by Tricia Goyer

Sometimes I wish God would let me see a preview of how the ways I give, serve and love will one day pay off. Such a preview would have been helpful when I first met Kayleigh. I was volunteering at our local pregnancy resource center when her mum brought her in. At 15, Kayleigh had recently given birth to her first child.

Bad first impression

It’s easy to judge people based on their behaviour. From the first moment we meet someone, we label his or her actions. Good or bad. Challenging or trouble-free. In Kayleigh’s case, she demanded lifts to the teen-mum support group I’d invited her to. She picked out the best for her baby without a please or thank you. She clashed with other teen mums, talked instead of listened and continued a promiscuous relationship with her boyfriend. It wasn’t long before she was pregnant again. You can imagine my judgments about her.

Thankfully, God saw Kayleigh’s potential when I could not. In fact, as I turned to God about her thorny personality, He showed me what He saw: a young woman hurt by everyone she loved, but a bud He hoped to bloom into a rose.

A hint of change

God first gave me a glimpse of Kayleigh’s changing heart one night when one of the other mentors asked Kayleigh why she and Nathan weren’t married. Even though they were only 18, they’d been together three years and had two children.

“I’ve always dreamed of a Cinderella wedding,” Kayleigh said. “Nathan works every evening after school and on the weekends, but there’s never enough money.”

“Is that all? We can help you with that,” I blurted out before I had time to weigh my offer.

The very next week Kayleigh invited herself over to work on wedding plans. Together, we picked her colors, designed and printed invitations, and created rice bags with tulle. Later, I was with her when she tried on dresses.

The other support-group mentors got involved as well. We bought and prepared food, made bouquets, fixed hair, painted nails and set up chairs on the big day. One mentor photographed the wedding and gave the prints to the couple as a gift.

My husband performed the ceremony in the middle of a flower garden on a beautiful summer day. The bride glowed, the groom couldn’t stop smiling, and I sensed God’s pleasure.

Thorns and all

I discovered that the more I cared for Kayleigh, the more she loved back. The more time I spent with her, the more I noticed wonderful qualities I’d overlooked.

Feeling safe and cared for, Kayleigh began to bloom. The crowning moment of Kayleigh’s transformation came a month later. Now living as man and wife, the young couple felt comfortable attending church, and they dedicated their lives to Christ.

Now, it’s hard to remember Kayleigh as she used to be. She is a beautiful woman who calls me Mum—a child of my heart.

A preview would have helped during the frustrating times when Kayleigh’s changes were too small to notice. It would have given me encouragement to know that in five years, Kayleigh would be a dedicated Christian, a loving wife and mother to three great children. It would have encouraged me to know that the troubled teen would later be one of my closest friends and to see that she’d become a compassionate person who prays that her family and friends will discover what she’s found.

God transforms one life at a time. How do I know? I’ve seen it through Kayleigh. I also know because I’ve experienced it in my own broken past. Each of the descriptors I would have originally given Kayleigh could have been used on me. Like Kayleigh, I had my first baby in secondary school. Like Kayleigh’s, my flaws were easier to see than my potential. And like Kayleigh, I found a group of women who reached out to me, thorns and all, and showed me what the love of Jesus is all about.

Worthy of the wait

When I first worked as a volunteer in a pregnancy resource center, my aim was to save babies. These days, I’ve also become pro-life about the other people God puts in my path.

Even though I couldn’t have foreseen the blooming of Kayleigh, God has reminded me of the value of every person. Even if they don’t turn around, the “difficult” people are worthy of our attention. The teen mum. The troublemaker at church. The rebellious teenager. The family member whom no one wants to deal with.

God has a plan for every person we label “difficult.” We may be privileged to watch God’s plan unfold or be present when a new believer enters God’s family. Or we may just be the ones asked to love, care, give and serve with no guarantee of transformation.

God doesn’t give us previews. I think it’s because He not only wants us to love those who will transform but also those who might never change. He knows that when we give, love and serve, changes do happen—mainly within us.

How to Mentor Teens

  • Find ways to serve teens. Develop relationships by working in your church’s youth group, leading a Bible study or sponsoring a mission trip.
  • Be available to young mums through a maternity home or the crèche at your church.
  • Get involved with a pregnancy resource center.