On July 16 of this year, I became the father of a teenager and it hit me: in the campus lifespan of a “super senior,” my daughter will be a freshman in college! I remember so distinctly just holding her in my arms for the first time. I can recall even speaking to her while she developed in my wife’s womb. As it’s commonly said, the days are long and the years are fast! My daughter is an amazing young lady and I trust wholeheartedly, as we do our best to equip her, she will be ready for the day when it’s time to leave our home.
As we celebrated her 13th birthday, I was leaving home to participate in feedONE’s vision trip to El Salvador. On this trip, I witnessed first-hand the power of feedONE and Convoy of Hope by touring their programs and meeting the people they impact.
One of our stops included their Early Childhood Development program, training teenage mothers how to connect and bond with their babies in utero. The class was similar in some ways to the birthing class I attended over 13 years ago with my wife when my daughter was born. I walked into the facility and saw 15 pregnant young women, close in age to my daughter, sitting in a circle, with several appearing as if the baby could come any day.
The class started with the importance of interacting and stimulating the babies while they developed. The feedONE workers facilitating the class passed out feathers and prickly rubber balls for the young women to rub along their clothed bellies. Immediately, thoughts of my newly teenage daughter and how she might feel if it was her sitting in that circle flooded my mind. I imagined how uncomfortable it may have felt for these young women to be in that situation and maybe even in this class. In an effort to ease any tension, I grabbed a prickly ball and participated in rubbing the ball along my own belly!
Now, yes, at certain angles I may appear that I’m with child, but everyone clearly knew I wasn’t the first pregnant man. The atmosphere quickly eased and even with the language barrier laughs ensued. Moments later, they were going to continue the activity with the feathers on their unclothed bellies, so the other male Chi Alpha pastors and I dismissed ourselves. That was also a very comedic moment!
Obviously teenage pregnancy is no laughing matter. However, I was so eager to see these young ladies smile. Their smiles and laughs reminded me of the laughter I often hear in my home. It was such a gripping feeling to think these children were going to be raising children. I deeply sensed God’s heart as a Father for them and the grace they will need in this life.
We later re-entered the room and joined them as the feedONE facilitator taught them how to make bracelets, teaching them a trade to potentially make an income. feedONE actually sells the jewelry the young mothers make. Not only did I make bracelets alongside the women, but I bought several pieces to bring home to my own children.
I noticed a young man join the class later and was observing from the perimeter of the room. It turned out he was the boyfriend of one of the young ladies and father of her baby. I invited him to join us in the bracelet making and was able to encourage him for making the effort to be there for his baby. At the end of our time, we prayed over the group of young women, the few mothers of the teenage moms, and that young man. We prayed that any shame would lift from them and they would encounter the Father’s love.
Teenage pregnancy is a great concern in parts of El Salvador. Education stops for some as early as sixth grade and many of these girls are told their only value in life will be to find a man. Not only that, they lack education about their bodies, and many find themselves to be a mother earlier than desired.
As usual, Convoy of Hope and feedONE sees a need and finds ways to fill it. Not only will feedONE feed these babies, but they will also feed the young mothers with an education to prepare and care for their children.
When I returned to the States, I gave my daughters and son those bracelets, sharing briefly about my experience and the challenges those young women and children face. I am now asking not only our students but also my own kids to make a difference in El Salvador and around the globe by taking on the challenge to feedONE!