The story of how this mentoring foursome came to be began about four years ago when Carlos and Jonathan got involved in the men’s ministry at IBC. Carlos and Jonathan had previously worked together and were best friends when they attended an event that featured a particularly interesting talk about single parent families.
Jonathan recalls hearing staggering statistics about the number of single-parent families and the number of kids without a male presence in their lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, out of the 12.2 million single-parent families in 2012, more than 80 percent were headed by single mothers. Today, 1 in 3 children — a total of 15 million — are being raised without a father. The stories and statistics broke Jonathan’s heart and he felt God leading him to become a mentor, knowing that the picture God painted for families was not one of brokenness.
Carlos was also affected by what he had heard and had a personal reason for wanting to become a mentor. Carlos’ sister was a single mother and he had seen first-hand the struggles she and her son were going through. Although Carlos is very involved in his nephew’s life, he lives far away and is not able to be involved on a day-to-day basis.
Each for his own reasons, Jonathan and Carlos made the decision to make an impact in a child’s life and become mentors.
Enter the Laurendine family. Andrew and Zachary are 10-year-old twins who arrived in Dallas after Hurricane Katrina. Their mom, Zoe, still remembers what it was like to start over. “At the time, the boys were only two years old, and without the support of IBC, I don’t think we ever would have made it,” she says. “I was overwhelmed then by the spirit of generosity of the people of IBC; and through our involvement with the single-parent ministry and the mentoring program, I continue to be amazed and blessed.”
After the twins lost their dad in 2008, Zoe knew they would need some positive male role models in their lives. She had heard about IBC’s mentoring program in the single-parent ministry. At first Zoe was hesitant. After all, it’s hard to turn your children over to someone you barely know. “Will I be able to trust these men?” Zoe wondered.
But after talking with Ministry Assistant Marsha Tribbett, Zoe decided to have faith that God would bring the right mentors into the boys’ lives.
And so began a friendship between two best friends and two little boys.
“When we first met, the boys were a little shy,” says Jonathan. Carlos adds, “When they paired us up — me with Zachary and Jonathan with Andrew — it truly was a match made in heaven. Jonathan is more extroverted and into sports just like Andrew, while Zach and I are more introverts who like science and reading.”
He adds, “But the great thing is that with the four of us together, we all get to try new things and get out of our comfort zones. For example, while I loved playing soccer when I was growing up, football was not my game. But now we all enjoy a rousing game of football every now and then.”
Mainly, all four agree they just like to hang out together and have fun. The group joins other mentors and mentees in various activities including an annual camping trip, which is one of the twins’ favorite outings. Zachary especially enjoys listening to stories around the campfire. While the four like to have a good time, the relationships between them go much deeper.
“As the boys start to get older, they’ll have many other influences in their lives,” Carlos explains. “I want to be one of those influences and I am one hundred percent sure we are impacting their lives in a positive way.”
Jonathan agrees. “We get to see the boys grow into young men and see how God is using them, and us, and shaping their lives. Primarily we are there to be a steady, consistent presence. We talk frequently with their mom Zoe and help reinforce what she tells us is going on in their home. Sometimes we can just be the voice of reason with the boys.”
The twins’ mom Zoe can see the difference Jonathan and Carlos are making. “It really does take a village,” she explains. “You need to have good people in your children’s lives, more than just yourself, and these two young men are great examples of how to live the Christian life.”
Another way Jonathan and Carlos are modeling the Christian walk is doing community service together with the twins. Once a month, the four head downtown to serve the homeless where they pass out food and care packages. Serving together allows the boys to see another side of life and teaches them to be grateful for all the blessings they have.
The boys are not the only ones who are blessed by this mentoring experience. Zoe is grateful for the time she gets back when the boys are with their mentors. “Sometimes I can just go run errands, go to the gym or just stay at home and rest,” says Zoe. If you know any single parents, you understand that life is busy. Even Jonathan admits he now has an even greater respect for single parents. “I honestly don’t know how they do it. One day I took the twins to Main Event alone and I was exhausted!”
Carlos agrees and says he has also been greatly blessed by the whole experience, and that it has taught him to be a better parent himself. “As a fairly new father, this experience is helping me grow stronger in my parenting abilities. I am learning to be much more patient and understanding. It’s also great getting that big hug and seeing someone who is genuinely happy to see you. And those cards made out of construction paper — who knew such a simple act of kindness could mean so much?”
While both Carlos and Jonathan have started their own families, they are committed to the mentoring experience for the long term. As Jonathan explains, “I plan on being a part of Andrew’s life for the long haul. Why wouldn’t I be? I mean, I’m 30 and I still seek advice from wiser men, so why should it be any different with our relationship?”
And although Carlos has a job that requires a lot of travel, he too is committed to Zachary. “This is a huge commitment,” he admits, “but so worth it.” Carlos’ wife is also very supportive and encourages Carlos and Zachary’s relationship. And it’s not unusual for the whole crew to have dinner together or for the boys to be included in family outings.
Jonathan sums up the mentoring experience well: “As a mentor, I have come to realize just how blessed I am, and I want to see the boys blessed as well; I want them to be able to realize their dreams. These boys need us; they need you. Especially the way our culture is today, there are so many single-parent families and so many kids in need, especially young boys who need a strong, adult male role model. We all lead busy lives, but I think we need to prioritize how we spend our time. There is no special talent to mentor; all it takes to mentor a child is a heart to love and the willingness to be a consistent presence in their lives.”
And as for Andrew and Zachary, when asked how they would sum up the mentoring experience in one word — “grateful” and “awesome.” That about says it all.
Written by Peggy Norton.
The season of Lent is one of drawing closer to God through the discipline of self-examination and repentance.