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He'll Make it Happen

Psalm 139:16 (NIV) says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

The Lord planted the seed in my heart to work with youth forty-two years ago, when I was only five years old. I did not know then that my little innocent heart would experience such wild turns through life. There would be heart breaks, rejection and insurmountable pain. The journey to nurture the seed He had planted would take me through some dark pits, but when He would finally get me to where He needed me, it would ALL be for a greater purpose.

Missionary Jim Elliot once penned, “Give what you can not keep to gain what you cannot lose.” I add to those famous words, “You invest in what you value”. Both have become my mantras, driving me to follow the purpose God deposited in my heart, Beloved Mentoring.

In a recent conversation with my son on the topic of purpose, I reflected on my own journey and realized I had always had a desire to work with children and youth. As early as five years old, my dream career was to be a child psychologist or pediatrician. As I grew into my teenage years, I realized I still wanted to work with youth, but had some thoughts about that work being in the medical field. I enjoyed being a Sunday School Teacher and a Missionette’s Teacher at my local childhood church so I thought teaching would be a viable second option to pursue if being a child psychologist did not work out.

When I was ready to graduate high school and pursue my dream, my life took a swift shift. I was rejected by my dream university. This rejection caused me to lose a scholarship I had received from my father’s company at the time and I was devastated. I had not prepared for “Plan B” and I had to pick up my heart’s broken pieces and attend community college. I quickly spiraled away from God and lost sight of my dreams, my focus, my purpose, my desires and everything I had wanted to do with my life. I was already angry with the many things that had not gone the way I planned with my life and that is when I began to date my daughter’s father. Ultimately, as a result of my relationship with him, my dreams of ever being a child psychologist were long forgotten.

At twenty years old I became a single parent and a college drop-out. I was forced to work three jobs at times in order to make ends meet. My love and skills working with children was still there, so I was able to secure employment at a daycare for several years. That also afforded me the advantage to stay close to my daughter, something that reignited my passion to work with youth.

Fast forward a few years and, by the grace of God, I was given a great opportunity to become a police officer. As a result, I was able to start a career in law enforcement at the Camden City Police Department. I can still recall my first engagement mentoring young people back in 1995. I was in the area of North Camden painting over gang graffiti and encouraging young people to stay off the street and off drugs. Somehow, I knew this was something I wanted to continue to do. Later that year, the same area I was assigned to patrol experienced a horrific loss. A young lady had been sexually assaulted, brutally murdered and her body was left behind the middle school I had attended. It was such devastating news to the entire community. This brought us all together as a community and the local police units that patrolled the area started what became a Christmas event- “Santa and Me”. We started a collection of toys and a special breakfast for the kids in the local area.

My work and love for the youth in the community grew and one of my Sergeants encouraged me to go back to college. He even arranged for me to take my lunch break during my shift, go to school and then come back to work. That’s how God’s Favor was working behind the scenes. I went back to college part time and completed my associates degree. In the meantime, God was intricately working behind the scenes and directing all my steps. While the Upper Administration was having their meetings, my name was mentioned and by 1997 I was promoted and moved to Juvenile Bureau. There I was able to work with numerous young people and got involved in several mentoring programs. God was teaching me and showing me the need.

I continued to work with different mentoring programs and in 2011, I was assigned to oversee some of those mentoring programs and develop a new one for the police department. By the end of 2013, the agency was closing its door and I thought my time of mentoring young people was over.

As God was transitioning me to a new season, He was also expanding my territory. I moved from a municipality to a county level and the opportunities increased exponentially. When hired on the spot, the new Sheriff advised me she was in the process of starting a new mentoring program and she wanted me to be part of this program. I committed to helping her get it off the ground and assisted her with whatever she needed. Seven months later, the Equestrian Mentoring Program became the first of its kind in the county. It has been successful for the past six years and I thank God that I was part of its success. I got to be a part of helping young people change their lives.

I recall one day just writing little notes in my work notebook and asking God, “What if I could run one of these youth mentoring programs at church?” It was an Aha moment! I wrote all these God ideas down. Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV) Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” I then shared my thoughts with my daughter and asked her to think of a logo based on the ideas that were written.

I recall receiving a random text from my Pastor Charisse one early morning, asking me what was in my heart. I just wept because I knew God was answering my prayers. I shared the vision of Beloved Girls Mentoring and the rest is history.

Beloved Girls Mentoring was launched in 2018 for young ladies five to eighteen years old to empower, educate and encourage them to see themselves the way God sees them. The mission is to equip them with the powerful truth of the Word of God and biblical applications that can be applied to their daily lives, as they learn to walk their purpose into destiny. I am honored I get to work with a great group of volunteer mentors who have said yes to the same call, building young ladies for His Kingdom.

As Beloved Mentoring continues to expand in 2020, we will be at three different locations - High Place Church, our home base, Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden and City of Hope Church in Pennsauken. We will also be adding new activities as the year progresses so stay tuned!

I’ll finish with this, the term, “It came to pass” is found in the Bible 453 times. Let that stand as a reminder that it does not matter how long it takes. If God takes a lifetime or forty-two years to cultivate the seed He has planted, like He did in me to make it flourish, He will make it happen.

Lilly Cruz-Williamson

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