Finding Hope Amidst Heartbreak

“When people asked me where I lived, I used to make up something,” says 15-year-old Angela. “I didn’t want them to know. But now it doesn’t bother me so much. It doesn’t define me.”

Where Angela lives is a one-bedroom trailer with her mom, dad and five siblings. Most nights she sleeps on the floor, sharing couch cushions with her three younger sisters. Their trailer park sits in a small town on the edge of California’s Mojave desert. It’s an inconspicuous dot on the map where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

“It’s a place with a lot of heartbreaking stories,” says Val Kendall, whose husband pastors the First Southern Baptist Church in town. “A lot of broken families, gangs, drug abuse. There’s not much opportunity here, and that can make things pretty bleak for a lot of families.”

'She's been a mother to the little ones'

Angela’s is one of those families. Her father, a truck driver, is on the road much of the time. Her older brother, 17, has been in and out of jail. There are days when Angela is the oldest one in the home who is sober, so she takes care of the younger ones.

“She’s the one in the family that really watches out for the kids,” says Pastor Kendall. “She’s been a mother to the little ones, even when they were babies.”

Life-defining invitation

When Angela was 7 years old, a friend invited her to go to Awana one Wednesday night at the First Southern Baptist Church. She didn’t think she would like it, but she gave it a try.

“The games were fun, so I went back,” she says.

From that point, Angela started attending the Awana program on and off. Sometimes she wasn’t able to go because she had to take care of her younger brother and sisters. Sometimes she would pile them all into Pastor Kendall’s van and bring them along.

“At first, I went for the games and to have fun,” admits Angela. “It meant that I could get away from the park for awhile.”

Amazing changes

But over time, the Bible lessons and the unconditional love that the Kendalls showed her and her family started to make inroads.

“Over the last couple of years, Angela has really grown,” says Pastor Kendall. “I think things are still pretty rocky for her at home. But through all that, she’s starting to show a real hunger to know God’s Word. She’s starting to come out of her shell.”

Angela started going to church every Sunday, too. She has shared her growing faith with her family. As often as she can, she brings them to church with her.

“She’s even been able to bring her mom to church,” says Pastor Kendall. “She’s a witness and a positive influence in her home even though she’s just 15.”

“I think I have changed some,” says Angela. “I was the type of person that if I didn’t get my way, I’d throw the biggest tantrum. I would look for fights at school and in the neighborhood. But not any more.”

Staying on track with Christ

At school, Angela says all her friends know she goes to church and wants to follow Christ; she’s not afraid to talk about her faith.

“Learning the Bible and having friends at church is keeping me on track,” she says.

By all indications, that’s a track heading some place bright.