Author: Lori Apon
My husband and I trusted God with our family size. Sure, we tried to control the situation here and there but thankfully to no avail—God blessed us with EIGHT children in 10 years. When my oldest was just ten years old, the unthinkable happened, my husband chose to take his own life. The following two years were mixed with chaos and pain with sprinkles of hope here and there. The day before my husband died, God planted Psalm 68:5 as an anchor of hope deep within me, “I am a Defender of the widow and father to the fatherless.” Two decades later we are still holding onto that promise!
Walking through the valley with babies, toddlers, and elementary children was not easy, but God was faithful to carry me. As my firstborn approached her teenage years, I knew I could not handle this season alone. I remember God clearly instructing me to put together a group of mentors, I named our team the Mighty Mentors (M&M’s)! I had never heard of such a thing, but I knew I needed help. [At one point I peaked with six teenagers under one roof!]
As I considered mentors for my children, God brought people to my mind who were already involved in the lives of my kids—a teacher, a parent of their close friend, their grandparents, or coaches. I didn’t have to hold up a sign on the street corner, but rather I became intentional about asking couples to invest in my family during this important season of their teenage years. I knew they would need men since their dad wasn’t here, but also learned the value of couples. Including men and their wives on our team a balance of counsel offered to my family.
Here’s how the mentor board process worked for me:
First, I made a list of the people who already showed love and care to my children and sent them a letter expressing my need for mentors (see my sample letter below). I didn’t have a list of expectations for these mentors, I had never done this before—I just needed a safe group of advisors who would help navigate the variety of issues we would encounter with in this season!
Once the mentors agreed to support our family, I would communicate with them via email, a text group could work too! When a question or situation arose, I would send out an email giving some details and allow them to “reply all,” that started a discussion on how to move forward in wisdom. For me it was helpful to print out this info and store it in a folder so I could refer back to their words of help and wisdom! The notebook was GOLD – a real treasure to me!
Over the years, our mentors provided wisdom, direction, encouragement, and accountability. Without a husband and father in the home, both the mother and child lose their mediator and safe place to share. There were times when I would bring a conflict before my board feeling confident they would side with me on the wrong done by my child, but instead they would gently let me know that I was overreacting to normal teenage behavior. One story makes me laugh to this day—I bought my oldest son a brand-new baseball cap, and before the day was over, he had destroyed the rim of the cap so that it looked old and used. I was confident, and fearful, that the destructive behavior of my husband was a sin visiting the next generation! However, after discussing with my Mighty Mentor Team, that was not true at all. Old grunge wear was apparently the popular “new,” and his behavior was nothing to be concerned about. Whew for both of us! Taking deep breaths, I was able to relax with the support of mentors who felt sure my kids were going to grow up okay without a dad. On the other hand, mentors also provided necessary accountability, security, and confrontation of my teenagers when needed. Sometimes a conversation needed to occur that would be more easily received by my sons if the topic were discussed by a man.
You were not meant to raise your children alone! Even without a husband and dad here on earth, God has created provision for you in community. Do not be afraid to reach out for help—you will be surprised how much it blesses all involved, and takes a little stress off of you as well!
Invitation letter to a mentor:
As I stand at the threshold of the new season of raising teenagers, God is directing me to be intentional in my quest for support and integrity in all areas. I am writing asking you to consider being a part of my Mighty Mentor Team (M & M’s). This group will have a two-fold purpose in my life: Accountability for myself as God begins to open doors for ministry as well as providing mentoring for my children. You have been selected for a God-directed reason and purpose. You have shown an interest in what God has for me personally in ministry. It is also evident that you care for my children and have bonded with them in some way.
The mentor board would provide the following:
- An active sounding board who will hear my ideas and vision for ministry. I need people who will pray as they offer advice and direction. I plan to use email as the form of communication to honor your time and avoid excessive meetings.
- Wise counsel. You will be given permission to speak into my life and I will make myself ready to answer tough questions. I have also told my children that as you speak into their lives asking tough questions, they will have the same privilege with you – they will be free to ask you any question they have (of course within reason).
- Mentors for my children. I do not want to be like Sarah calling in Hagar to stand in the gap. However, I do feel that I need adults who will partner with me for a season ~ to allow God to be a daddy with skin on through you.
Mentoring my sons: The main mentoring purpose for my boys is to give me support as I begin dealing with intimate issues and conversations. You will come along beside us as a dad in areas I cannot gloss over or take lightly. I want to deal with topics my children need to be educated on and addressed with boldness, without apology, but with great wisdom. I believe in “innocent in evil and wise in what is good” – I have used that as I carry on conversations dealing with sex – I don’t want to give them a heavier suitcase than they can carry; however, I do want to be with them when they first begin to hear about and understand the gift that God will give them in marriage.
Mentoring my daughters: The main mentoring purpose for my girls is to give them role models – men who model Jesus as well as giving them a trusted group to ask questions on sensitive subjects.
I am aware that this group will need to be handled with utmost integrity which explains my reason for asking couples vs. individuals to be on the mentor board. The enemy seeks to kill, steal and destroy – I do not want to be unaware of his schemes. God brings life abundant . . . I believe this team can help me bring life abundant in this season for our family.
I am asking you to pray about making a commitment to be a part of this team for twelve-eighteen months. The introduction meeting will be on Tuesday, January 29th, 2002 from 7–9 p.m. at my house. My children will be there for the first part of the meeting to be with you and hear our guest speaker. I have asked Lori Salierno (author of “When Roosters Crow”) to share her accountability concept. After the brief message, the children will go to bed and I will share my heart and answer your questions.
Thank you for praying and considering this invitation.
I smile when I reread the above letter. I asked my mentors for an 18-month commitment, yet little did they know I would hold onto them for the next eighteen years! To this day, I could pick up the phone and call any one of these men and women and they would be there for me! This was one of the most valuable gifts God instructed me to include in our lives.