The following is a story and testimony from Ashley Kiser, a mentor and team leader at Young Lives. Young Lives is an organization that seeks to mentor, support, and care for teen moms while introducing them to Jesus, the one who can truly meet all their needs.
I first met Jadah through the social worker at Dudley High School when she was a junior. She was seventeen years old and four months pregnant. She is the oldest child in her family and had been kicked out of her house when her mom found out she was pregnant. After two or three meetings together, she confided in me that she was terrified. She knew abortion was not an option, but she did not know how she was going to care for this child. (She is so brave; she choose life.) After going through her options for support from family members and the father of the child, we quickly realized she had very few. So, we discussed adoption. She was very open to the idea and met with me and an adoption counselor, but after talking with friends, they convinced her that they would help her raise the child.
June of 2016
Brayden was born. He was so little and Jadah was so in love. Visiting her in the hospital she looked at me with tears in her eyes, saying, “I could not imagine giving my child away.” At this point she had gotten into stable housing with her aunt and the paternal grandmother had offered to help. She had a plan and was now trying to give her child the best that she could while also figuring out how to survive daily struggles on her own.
Young Lives Was There
Jadah never missed a Wednesday night at Young Lives. We would open the Bible together and struggle through the hard questions of life like why do bad things happen and does God really hear my prayers? After spending a week at a Young Life camp with Brayden and the leaders, Jadah decided to give her life to Jesus. She is confident that he is the only one who will give her hope when she feels like there is no hope anywhere else in her world.
This last August marks the one-year anniversary of giving her life over to Jesus. Brayden is fifteen months now, and I wish I could tell you that her life has had a dramatic change for good, but that would not be entirely true. What is true is that her view of God has changed, learning what he has to say about her life and what he has to say about her. For her to be successful in the world’s eyes, she has major battles to hurdle. She is battling these struggles little by little—with some mistakes—by replacing the lies she believes with the truth about God.
Jadah has made another brave decision to leave Greensboro and join the Navy. She leaves in February, and I was talking with her last week about Brayden. While she knows this is her best option to provide for her son, she is committed to making the best plan for Brayden while she is in basic training.
Jadah’s story is not finished. She has a lot of hard decisions to make. But she would say that because of Young Lives she knows she is not making these decisions alone. She has Jesus.
Young Lives Doesn’t Just Effect These Moms
If I am honest, when I first started with Young Lives two years ago, I was not sure I was going to like it. I thought it would be depressing. I did not see any hope in the lives of some of these girls. But now I am convinced more than ever that the Young Lives mentors are light in dark places where there seems to be no one else bearing light. Committing to pray for Jadah and Brayden has burdened my heart. They are now a part of my life, and it matters to me that they are okay. Isn’t this what it means to be a part of God’s family? When our families are broken, we are invited into the greater family of God to fill in the gaps.
While the sacrifices my family and I choose to make to spend time with these girls have felt big, we have also benefited. It is not easy to leave my family with two young children at 5:30 pm on Wedensday nights where chaos of two small children abounds. But when I get home, I am different. I have experienced a holy place where many girls who experience shame and guilt have gotten to experience the truth about Jesus Christ. While I might not have been a teen mom myself, I have experienced the emotions of shame, guilt, and rejection. I might not be able to relate in the specific circumstances, but I can relate in the feelings that point us to our greater need for what Jesus did on the cross. Choosing to spend a few hours of my week with teen moms is worth it. Jadah and Brayden are worth it.
There are a lot of ways to get plugged into Young Lives. We need mentors, meals, babysitters, money, and prayer! If you want specifics in any of these areas, please feel free to reach out to Ashley Kiser at Kiserash@gmail.com.
-Ashley Kiser (Mercy Hill Member & Young Lives Mentor)