Early in 2017, Cary Hendricks communicated with Perri Rosheger—H. E. Butt Foundation’s Executive Director of Constituent Relations—LLFC’s desire to partner with YoungLives and host a weekend retreat at Headwaters for teen moms and their babies. While this was a natural fit within the mission of LLFC, it meant adding an unscheduled “partner retreat” to the calendar which was already full and not in the annual budget. Funding would need to be in place in order for the retreat to happen.
Perri was fairly familiar with the organization of Young Life , but not as familiar with its work through YoungLives. In preparation for her upcoming fundraising efforts, she dug in and learned a lot about the ministry and its focus on teen moms and their children.
“In the months leading up to the December 2017 YoungLives retreat, my team and I worked with Cary, on the development side, to raise the necessary funds/grants,” noted Perri.
To keep the retreat costs low, Cary put out the all-call to H. E. Butt Foundation employees asking for volunteers for the YoungLives retreat weekend. Volunteers could serve in a variety of capacities—one of which was “baby holder.”
When the “baby holder” call went out, Perri couldn’t resist, but she didn’t yet know how her yes would personally influence the next year.
On retreat Saturday, Perri and several of her team members showed up to hold babies. And that is what they did. All day. Held babies and watched young, teen moms have the chance to play and be little girls (once again) for a short time while their babies were safe and cared for.
“I don’t really know what I expected, going out to Family Camp that day to volunteer, but it touched my heart to see how much those girls loved their babies—so sweet and so tender. The experience really tugged on my heart,” Perri recalls.
Being just about to send her youngest off to college, Perri was in a transitional season of her own—soon to be an empty nester for the first time. She often found herself asking all the usual questions: What’s next? How will I spend my time?
Over the next month following the retreat, Perri wondered if she could be helpful in some way, so she reached out to Courtney Garrison—the Regional YoungLives Coordinator—to learn more about the local Boerne chapter of YoungLives.
Courtney shared many needs—administrative and financial—which seemed like a perfect fit for Perri’s background. But Perri knew in her heart she wanted to be “with the girls.” Even though it was a bit outside of her go-to comfort zone, she wanted to be a mentor mom—a role that means coming alongside these young mothers and encouraging them along the way.
For the next two semesters, Perri committed to the sometimes uncomfortable, awkward work of building relationships with young moms. Consistently showing up to YoungLives Club on Mondays, she learned the girls’ stories—the hard parts and the sweet parts. She was committed to staying involved—even when it felt uncomfortable. In Young Life lingo, she was earning the right to have a voice in the girls’ lives.
When it came time for the second YoungLIves retreat at Headwaters, Perri attended not as a volunteer serving on the sidelines but as mentor mom taking part in the full experience with her girls and their babies.
“From a Foundation employee perspective, it was beautiful to take such an active part in one of our programs but on the other side—the user side.” Perri continues, “I really got to see how meaningful the space is and how hard and flawlessly our [LLFC/Foundation] folks work behind the scenes to make a retreat happen. I couldn’t tell where LLFC ended and YoungLives started—which is just what we would hope as an organization.”
Just as everyone predicted, the retreat changed everything about those relationships. All the uncomfortable, awkward, consistent time of the past year had in fact paved the way and gave Perri a place in the girls lives to share the 24/7 experience at Headwaters.
“We stayed in a cabin together. Shared meals. Held babies. Played. Laughed. Dressed up in funny costumes and danced through the decades. We had the time to relax and talk more deeply. We bonded,” Perri said. “We shared life in a different, 24/7, kind of way. The experience moved me from feeling like a sort of intruder in their lives to really being just a normal part of their lives.”
The girls come from all different backgrounds. Some of them have found themselves in adult situations where they had no boundaries or guidance. Some were simply left to their own devices as very young girls. Others come from a line of broken relationships and hard experiences. And others come from more stable home lives and backgrounds. “But one common thing I have discovered again and again—these young girls are making good decisions all the time. They are loving their babies so well,” Perri said. “And it’s my role to be an encourager in that—never a judge.”
After the retreat, Perri and her girls began a weekly small group bible study. This has offered the group opportunity to get to know one another well and talk more deeply about one another’s world views, questions, life experiences, and decisions. They are currently discussing The Bible’s Answers to 100 of Life’s Biggest Questions by Norman L. Geisler and Jason Jimenez.
The experience has changed Perri. “It has peeled back layers in me—my perspective, beliefs, and even biases I didn’t recognize. It has put me in a place that is not my comfortable ‘go to,’ but if we always do what is comfortable, are we loving our neighbor well? Loving is hard to do. It’s a call to be involved, be consistent, be committed.”