“She didn’t make it.” I was confused. I didn’t want those words to mean what I thought they meant, but they did: Jacinto’s child had died. I met Jacinto at the beginning of the school year. He soon became a familiar face, one in whom I began to invest time. I quickly found out that he was yet another teen parent attending our after-school program at the Collings Teen Center as his 1 year-old daughter quickly managed to come up in our conversations. His love for her was obvious. His daughter lived with his girlfriend and he often got to spend time with them until her family moved to Stockton. At 16, Jacinto had no means of supporting himself, let alone a family. He attends the continuation school that most of our troubled youth get sent to; he hasn’t made the best decisions in his short life and this has led him into juvenile hall and probation. He is being raised by his mom and he tells me their relationship is full of problems.
Around the Teen Center, when you have a teenager with somewhat regular attendance who disappears for a while, it almost always means trouble. So when Jacinto disappeared for a while, I prayed and waited. A couple months passed and, finally, the week before Easter, he showed up again. Naturally, I was expecting to hear something about his daughter, but what he was about to tell me did not bring smiles or laughs as usual. He told me that his 1 year-old daughter had been diagnosed with cancer. My mommy heart sank deep into his hopeless eyes as he told me more about her situation. I told him I would be praying for him and that if he needed anything, all of us at the Teen Center would be here to help. I didn’t know that it would be another few months before I saw him again.
May 17, 2011. Jacinto was already at the door waiting for us to open when I arrived at the Collings Teen Center. We had been praying for him and his daughter the whole time he was gone, so I was anxious to hear an update about his sweet little baby girl. “She didn’t make it.” The weekend after we had last talked, she had gone into surgery, slipped into a coma and her precious little body just couldn’t fight it all off. One of the saddest parts for me was that he told me he couldn’t go down to Stockton to see her or go to her funeral. Soon after that, Jacinto and his girlfriend broke up after she miscarried the new baby they were expecting. I hugged him and pulled him aside where, to my surprise, he opened his heart and shared the chaos and darkness that lay within: feelings of depression, thoughts of suicide, confusion and frustration.
I could not fight off my mommy tears. Having lost two babies of my own and hearing everything he was telling me was almost overwhelming. My heart cried out to the Living God in the middle of our conversation.
Soon, a glimmer of hope came into Jacinto’s voice. “I want to give my life to God. And I want my mom to give her life to God.” He shared how he has started attending a local church and was becoming involved in their programs. He wanted to fight his urges to fall back into drugs and sex as a result of the tragedies in his life. Immediately, we prayed and encouraged him in the Lord and prayed for his mom to see the change in his life and want the same for her own life.
Jacinto is reading the Bible and trying to apply himself in school. He wants to start coming to Campus Life at the Center. Please pray for Jacinto and his mom, his girlfriend and her family, and for us here at the Collings Teen Center that we may be exactly what God wants us to be in Jacinto’s life and in the lives of the other teenagers who call the Teen Center home.
-Rosa Clements, Collings West Sacramento Teen Center