Devonte with his team leader in 2009
An Adoptive Mother’s Heartfelt Words of Thanks
I want to write this letter to say thank you for the opportunities you have given my son Devonte. He has been an LIT (Leader in Training) for the summer and continues. This has changed his attitude toward others. He has learned compassion for the children and adults. He has grown in his faith. He loves to give to others. What a pleasure it is to see him growing into a fine young man.
Before he started this journey he was very self absorbed and really cared very little or had no concern for others. He came to us at age 8 years and had already endured more than an adult should have, let alone a child. He was angry and just terrible to others. The one thing he looked forward to as a child was the weekends he got to spend at Youth Haven. Over the years of camp he grew to love the camp and at 15 years he asked if he could try to be in the LIT program. How grateful I was to have him be given this chance!
Both Devonte and I want to express our thanks for him to have this wonderful opportunity.
Elizabeth Williams, Devonte Williams
Names and photos used with permission.
Devonte as an LIT in 2015
Dear Youth Haven,
Your camp has impacted my life immensely. I was in a very bad spot when I came to you guys, and you helped me see that God is still there to love me and help me through the hard times… You guys, this camp, has helped me move through those hard times blocking my way, with faith and love. Before you guys, I lost my way, but all of your lessons and meaningful team talks have been wonderful in helping me restore my relationship with God.
I am very proud to say I’m training to be an L.I.T. (Leader-in-Training). I love being able to take part in helping kids find God like you guys did for me. I love it when kids come to me and ask questions about things they don’t understand, or just to ask me to play a game. Youth Haven brings out the best in a lot of people, from kids to adults.
The following letter was written by a teen who has been part of our programs since she was seven years old:
“A few weeks after I had turned 3 years old my real father died in a semi wreck and was killed instantly. My real mother took his death and decided to make some wrong choices. She got into a relationship with an abusive drug addict. She did these things with him and he would hit and try to hurt me and my siblings. The courts found out and gave my real mother a choice: him or her children. Sadly she chose him instead of us, because of the things he gave her that ‘made her feel good.’
“So because of this we were put into the adoption services and sent different ways. Me and my little brother, who was almost 1 year old at the time, went from house to house. But no one would take us. I felt unwanted and unloved. Then I remembered that my school had taught me that God was there for me. But times kept getting tougher and I pushed God away. Blamed him for everything that had happened and forgot about him.
“Then my great aunt and uncle, who we call Mom and Dad, decided to take me and my little brother. So they adopted us, along with the five other foster kids before us. My dad was a construction worker and a roofer. My mom was retired at the time. But she used to be a social service worker and would drive foster kids to Youth Haven Ranch.
“So my mom told me about the camp, and when I turned seven I came there as a rancher. I used to only go there for the activities and the kids I can make friends with. But that was only until I met the Youth Haven staff. They opened up my eyes and told me that God really was there. That he would help me push through the hard times and give me the strength to move forward. So then all I wanted to do was come to Youth Haven to learn more about God.
“When I turned 13 I decided I wanted to become an LIT. I decided to make this decision because of all the LIT’s I had seen before, and because I wanted to teach other people what I knew about God. So I took my training and became an official LIT. I’ve been one for about a little over a year. But even through this I went through hard times. My dad (great uncle) was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died on Valentine’s Day. Also my mom and I didn’t, and still don’t, get along. She had always favored my brothers, and worked me like a maid. She has treated me badly and I’m not fully considered family anymore. But I know that God is there for me and that it is my job to share my testimony and relate to others to help them. So I’ve kept coming out to help the kids understand the meaning of having God as our Savior.
“I love helping others and I know you do, too. I just love seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing I made a difference. I know that what you do really does make a difference because I was once a rancher and I have the experience. So I want to say thank you for everything you do!”
These past few years have been tough but you guys have always been there though you’ve not always known it. Through the years I’ve learned how to distrust a man to stay because my dad couldn’t stay, and my grandpa died, my stepdad left and it has been hard to trust men but you are so awesome you taught me to trust again. Keep smiling and working for God. Love you always.
My first time coming to Youth Haven was when I was seven. I had the time of my life. But I was terrified at first because it was a completely new environment. Regardless, everyone was welcoming and kind! The staff at Youth Haven have a knack for making everyone feel welcomed and just like family. It’s amazing how loving and generous every single person at Youth Haven is. It’s because of these wonderful people that I am who I am and that so many other children feel like they finally have a home somewhere. A special thanks to the phenomenal people who generously give donations to Youth Haven so they can continue doing what they do so well; help children understand how much God loves them.
Thank you, Youth Haven, for giving me a home away from home.