Wyld Child

A WyldLife leader and the love of Christ  turn a “problem child” into a child of God.


After an afternoon baking cookies with nine-year-old Alexis Hone, Mary Beatty was sure of one thing: her daughter would have to find a new playmate. Alexis had been labeled a “problem child” by her school and neighbors, and Beatty could see why.


Beatty, a mother of six, didn’t think she could give Alexis what she needed. She didn’t realize that day in her kitchen all the ingredients had come together to create something beautiful.
It’s a recipe for the mission of Young Life: a lavish helping of God’s grace poured into a willing heart and blended with life-on-life ministry can transform a hurting child into a child  of God.


Funny how God works

Beatty had just begun volunteering with WyldLife in Naples, Fla., in 2008 when she met Samantha Hone, Alexis’s older sister. The girls were from a broken home and often sought refuge at the Beattys’ when things got rough.

“I knew a little about Alexis because of Samantha,” the WyldLife volunteer team leader explained. “When Alexis came over that day to make cookies, things started coming out of her mouth, and I was thinking, ‘My daughter is not hanging out with her anymore.’”

Alexis said, “Everybody was so polite there, and I was loud! With her having six kids, they were really well behaved. I wasn’t really disciplined, so it was different from my house.”

Because they lived in the same neighborhood, over the next several years, Beatty continued to build a relationship with Alexis. Alexis was drawn to the stability the Beatty home provided, and the Lord gave Beatty  an unexpected compassion for the young girl.

By the time Alexis started coming to WyldLife in sixth grade, she’d already been suspended from school multiple times for her behavior.

“It’s funny how God works. Because the next thing you know, I’m hanging out with her,” Beatty said. “When she’d come to club, she’d stand in the parking lot and scream or laugh inappropriately. She was ‘that’ kid whom no one  wanted to be around, and she was drawn to me.”

Zach Gurick, area director for Florida’s Collier County, said Alexis was a girl in desperate need of care.

“Alexis was extremely difficult to be around because she was always doing obnoxious things to gain attention,” he said. “Mary always had an amazing heart for her and was able to connect with her in spite of it all.” 

Alexis said she kept coming back to WyldLife because of the love she was shown there.

“I’d been to church before, but (club) was the best,” she said. “It was really, really fun. All the people were so nice to me. I didn’t have a lot of friends in sixth grade, and they became my friends.”


Home at last

The summer between seventh and eighth grade, Alexis, along with 47 other middle schoolers, went to Southwind, Young Life’s camp in Florida. It was a difficult week for everyone, Beatty said.

“Alexis would stand in the middle of the camp and scream things I can’t repeat. Her language was appalling,” Beatty said. “It was affecting the other kids. One leader wanted to send her home and ban her from future trips.”

But Beatty couldn’t do that. She said, “We’re bringing kids to hear about Christ, how can we say, ‘You’re not good enough’? Christ wouldn’t have sent her home.”

So Beatty gathered the camp leaders together and they prayed. And they prayed some more.

“We prayed every second we could find. We prayed just to get through the afternoon,” Beatty said.

And a miracle happened.

The last day of camp, Alexis accepted Jesus as her Savior.

“When I (accepted Christ), it really changed things,” she said. “I think camp is exactly how it will be in heaven. People there are always there for you. Everything has a purpose. It feels like home.”


The new has come

Last fall was still a struggle for Alexis. She not only fought old temptations, but her past reputation as well. But she continued to come to club, and eventually, Beatty said, a “calmer, nicer, more peaceful Alexis” emerged.

Then, Beatty said, Alexis went from Christmas to May without being expelled. “I watched her change last year,” Beatty said. “Every day Alexis went to school and was not expelled was a victory for her.”

"Her life has been transformed,” Beatty said. “She stayed in school and quit getting in trouble. She’s happy and getting good grades. She’s changed. I’ve never seen a transformation like this before. The old is gone, the new Alexis is here.”

Alexis, now 14, said the change has been real for her in every way.

“I used to be really, really bad at school and get in trouble all the time. Now, I do what He would do. He guides my life,” Alexis said. “And Mary has been practically a mom to me. She helped turn my whole life around. She inspires me to do well.”

Campaigners has been a place of growth for Alexis as well. Beatty said the group has gone from a bunch of girls who wanted to play and gossip to students of the Word.

“After her baptism, we bought Alexis a study Bible,” Beatty recounted. “All of the sudden she’s coming to Campaigners saying, ‘Can we do Proverbs? Did you know Proverbs tells you how to live your life?’ And I’d say, ‘How do you know?’ and she’d say, ‘I’ve been reading it!’ It’s baby steps, but she’s growing.”

Gurick believes Beatty’s consistent presence in Alexis’s life has made all the difference.

“Mary entered her world and her life in every possible way,” he said. “She rescued her when she needed rescuing, encourages her when she needs encouraging, and gives her strong, loving guidance when she makes bad choices. Mary’s relationship with Alexis is one that truly exemplifies incarnational witness.”

Beatty said what comes to mind when she thinks on the five-year journey with her young friend is Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) – “I can do all things through Christ who  strengthens me.”

“It’s scary talking to middle school kids! That moves you out of your comfort zone,” Beatty said. “But once you start walking with them, they become your kids. You can feel Christ’s love and compassion for them coming through you.

“When you build relationships like this, it really leaves an impact on your heart. You walk alongside them, just like Christ, and it’s life-changing for everyone.”​​​​