Tag Archives: mentoring

a testimony of two Tavos

When I first met Tavito 4 years ago he was a junior higher who had only recently started to come to church with his family.   I remember how he’d share with me about getting teased about his belief in Jesus at school and struggled to forgive others that hurt him.  Even forgiving his father, Gustavo, who although had given his life to Jesus and was changing, Gus in his former life had hurt the family a lot with his anger.

Tavito (top row left) performing with his band
Tavito (top row left) performing with his band

I’ve gotten to know Tavito through youth group over the years and in this past year have had the privilege to mentor him. Even in the past year, I’ve been so encouraged by his faithfulness and growing courage to be more open about his faith and to care for others that are left out.  He has not only grown to forgive his father Gus but this past month they even got to minister together on a mission trip to Taxco, Mexico!   While they were there Gus sent me this message: “Tavito and I prayed for a blind woman and God healed her.”

God broke forth an amazing ministry of healing down in Mexico through members of our inner city church. Gus and Tavito shared how they’d be praying for people’s physical and emotional healing for hours. With the lady that was born blind they persevered in praying for her multiple times in one sitting and her healing progressed from seeing light to seeing her mother in front of her to seeing figures in the distance.  I challenged him to share with the youth group this past Wednesday about his experience.

Whereas a couple months ago I was concerned of Tavito’s distance from the youth group, he stepped in with God’s courage and shared with his peers (a big step for high schoolers who are so self conscious to what their peers think)!  Tavito is not yet some super experienced Christian guy but he’s opening to God’s grace working through him. I know that the teens seeing God touch one of their very own peers makes them long for more of Jesus.

After the youth group meeting Tavito, Phil (one of the local youth leaders I’m mentoring), and I talked about the spiritual atmosphere of the teen group, talked about the possibility of starting up a bible club at his school this fall of his senior year, and prayed for the youth of our community.  Tavito is not only acknowledging Jesus but is letting Him lead and thinking about the others Jesus wants to touch.  It was a beautiful moment I didn’t even imagine in my dreams.

God hears our prayers.  God is always at work.  There’s a harvest of the lost, the last, and the least that God still wants to reach.

how lives are transformed

it’s been two weeks since i’ve gotten back from GUTS (global urban training school) in a squatter community in the philippines.  there is so much i witnessed and experienced there is not enough time to share it all.  if you are interested in hearing more please feel free to get in touch with me and i’d love to share with you.

if i were to pick the main thing that stuck out to me of how i saw God moving in the slum community in the philippines, it was the rapid leadership development that is happening there.  since this was my second time in the community i had the privilege of getting to witness the transformation God was able to do in the 2 years since i was last there.

2 years ago one of the young men of the youth group in the community had just come to Jesus through his friend, who was a notorious gangster in the neighborhood who himself had recently come to Jesus.  this young man was known for always joking around and would come only sporadically to bible studies.  now, this young man is one of the key leaders in the church.  he leads a weekly men’s bible study and he is the one who led me through the community on a prayer walk.

2 years ago one of the young ladies of the youth group was in high school and, like many her age, was caught up in her looks and getting attention from boys.  she barely went to class.  her mom basically told her she should find a guy and have a baby as there was no point in her graduating high school, since they wouldn’t be able to pay for college anyway.  now, she leads the church’s prayer meetings.  she was one of the key people in a number of panel discussions with our team of missionaries.  she graduated from high school and is now in her first year of college.

what accounts for this rapid transformation?  what made the difference for these young people?      

it’s not because they were rich.  it’s not because their families were healthy.  it’s not because they were smart in school.  as i got to know them i saw one key theme that has set them apart:  they were discipled in the way of Jesus.  both this young man and young lady have someone that invests into their lives in a focused way.  now this is not just a once a week formal meeting of passing down knowledge, which did happen.  this was a Christ-centered person who intentionally shared their life in dozens of informal interactions throughout the week: this meant living in the community of the young person, checking in briefly on the basketball court or at the local shop, opening up one’s home, going on little trips together, asking for help with chores, sharing food, sharing stories, sharing laughs, sharing tears, listening to heartache, and praying for the person in need.   this is where trust was built and hearts began to change.

God is the same God in the philippines as he is in our community.   there are just as many challenges if not more in the philippines.  God has so much more for us than we have imagined for ourselves (Eph 2:10).   how can we spend more time with people who inspire and sharpen us?  how can we share our lives more with people who want more out of life?

botocan kids
some young local leaders in the community showing the way to some of our missionary kids.

the need for inner healing

A fellow youth leader shared with us a profound idea…we can go to the doctor for wounds of the body but to whom can we go for wounds of the heart?

Jesus’ ministry was full of not only physical healing but attention to inner healing.   When the friends of the paralyzed man lowered him down on a mat to Jesus, before Jesus even healed his physical paralysis, Jesus dealt with the man’s inner condition saying “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  When the bleeding woman touched Jesus cloak and was healed, Jesus made it a point to restore her socially and emotionally calling her “daughter” and setting her free “to go in peace.”

I’ve tried to power through and minimize when I’ve been hurt or bothered emotionally.  As I grow older I’m experiencing that when that sort of stuff is not dealt with it takes a toll…creating mistrust, hardening into bitterness, giving rise to character issues, or manifesting itself in destructive habits and addictions.   Our behaviors do not arise from a vacuum but they have roots.   Unfortunately, it has taken these sort of problems for me to have to stop and deal with the wounds and lies that are at the root of these dysfunctions.

Only in the past few years have I acknowledged my problems enough to seek to dig deeper for inner healing.  Through conversations of wise counsel, listening prayer, and reflection I’ve found that underneath the pornography addiction I’d been unsuccessful in stopping for years were experiences in my youth that set me on certain courses and core desires to feel good and significant.   Those root desires are not bad, but I’d given in to lies and patterns of going to illusions of escape rather than to God himself.  I also asked God about why it was so difficult for me to confront people about conflicts and God revealed to me a memory of abuse from childhood.   God assured me that He was there, even in those times, through the presence of my mother and that He is my protector.  I’m still working through these issues but being more intentional about pursing inner healing from God has helped me experience so much more growth and victory in my life.

As I spend time with people through mentoring relationships, I see so much the need for inner healing prayer.   There are things that can be helped with wise counsel and loving presence but there are also those stubborn and persistent behaviors that don’t seem to go away no matter what we try.  I am learning that this kind can only be dealt with in prayer in the presence of Jesus.    With one brother I began mentoring, I didn’t know what I could offer him that he hadn’t heard before and I wasn’t sure that more talking or challenging would even be helpful.  So I decided to just let Jesus lead our times together and let God speak to Him.  Let me tell you, we’ve had more breakthroughs and transformations in an hour of conversing with God than days of any talking I’ve done. 

Counselors may help reveal issues but only God can step in and heal.

JesusHealsBleedingWoman2-300x277

the student becomes the teacher

why waste time praying?  it doesn’t get things done.  how can that situation or person change?  it’s hopeless.

maybe you’ve heard these lines before.  maybe you’ve believed them.  i certainly have been discouraged by these lies.  my young friend sergio has taught me better.

i met sergio over a year ago when he was 14.  he gave his life to Jesus last winter and I had the privilege to mentor him for a couple months in the spring.  when we first started meeting up, i remember he asked me how he could improve his prayer life.  as a football athlete, sergio is a fairly disciplined person and even then he impressed me with his commitment to pray daily.

the first thing you’ll notice about sergio when you meet him is that he’s a big guy, but what you won’t notice until you get to know him more is that he has an even bigger heart.  his heart is heavy for people.

throughout the course of our conversations he asked me to pray with him for a number of people.   in tears, once he asked me to pray for his family that was going through rough times and specifically his brother-in-law who was being a destructive element in his family.  on another occasion we prayed for his friend wilbur who he wanted to see experience the love of God and the church family.  he also asked me to pray for a friend named eduardo, who is “a beast” when it comes to physical training for football.  yet, another time he asked me to pray for his friend david who had quit the football team due to some disagreements.

we prayed.  i’m sure sergio prayed more.  we didn’t see change right away.

summer came and sergio became busy with other things in life.  he asked to stop meeting up, which was a little disheartening for me, and I didn’t see him for a while.  i prayed for sergio as often as I could remember.   i saw him periodically throughout the fall through my work of directing tutoring for the sports teams at lincoln high school.  another youth leader working as a coach opened up time for other football players and friends to meet up and discuss life.  sergio began going to these informal meetings along with a number of other young men.  a little over a month ago sergio started coming out again to youth group with about five other youth.

this past month Sergio rededicated his life to Jesus.  he approached me soon afterward and told me about how much more joy he had in his life now that he’d come back to Jesus.  the topic this past month for youth group has been prayer.  i’m so encouraged by how sergio sets an example for his friends of entrusting one’s heart to God in prayer.

as we looked back, i realized every person i remember we had specifically prayed together for was positively impacted. 

his brother-in-law has a daughter with sergio’s sister and he is now contributing more to the family.

his friend wilbur, that he wanted to invite to youth group, is attending regularly and sergio has asked me to join him in regularly praying for wilbur to experience God’s goodness.

his friend eduardo also comes out to youth group now and is growing in prayer.

–  his friend david even comes out to youth group too and is part of a loving community.

God works through prayer.  if you don’t believe me, ask sergio.

sergio and friends adj
sergio (far left) and his friends making a mad rush to grub on some seconds at youth group

Like a seed planted in the ground…

I wasn’t certain if or when the answer would come.  Now, I’m starting to see some light break through.   The past couple summer months of reaching out to youth in the neighborhood has been tough.  There’s a battle going on for the souls of the young people of our community and it felt like we were losing ground.

But God is faithful.  One of the youth that had been drawing back from not only me but even opening up to anyone about his life, has slowly been letting people in.  After some group prayer of the youth ministers near the beginning of the summer, he spoke with his father.  Midsummer we started small talking again.  This past month he’s been sharing a little with another youth leader and about a week ago he started contributing again to small group at church.  It’s slow going but I have been encouraged.  Gosh, some people pray for years without seeing fruit and I was getting discouraged from just a couple months…I’m such weak sauce.

This comes around the time I have been getting much helpful perspective from others.  First and foremost has been God’s word to me from Galatians 6:9 in which he reminded me – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  This horticultural analogy has been a breath of fresh air.  Like planting a seed, I am brought back to the truth that I cannot control the time for when a seed will break ground and bear fruit.  No matter how much I desire it to show itself…it will not come forth with me just desiring it.  So it is when you pour out your life and heart into another.   All I can do is to keep on doing what I know is good.

Our caring shepherd over the youth ministry also reminded me that there are seasons of life for our young people…seasons that seem to change so drastically.  For teenagers in general any given circumstance can feel like the end of the world (hehe I remember it felt like that for me in those times).  These relatively volatile responses seem exacerbated with inner city youth, since much of the people and environments they are living around are already unstable as it is.   There are seasons in which a young person seems to turn away from life and there are seasons when they come back to life…I’ve seen it this summer.  My role is to let them know that the door is always open when they’re ready…and that I will keep praying for them regardless.

Seasons change, His faithfulness does not.

**no joke about 30min after writing this post  I was driving out to youth group, praying for a couple guys I hadn’t seen in a while, and as I was stopped at a red light I saw two of them walking across the street directly in front of me.  I drove back to where they were and caught up with them.  They ended up coming out to youth group tonight and they were encouraged.  I am so encouraged.  Thank you God, for reminding me it’s worth it to persevere in prayer…even when I didn’t see anything happening.

mentoring anew

Through working with the youth at Epicentre community church, I’ve had the privilege of mentoring two young men, Sergio and Aaron.

I met Sergio on his first visit to youth meeting after his football practice.  He was a big gentle giant of a freshman who was very quiet.  Through the love of the church community he has really opened up and he is such an earnest learner, so tender and open to the Lord’s voice in His life.

Sergio and I at church

Aaron is a quiet punk rocker with a generous heart and is diligent with his passions.  He came to church through his recently saved parents and he too has transformed so much.

Aaron rocking out

I started meeting up with them early in the morning to teach them how to have face time with the Lord…and they have responded to the challenge so well.  They’ve been excited to learn how to meet with the Lord.  After coming up against so many walls in my disciple-making experiences, I see God’s gracious redemptive work as I am reaping the benefit of witnessing the growth of these young men, for whom I did no sowing work.   Sergio is so willing to obey what God speaks to him, even standing up in class for his faith.  Aaron is so enthused that he shares what he learns with others, even spurring on his own parents.  We pray together and witness answers to prayer together.

Although full time ministry with the church is not yet, God has opened a door for me to work part-time with, IntheCity, the non-profit liason between the church, the school, and the larger community.  IntheCity currently focuses on reaching out to the youth through sports teams at the local high school, integrating team-building, academic assistance, and parent outreach.  It’s through these opportunities that relationships have been built with young people like Sergio and Aaron, growing them closer to our Heavenly Father.

Please join me in praying that they grow into spiritual leaders in their community and where ever the Lord takes them!  I’m so excited for what God is doing here in Lincoln Heights and beyond!!  If you are interested in supporting me and the work happening in East Los Angeles, leave me a message and I will get in contact with you!!!