June 25, 2019
Kimberly Offutt, Bethany's national director of foster care adoption, reflects on her experience with the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Hope for a better future
Hope for a better future is exactly what 250 young men and their mothers received at the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program—a camp for young men that has a parallel program for single moms.
Inspired by our faith, Bethany Christian Services seeks to serve the overlooked and ignored (Matthew 25:40). We’ll never stop fighting for vulnerable children and families because we believe every child deserves to be loved, connected, and safe. So when we had the chance to partner with the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation—an organization that shares our mission to serve, empower, and enrich families—we knew God was up to something.
Over Father’s Day weekend, Bethany had a unique opportunity to send 30 teens (and their mothers) in our network to the camp in Georgia. This four-day, power-packed camp is designed to encourage and uplift young men who are growing up without engaged fathers and remind these young men of their greatness.
Challenging single mothers to dream bigger
As a mother attending the camp, this much was clear to me from the onset: my sons would connect and engage with some incredible mentors, learn valuable principles about manhood, and return to me changed. What I didn’t realize was what the camp had in store for the mothers. Our lives, too, will never be the same.
In the opening session for mothers, Mr. Harvey challenged us to dream. He encouraged us to create a vision board, clearly depicting our goals, dreams, and aspirations—for ourselves and our families. We were also given homework: to write a list of 175 things we want for ourselves.
“Don’t limit yourself to the things you think you can do or the things you think you can have,” Mr. Harvey said. “Dream bigger.”
He then showed us his vision boards and spoke about the power of God’s Word. He reminded us that it’s biblical to “write the vision and make it plain” (Habbakuk 2:2). Image by image, he told the story of how each item on his vision board manifested into reality in his life. It was encouraging to know that our sons would hear this same message and be assigned this same homework. What a powerful tool for all of us to take back home.
The Single Mother’s Enrichment Summit was two full days’ worth of motivation, inspiration, education, empowerment, and connection. But greater than all of that, ministry happened. Women entered the Summit with smiles on their faces, masking heaviness in their hearts. Many were dressed to impress, yet cloaked in hidden shame. Some mothers carried the pain of trauma from childhood. Some carried grief over broken relationships in adulthood. In their motherhood, all carried the pressure of raising their sons alone.
We thought we were here for our sons, that the weekend was about them. We rearranged schedules, secured childcare for younger siblings, and made the financial sacrifice to take time off from work for our sons, because we knew they desperately needed what they would receive from this weekend.
Sisters, bound for life
But God—in His infinite wisdom and deep love for us—knew we needed so much more.
God’s presence in that place released everything holding us back from living the life He’d designed for us. We experienced His love, His forgiveness, and His grace as each speaker brought light, clarity, and understanding to certain areas of our lives. They encouraged us to never compromise our authenticity, let fear paralyze our greatness, or “put a question mark where God has put a period.” We moved from fear and doubt about our potential to great belief in who we are and Whose we are. Each speaker challenged our self-defeating beliefs and spoke light into our dark places.
Not only did we receive motivation, inspiration, and encouragement to believe and receive greater for our lives, we also received practical tools. We learned how to look ahead to higher education options for our sons, including how to find scholarships and financial aid. We explored natural resources for our health—mind, body, and soul. A panel of lawyers joined us to talk about family law and answered questions that were pertinent to our situations. We were also gifted with books, referrals, and fun giveaways. This time with other mothers, speakers, and the Harvey team became more of a gathering of sisters, bound together for life.
Returning to our young men
We returned to our sons on Sunday with a new fire, fight, and determination; in so many ways, we were new women. As we reflected on the weekend, many mothers said, “Chains were broken.” With hearts full of pride, we watched our young men return, standing tall—spines straight, heads up, and eyes focused. They had a strength in their walk we hadn’t seen before. They shared joy in their smiles, pleasure in their laughter, and a sense of camaraderie. Our sons made lifelong friendships with other young men but also connections with many of the mentors there. These men—fathers themselves—sacrificed time with their families to pour into our sons, and for that we are eternally grateful.
We can’t thank the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation enough for investing in our sons’ lives and in ours. Thank you for reminding us that our sons are kings and to continue speaking to the greatness in them. And thank you for helping us see our own beauty and worth.
Most of all, thank you for partnering with Bethany to break the cycle of fatherlessness and for the work that will continue on behalf of children and families.