By Maggie Ingram
Dejanae Archie calls her son Drayton her second chance. When she found out at thirteen that she was pregnant, her first thoughts were of placing the baby for adoption. Family members wanted her to get an abortion. But God had other plans—plans for a future and hope for her and her baby.
Those plans included Quiana Head and Lawanda Clay who both work with YoungLives, an arm of Young Life. Young Life a ministry that serves adolescents through weekly meetings and weeklong camps, and YoungLives is the arm that provides a place with those same Christ-centered goals tailored for teenage mothers and their children. Head serves as area director, and Clay serves as volunteer coordinator.
“We know what these young mothers reach for when they’re most vulnerable,” Head said. “Because I know generally where they are and where they can be.” She knows exactly how they feel because she was exactly where they are. She had a baby when she was thirteen.
“I look in their faces and I see their fear. I feel their fear,” she said. When she heard about Archie’s pregnancy, she knew she needed to sit down with her and get her talking.
“I was so scared when I found out,” Archie said. “I was scared to tell my family. Quiana reached out to us. She came to our home and told me she understood what I was feeling.”
Head said that her own experience prepared her for this specific ministry. “I know what these young girls are up against,” she said. “I know what it’s like to trade a sport for a baby, to feel like you can’t make it up the hill because the baggage you’re carrying is heavier than anyone else’s.”
“What these girls need is a community that is supporting them and cheering them on,” she said. “That’s where we come in.” As area director, Head oversees the recruiting, educating, and training of mentors to serve in YoungLives. Clay organizes volunteers and makes sure things run smoothly. The group of anywhere from 12 to 15 young mothers meets every other week for Bible study, games, and skits. The mothers bring their babies and toddlers with them.
Clay said that her mother was a teenager when she had her and that when she first heard of YoungLives, she knew this was where her passion met her purpose. “I’ve always loved to help people, and I knew this was a place I could make a difference in the lives of young people,” she said.
Now, Archie is 18 and her son Drayton is 4. “When I heard about her pregnancy, they were already in freak-out mode and had already made the decision to have an abortion,” Head said. “I just asked if I could come over and talk to her and her mom.”
Head heard their stories and asked her to reconsider the abortion. “I told her I had a group who could support her and could connect her to places like the Center for Pregnancy Choices.”
That connection through YoungLives, a place of stability and a place to meet other young moms, has made all the difference. Knowing she needed a way to support herself and her son, she began braiding hair on nights, weekends, and throughout the summer. She will graduate from Pearl High School with a 3.6 GPA and will start classes at Alcorn State University this coming fall. She hopes to go to nursing school.
Head said when the moms graduate from high, some switch gears from participant to junior leader, and Archie plans to get involved with the branch in Natchez.
“These women have taught me to have faith. I know that whatever I face, whatever trials I go through, God has my back,” Archie said. “He was there when I was at my lowest, and He will see me through whatever.”
Archie said that the lessons she has learned by having a son have been deeper than anything she could teach him. “I’ve grown up a lot,” she said. “He is my responsibility and I did not want to put that on my mom. He’s not my mom’s, he’s mine, and I’m responsible for him.”
Knowing she had a few women in town that had her back and were cheering her on gave her the strength to press on. Having a community of other teenagers in the same boat as her has been a source of encouragement and normalcy in the chaos of raising a child.
In addition to the regular meetings throughout the year, YoungLives hosts summer camps, which Archie and Drayton have gone to twice. “I was so nervous to go swim at first,” she said. “I have all these stretch marks now, and then I saw the other moms who were my age and they were getting in the pool. They had stretch marks, too. It makes it easier when you see you’re not alone.”
For information about upcoming events or to volunteer with YoungLives, contact Quiana Head at 662.897.0141 or Lawanda Clay at 769.798.2139.
Maggie Ingram lives in Madison with her husband and three children. She is a homemaker and loves a good book. Feel free to contact her at email@example.com.