By the time Tina Thornton was in grade school, she already knew her way around pain. She was raised the daughter of a former nun who had become a Catholic sister to heal the pain of those in need, and her dad lived with the torment of kidney disease. The byproduct was that even though she was just a little girl, her radar for suffering was high and always on.
It may be the reason why she had a particular affection for certain kids at school that seemed to have a sadness about them. When she moved in closer and started up friendships, she found out their plight. They were kids without parents.
Tina may not have understood what that all meant; all she knew was that her “friends” were at the whim of a system that made them move away to new homes and families at a moment’s notice. And she didn’t like what that must have done to them. She also didn’t like what it did to her; she missed her friends.
She was watching TV with her mom one night and saw a commercial asking for donations to help orphan kids in other parts of the world. When she asked her mom about it, she replied that there were plenty of kids, such as foster kids, that needed the help of adults right in their community.
The problem suddenly seemed to be accessible and in her backyard. She vowed then that when she grew up, part of her life’s work would be to help foster kids.
She vowed then that when she grew up, part of her life’s work would be to help foster kids.
As an adult, she found herself living in Los Angles where she was even involved in the entertainment industry for a stint. After living life "her way" for several years, she realized just how far from God she had become. She realized that she had long-since loosened her grip on God, and what was once a strong and intimate relationship was almost unrecognizable. Worse was this realization: “Nothing in my life is of value to anyone else,” she thought. “More than happiness, I want fulfillment. The only way for me to do that is to serve others and to take the focus off of me.”
Recommitting her life to God, she set out to fulfill her calling. With a move to San Diego, she began to attend a church that she liked just fine, but it wasn’t as engaged in the community as she would have liked. That is when she visited Rock Church, and as providence goes, it just “happened” to be the first Sunday of the Do Something campaign. It lit her up like an electric charge to the heart. “This is where I’m supposed to be!” she exclaimed. “Doing something for others!” Immediately she looked down the ministry list and found what she was looking for.
Step Up Foster Youth Mentors is a Rock Ministry that matches committed Christians with foster youth in a life-changing one-on-one relationship. Mentors offer youth friendship, guidance, and support through Christ-centered eyes. Whether the child's placement moves or they are experiencing life's challenges, the one thing that remains consistent is the mentor. Stability is what every foster child desperately needs and so often does not have. Eager to begin a relationship with a youth, Tina was assigned to a junior high boy, M.
In time she would also take on his brother, D. The mentoring has spanned everything from schoolwork to manners and life skills to spiritual growth and plans for the future—everything.
“I’ve had the opportunity to pour into every part of these boys’ lives and help shape who they are,” Tina says. “It has been truly rewarding. I was so intent on doing something for them; the surprise is that they have blessed my life tenfold in return. My boys are incredible young men who love God with all of their hearts. I’m not sure who has received the most from this relationship, them or me."
Today, Tina is the Step Up Foster Youth Mentor Ministry Leader. "I had no idea all of those years ago when God put this desire on my heart to serve foster youth,” offers Tina, “what He was really preparing me for. In 2010 when I started with M and D, I knew that this was the beginning of me walking in HIS purpose. With every challenge and victory that the boys had, God was always leading my way. I was able to consistently share His love and reinforce that He had a plan and a purpose for their lives. When I was asked to lead this ministry a couple of years ago by the founder of the ministry, after prayerful consideration, I knew this is where God wanted me. His plan was not for me to just touch the lives of one or two boys, but to be able to lead this ministry to touch the lives of many. With almost 4,000 kids in foster care, the job is big. But with HIS help, all things are possible."
For information on how you can make a REAL difference and IMPACT the life of a child, contact the Step Up Foster Youth Mentors at [email protected] For upcoming Mentor Orientations, take a look at sdrock.com/fosteryouthmentor.