YoungLives is a mission I am passionate about but it is not without its many challenges. We serve young women who have experienced often times much pain and isolation. YoungLives leaders seek to reflect God’s love and welcome. My visit to Young Life Africa was a part of my first year as vice president of YoungLives ministries. Although I’ve visited Africa a few times before, I am forever changed by this experience with YLA, both me and my husband. We look forward to the opportunity to return. We met Jesus the hope giver in Africa and we are thankful for His salvation.
Dyan Larmey arranged for me to have lunch with YoungLives supervisors and staff gathered for leadership training. As I sat in this circle, I knew I was in a room of men and women who shared my passion and understood the challenges a lot more than me. The circle shared with me heart-rending stories of teen mothers abandoned by family, the high demand for material support for single mothers in countries without government assistance programs, schools removing girls due to their pregnancy and the impact of the Ebola crisis on ministry. I learned of girls in Zimbabwe where there is a 90% unemployment rate and how desperation has led to sex slavery or prostitution near unsupervised gold mines.
I could not help being overwhelmed and concerned as I thought about these new friends and the young people they cared about.
It was on the last day I would hear an inspiring message at club that helped describe my encounter with God in Africa – Jesus is a Hope Giver.
I encountered Jesus in Stha – who shared with me that Young Life is building relationships with teen moms in Zimbabwe. Teens who found hope in prostitution are meeting Jesus! Stha has a vision to develop new work in even more mines.
I encountered Jesus in Dyan who tirelessly advocates for women and girls. It was through her that I would bond with another circle, this time of senior African staff women who were walking through their story and discovering their unique gifting as leaders. Oh, how they radiated Jesus!
I encountered Jesus in Ethel and Yvonne who shared that after Ebola and after the US news stopped reporting about the crisis, Young Life and YoungLives continued serving an even larger population of teenagers and teen moms.
I encountered Jesus in the face of the teenage mothers and their children who lined up to receive a Bible and a blessing from me after club in Kenya. Girls who wept recounting where they had lost hope. Girls bearing the beautiful image of God. It was at this club that Jamila would declare a prophetic message with 22 young mothers that Jesus is a hope giver based on Luke 8:43-48!
A message as much for me as it was for the audience she came to serve.