For almost 20 years I’ve worked with teen moms and absolutely love walking with them through challenges and achievements. Before I joined the staff at Hope House, I worked in another state at three very large public high schools, and while the work was similar, the challenges there seemed overwhelming and I felt restricted. That is not the case at Hope House. What’s different? Hope House is faith based and I can openly share about God’s love for our moms, encourage them to pray or request prayers, and care for their spiritual development along with helping them become self-sufficient.
Parenting and Unconditional Love
How do you introduce such a big concept in way that isn’t scary or uncomfortable, especially to teens who might have little experience, or maybe a bad experience, with church? Incorporating discussions about faith into parenting class, typically one of the first series taken, just seems like a natural fit. The easiest ways to get the faith conversation started is by sharing about unconditional love. Before becoming a mother, a lot of our moms might have had a very hard time understanding that kind of love. Now that they have a child, they grasp the concept when I ask what their child could possibly do to make them unlovable. “Nothing!” But would you lay down your life for them? “Of course!” The hard part of the conversation comes when I point out that God loves them exactly that way. It’s not earned, and He loves without limit. Most don’t leave the class fully believing this truth, but it’s a place to start building.
In covering child development, there is another natural discussion. One aspect of human development is spirituality/faith, which can be easily overlooked when physical, emotional and language development are often the primary focus. As moms we need to figure out our beliefs, pass those on to our children, and help them grow and develop by finding answers to questions. I let our moms know that their child will have many questions about faith/death/heaven — starting as early as the preschool years. Most moms have already had life events, especially loss, occur that has them wrestling to find answers. The thought of having a solid foundation of belief to teach their child seems comforting.
Development of Faith
Hope House offers optional classes like Faith 101 to start that foundation and make sure our moms have accurate information. Moms can continue to build on that by attending Table Talk (named because Bible Study sounds a little intimidating) and talk through their beliefs with staff and peers. All our staff have their own unique ways of sharing, from “Yayweh breathing” to journaling or song lyrics. And our moms are often even better at sharing a scripture or truth that has helped them. Teen mom Kayla realized the importance of relying on God during a lunch class “when we were talking about hard times and how being a mother can take a toll on us in different aspects and that God is with us through everything. He listens to our callings and prayers.”
Offers of prayer
If moms arrive for classes early on a Monday morning, they get to join in our staff devotion time. Our moms soon realize that we are constantly lifting them up in prayer, not just during devotions. Alisha stated that she loves that there is a prayer box in our classroom and she can drop in requests. Moms receive messages of encouragement of prayer before GED tests, college exams and driving tests. Our moms are also part of a closed Facebook group where prayer requests are often posted. For moms new to our program, they are often a little surprised that they can so openly ask for help and that staff and their peers are more than happy to pray for them and their families.
We Love their Children
One of the biggest requests we make of a mom is to entrust us with their child. Some moms are very nervous and sometimes a little reluctant to use our Early Learning Program, but they very quickly realize how safe and loved their child is with our teachers. Teen mom Nayeli said, “I used to be scared to leave my daughter alone for reasons like a teacher or babysitter would treat her different or be mean, but I put my faith in God that he would set the right people in our lives for me to succeed and give her a better life, and at Hope House Early Learning classes, the teachers are amazing and make me realize God will always be with us.”
Truth and Grace
Life changes happen and sometimes progress in our program stops, or a mom leaves. We take this as an opportunity to pursue our moms, so they know they are missed. They may worry they’ve made a choice that causes us to be disappointed or angry, but we try to always communicate that they are loved. We don’t always get a response, but regardless, we continue to pray and pursue them. And they do come back. Sometimes its after having another child, or because they got to a point they just really need help. Cassie said, “I knew it was okay to come back when some of the staff at Hope House messaged me saying they missed my daughter and me and want me to come back for classes.” Coming back also can mean tough conversations and speaking truth into their lives, but it’s the grace that overwhelms.
By demonstrating that our faith is finely woven into everything, our moms learn to ask questions, seek guidance and grow in their spiritual journey. Alisha pointed out that she wasn’t at first aware of all the small references to faith, “but when I stop to think about it, it’s all around!” Sienna sums it up beautifully by saying at Hope House, “they welcome new faith with open arms, guiding and teaching us without pushing it on us. If I ever have a question about the Bible or faith, they have made a safe space where I can feel I can ask them without being judged.”
That is what sets Hope House apart. The beautiful blend of hospitality, generosity and grace that continually reflects God’s love for young moms who are seeking it. It is the difference between reaching a few goals and achieving transformation.