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Church helps teens become better moms


Jamie Hurst, 18, feeds her daughter, Taelor, who was born prematurely last May.  UMNS photos by John Gordon.

By John Gordon*
March 7, 2007 | WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.  (UMNS)

Instead of finishing her senior year in high school with friends, Jamie Hurst, 18, has some new responsibilities-caring for her infant daughter and working to help pay the bills for her family.


Members of the Teen MOPS group learn about budgeting.

"There are times where I just go, 'Man, I wish we would have waited,' because I don't know how I'm going to get through this next step," said Hurst.

Her daughter, Taelor, was born prematurely last May. Hurst, then 17, took time off from school to care for her child, and she and her husband live with his parents while the young couple works at a fast-food restaurant.

Hurst is not alone as she struggles to raise her daughter. She and about two dozen teen moms and mothers-to-be get help and encouragement from the Teen MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) program at First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette.

"They get funny looks in the grocery store-the 'babies having babies' comments that people make," said Melissa Garcia, a church member who coordinates the ministry. "So it's nice for them to know that there are people out there that do want to help them."

MOPS members attend weekly meetings and learn about writing job resumes, performing CPR on infants and balancing their family budgets. They also enjoy dinner and arts and crafts. 

For attending the meetings, members earn credits that can be used to shop at the MOPS Mart for diapers, toys, clothing and other baby items donated by church members.

"We couldn't afford a lot; we don't make that much money," said Hurst. "If it wasn't for MOPS, we wouldn't have half the stuff we do."

Seeking a better life


Melissa Garcia coordinates a teen mom ministry at First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette, Ind.

Hurst is taking correspondence courses from her high school and is determined to return to classes and earn her degree. After that, she plans to attend a business school and, one day, start her own business.

"The one thing that helps me is I look at that little girl and I know that I need to do things that are going to get me to a place where I can afford everything that she needs," said Hurst.

The church provides transportation for the teen moms, and church volunteers also serve as "mentor mothers."

"Just having someone to talk to makes a difference, especially if they've stopped going to school and they're at home with that baby all the time," said Garcia.  "… A lot of them have very low self-esteem. And they don't have good role models to learn from."

Overcoming fear of judgment

Garcia believes some teen moms are nervous about coming to a church for the program.

"I think that they're afraid of being judged. And if I were 16 and pregnant, a church might not be the first place I would want to go, either." -Melissa Garcia I think that they're afraid of being judged," she said. "And if I were 16 and pregnant, a church might not be the first place I would want to go either."

MOPS member Candice Pigee, a 10th-grader who cares for her 18-month-old Angel, said the program has given her good advice as well as clothes and diapers.


Candice Pigee and her 1-year-old daughter, Angel, enjoy dinner provided by the Teen MOPS ministry.

"It's nice to actually talk to other teens that have kids, too, kind of going through the same problem you are-being pregnant, young, trying to get through school, and actually understand," said Pigee, who lives with her mother and wants to finish high school, attend college and become a nurse.

Garcia says many teen moms face rejection from their families, making raising their children even more difficult.

"For them to want better is often a big step outside of their comfort zone," she said.  "We want to help them be the best mothers they can be."

Teen moms often were seeking love and affection when they became pregnant. "They still need that," said Garcia. "If you see a young mom in the grocery store, just smile at her. Sometimes that makes a big difference."

*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.

News media contact: Fran Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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