McCain was born, family conflict resulted in her leaving her family, the reservation where she was raised and the only life she had ever known.

Entering a new world

Haskielena, her boyfriend, Roddy, and their infant son then moved to Flagstaff, Ariz. They lived in various hotel rooms across town while trying to make a life for themselves. Haskielena attended Coconino High School her junior year and, in the fall of 2005, enrolled in TAPP (Teenage Parent Program) for her senior year.

That same semester, Beth Collier and a small, but devoted, group of volunteer mentors began a connection with TAPP through Young Lives, Young Life’s ministry to teen moms.

“Every Wednesday around lunchtime, we’d bring goodies and just talk with the girls, find out what’s going on in their lives and play with the babies,” Collier said. “It was terrifying. I’m 47 years old and have all boys! To walk into a classroom of teenagers and say, ‘We want to hang out with you,’ is very intimidating. The first time, we got the teenage look of, ‘You want what?’ But Haskielena was so excited.” Haskielena remembers when Young Lives entered her world, and she said she was instantly intrigued.

“When they told us what Young Lives was all about, I got real interested in it and told them I wanted to go to club,” Haskielena said. “Then I met Beth and that’s when she became my mentor. I thought things would be hard with my son and school, but they helped me get through it. They pushed me to go to school and gave me support. So I kept going to school and they kept coming on Wednesdays.”

A friend magnet

Since Young Lives began last year, more than 30 girls have been touched by the ministry, with 12 to 15 of them becoming part of the core group. Haskielena is the magnet that seems to attract others to the program.

“She’s been to every event. She makes it a priority,” Collier said. “She amazes me. And she is so instrumental in getting other girls to come. They always ask, ‘Is Haskielena going to be there?’”

Relationally, Haskielena seemed made for Young Life. But spiritually, God was still at work. Haskielena’s grandmother had been faithful to take her to the revivals that would pitch their tents on the reservation every year, but since her death, the teenager hadn’t been to church once.

“When I met Beth last September, I started going to church again,” Haskielena said. “Because of Young Lives, I’ve learned that God can forgive us for things we’ve done; if we pray He can help us with all kinds of things, and that He died for us. This was all new to me. I never really went to church much and never learned about the Bible before.”

Just like family

Collier had believed Haskielena was a miracle waiting to happen. Haskielena had plenty of knowledge about who Jesus is, but there were barriers in her life that held her back from taking that step of faith to begin a relationship with Christ. Still, Collier saw God working on her heart. “We’ve talked about God’s plan for her life,” Collier said. At camp this summer, Haskielena invited God into her heart, and began her relationship with Jesus Christ. “She had a wonderful time at camp,” Collier said. “As did we all.”

Haskielena knows she has changed since she got involved with Beth and Young Lives. Her Young Lives relationships keep her grounded and hopeful.

“I enjoy going to Beth’s house and hanging out. If anything happens, we always talk about it,” she said. “I’ve changed a lot since I met Beth and the other mentors. I don’t get upset right away. I’ve learned I’m a teen mom, but I can still do anything — school, work, hang out with friends.

“Young Lives is a lot like my family. And Beth is a lot like my mom. She helped me get my apartment when we lived in hotels and gave us lots of support. I tell her every day, ‘I’m so glad I have you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.’”

Drawn to love

Haskielena is unique in many ways, but, Beth explained, she is also like every other young mom who is struggling and needs the love of Jesus Christ.

“So many are in the same place she is,” Collier said. “It’s across all ethnic cultures — the culture of teen moms. They are afraid of separation and are very dependent on their boyfriend or parents. But we tell the girls over and over that everything we do is because Christ loves them and we want to love them through Him. I think they are really drawn to that love. I know Haskielena is.”