Giving Back Wednesday: YoungLives

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I feel the need to start a new feature here on IVM that spotlights different organizations that I feel are worthy of attention. I will try and make a post weekly but it may turn into a biweekly feature. Please click here to read the story behind YoungLives and our experience dealing with this deeply personal issue.

This week’s spotlight is on the organization YoungLives. YoungLives (part of the ministry Young Life) is a ministry organization that directly impacts the lives of Teen Moms and their struggles through motherhood at a young age. They work together to support and nurture these young Moms so that they can have a support system that directly affects the lives of their young children. It’s a great endeavor and one I feel passionate about. I would encourage to support them via their site here or on Facebook here and maybe even consider giving to their cause.

In case you don’t know my wife and I’s story, I’ll fill you in a bit. I met Charis at our Youth Group early on in the mid 90’s. I didn’t know her too well at the time but did think she was pretty cute. I carried on with my friends and the routines of daily high school life and dated around (high school, duh). Charis was in a relationship with another guy at the time who I didn’t really know (or care to) but I still saw her weekly at Youth Group. I still remember the day our Youth Pastor pulled us all aside to tell us something important that would likely change my life for the better and put me on the path towards a new outcome, one I didn’t even know was in my future.

We were all told that evening that Charis was pregnant. It was a blow to our senses and really impacted our group as a whole. I mean, what were we to do? Our youth pastor essentially told us that we needed to love her and comfort her during this difficult time. To love as God loved us. I really believe that our Youth Pastor had a divine calling and taught us things that I think a lot of people in the Church don’t want to confront or “deal with”. 1st Corinthians 13 is the perfect example of our calling as Christians and I believe strongly in those powerful words written by Paul. These words about “Agape” love are meant more as actions and less as feels-good emotions.

So needless to say, we were all at a loss for words but left feeling inspired to do the right thing. I remember going home that night with unsettling emotions. How is this possible, how do we love and forget the act that transpired before? Should we reach out with love for the father as much as the mother? These ideas and range of emotions, I wrestled with while at the same time feeling deep respect that she had decided to keep her baby.

Was this an easy decision? Was it without consequences? Of course not and definitely not something most ordinary teenagers want to deal with in their lifetimes (especially these days). I remember watching the distaste from other people in the Church (our Church) at the time because the congregation was quite mixed with many older people in attendance. I can only imagine that it must have been extremely difficult for her to go into Church each week and Sundays especially, trying to worship God with a pregnant belly at the age of 16. Can you imagine the dirty looks, the peering eyes of disgust and resentment? What do you think that felt like for a teen girl? A lot of people at our Church were supportive, as much as they possibly could without enduring the wrath of the “elders”. I’ve heard so many stories since this time passed and we began dating that it would baffle you. There was even a meeting at the Church and another couple were talking about adopting the child (Brayden) once he was born. Um, yeah, how do you do that when the mother insisted on keeping the Child? Overstepping your bounds I might say. This leads us here….

After Charis broke up with her boyfriend (and biological father of Brayden) about 6 months after Brayden was born, we began dating. We liked each other a few months prior but I was a big chicken and fearful for my future. How would I “date” a teenage girl (I was 17) with a baby? Was I mature enough to handle this? Those fears ran through my head almost daily because I was insanely attracted to this girl and wanted to date her with every ounce of my being. In March of 1996 I started a formal relationship with the girl that would become my wife, inspiration, and the mother to our Children. I don’t think I realized just how life changing this courtship would be at the time due to my young age and hers as well, but it has impacted me for over 20 years now.

With the support of our youth group and a mentor like our Youth Pastor and his wife mixed in with the immense love from Charis’s family and the love of our God, I really feel that this perfect storm of events put in motion the rest of our lives. Charis was unlike any other girl/woman I had met. She was (and still is) a strong mother, a loving mother, a loving and devoted girlfriend (now wife) and as a person someone who is kind, caring, and humble.

While we certainly had our ups and downs, our adjustments and the growing maturity that came in time, the life lessons would be something we both have treasured over the years. After dating for about a year and a half I proposed at the age of 19 mind you, and we were married in March of the following year. I was still 19 and she was 18. We both turned a year older the very next month. I became an instant husband and father all before the age of 20!

I have loved Brayden these past 21 years as if he has always been my own biological child. I see no difference in our relationship as I do with our twins. He may not be “blood” in a physical sense but he is blood in that deep mental and spiritual attachment. I love all three of my children and I am so glad I met Charis at our Church Youth Group over 20 years ago. Had I not been there or missed it by a few months, I may have never met her and thus putting my life in a complete 180 tail spin. I legally adopted my son in 2005 and now we all share the “Jones” name and title.

Getting a bit long winded her but the point of this story and post is to shed light on an organization like YoungLives that is there for women, and young girls who do get pregnant unexpectedly and need the mental/spiritual support of those that do understand their situation.

Instead of worrying about Trump, Russians, Rogue Nations, Protesting this that and everyone, Anger at Police, or those wacky Kardashians, maybe more people in society should be focused on supporting those that are disadvantaged and who desperately need the love from us Christians. Let’s learn to love more, support more, care more, and pay less attention to talking points and controversies.

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Bryce Walburn
Bryce Walburn
May 24, 2017 11:53 am

I really like the idea of this feature. Keep ’em coming!

May 24, 2017 10:54 am

Great story and a great cause! Much respect, Brandon and Charis!

Noah Hardwick
May 22, 2017 6:27 pm

Thanks for sharing Brandon!

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