“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I was given this verse in the first few years of being a Christian. I became a Christian when I was 18 and I had plans. Plans to find a nice guy, get married, have kids and settle down. However God had other plans for me and little did I know what these were over 20 years ago.
Both before and after I came to Eastbourne God put older women in my life to help me, guide me and become spiritual mums to me. I still value this today. This journey started about eight years ago when I felt the nudge from God to return to youth work. To my surprise I was welcomed with open arms and started serving in the 11—14’s. I went to my first Newday and on the way to an outreach event in the back of the coach Jez asked me if I wanted to “look after” the younger girls, take them under my wing.
At the time I wondered what I could offer these girls. I had loads of doubts, what do I talk about, do they actually like me. However, after trying to find a way out by looking for another job in another part of the country I embraced the opportunity and arranged for them to come round for lunch.
To my surprise they came, ate my food and didn’t get ill. We watched DVD’s, played “lets dance” and they sat in my bath! Meeting up together continued for about a year and as they were about to go into year nine we set up a girls group as part of ID each week.
“I can honestly say without someone like Ann, I don’t think I would be this far in my Christian journey.”
For about an hour we would spend time getting to know each other better and talk about issues that were important to them. My heart was for them to grow into young ladies who knew and loved God, who had an identity and security in God and not in how they looked, in social media or in relationships. The world puts so much pressure on young people to conform to the norm and loving God is “not cool”. At that age knowing who you are is not easy anyway.
I pulled in other people in the church to help me and we had some good evenings discussing what it is to be a young Christian lady in today’s world. One memorable evening was the wedding dress night where we all dressed up in loaned wedding dresses and talked about what marriage is and staying pure until our wedding night. Over the year I got to know the girls so much better spending quality time with them.
At the end of year nine they were due to move up to the older group True. They didn’t want to go, wanting to remain in what was familiar to them. However, I knew they were ready and I agreed to go up with them at their request to help them settle in.
I was going to return to the younger group, however, God had “plans to prosper me and not to harm me”. After first being really unsure I would fit into this group as a leader, I loved it. I kept my girls and we continued to meet as a group for the next two years as part of True.
I remember one evening following a talk about God the Father in church I felt God wanted to show the girls what this means practically. So I asked the mums of the girls to get the dads to sit down and together write a letter to each of them which I gave out next time we met. It was another of those stand out nights for me. A good gage for me is tears, and we had a few damp eyes that night.
There have been many memories…
I’ve baptised 3 of them
I’ve cooked for them
I’ve been to Romania with some of them
I’ve watched DVDs with them
We’ve shared meals together
I’ve done 7 years of Newday with them
We’ve made cards together
We’ve drunk loads of tea together
We’ve toasted marsh mellows together
I’ve played “lets dance” with them
We’ve shared experiences of Africa together
We’ve shared ice cream on the beach together
We’ve done car treasure hunts together
We’ve laughed together and we’ve cried together
By being part of their lives and other young people’s lives I have stepped out in spiritual gifts and God continues to teach me and challenge me.
I have been with my girls and their families both through the good and the not so good times. There have been many challenges over the past few years and at times I’ve wrestled with God about some of the situations that have arisen. I’ve prayed for and with them and basically “done life” with them.
“I would like to thank her for what she has done in my life and many others. When I’m older I definitely want to do the same thing”
They have all flown the nest now having travelled to the other side of the world to serve God or starting their second year at University.
I was reflecting on what God has taught me by being part of these young ladies lives and I see it as a journey, from being an older sister, to a cool aunty to actually a little glimpse of what being a mum is like.
I can’t profess to say I know what being a parent 24/7 is like at all (well apart from Newday when I am checking they have drunk enough water, slept okay, encouraging them to go to bed a little earlier, giving them a hug when they are all emotional), but I do feel proud when I see what they have become; and how they are developing as they become more independent.
I am still in contact with them (social media and text messaging isn’t all bad) and still continue to be part of their lives albeit in a different way. I got my first Mother’s day card this year. So what does the future hold? Well I now have my new girls and it’s exciting to see what God is doing in both their lives and mine.
I want to say thank you to the girls for loving me and being part of my life, their parents for letting me be part of their daughter’s lives and to God for putting people in my life who I can learn from and have shown me what it is to be a spiritual mum. I don’t think I have done too badly at this. My plans may not have worked as I expected, instead God has given me a hope and a future in a way I could not have imagined.
Q: What’s the single, most influential factor in keeping our teenagers at church? A: When the adults spend time getting to know them.
Serving in the youth can change the whole course of our teenagers lives. Contact us to find out more, or come and chat at the Info Point on a Sunday morning.