It happens every year around the second week of Advent: I find myself slightly overwhelmed by a list of pre-Christmas to-do’s, mixed with a constant buzz in my head of perfect gifts to buy and, oh yes!, final exams and papers and work obligations to complete. The stillness and prayerfulness that marked the beginning of this sacred season fade into a realization that time is flying and, Oh my, we’re near the end of the decade and What am I doing with my life?, But first thing’s first, I need to switch out the laundry! In the midst of this, we are gifted with two special feasts to honor a woman who very much understands: Mary, our Mother.
As I have settled into this time of Advent, in some ways I have been appalled at my own humanity. Call it the excitement of this time of year, or end of semester adrenaline, or December rain, but my normally steady interior state has been anything but. One day I am responding to the invitation to choose joy and encounter Christ in the stillness of my heart; the next I am spinning in a bout of melancholy, running through the laundry list of things I am confused or anxious or stressed about. I want trust in Jesus to make me steady and even-keeled and not so prone to emotional highs and lows, but I am humbly admitting that some days I definitely look more like a ship being tossed about on the waves.
This week in particular, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe are reminding me of the sweet gift it is to have Mary as a Mother, a woman who walked this same earth, who felt feelings, who experienced the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows while entrusting herself totally to the Providence of God. This Advent, and especially this week as we celebrate her feasts, our Mother is inviting us to do the same: amidst everything—both on the days that we are proud of our prayer time or heart of service and on the days when we feel just like a big mess of emotions—to set our hearts on her Son.
In January, Renewal Ministries welcomed Be Love Revolution (BLR) into its family. Be Love Revolution is an outreach primarily to high-school-aged young women that is led by Debbie Herbeck and a team of young adult women with hearts for serving the next generation.
“I am very grateful—and in amazement—how Be Love Revolution has grown to reach more and more young girls and help them establish strong identities in Christ,” said Renewal Ministries’ President Ralph Martin. “What a valuable service in such challenging times! We are honored to have BLR join the Renewal Ministries family of ministries that are strengthening men and women, boys and girls, all over the world.”
Renewal Ministries’ Vice President Peter Herbeck agrees: “This is a mature ministry that has successfully mobilized young women from elementary through high school and college and is doing a very effective job of making disciples. They are talented and inspiring young women who are hungry to love as Jesus loves.”
BLR officially began in 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the intention of creating a culture that helps young women develop a personal relationship with Jesus and grow into mature disciples. Its mission is three-fold:
Be His: Help young women know the personal and transformative love of Jesus.
Be Free: Form young women to live freely and confidently as daughters of God.
Be Love: Equip and empower young women to be God’s love in the world today.
Today the ministry “spreads its net wide” to reach large numbers of young women at its weekly event called “Beloved,” which features practical talks, testimonies, small groups, and praise and worship. BLR also reaches large numbers of young women at retreats and Pine Hills Girls’ Camp. An important part of BLR’s ministry, however, is reaching smaller numbers through women’s groups, Bible studies, mission opportunities, and one-on-one mentoring; those smaller numbers are intentional, Debbie explained. In fact, the key to BLR’s success is that it has moved away from a programmatic approach and into personal mentoring and discipling.
“We have lots of girls involved, but I see tremendous fruit from the smaller groups and our more personal times together,” said Debbie. “Girls have a place to share their lives and be accountable to each other. They are growing as disciples, and being equipped and empowered as leaders. It’s inspiring to see the older girls leading retreats, giving talks, and praying and caring for their younger sisters in Christ. It’s an environment of faith where everyone is learning how to love.”
“Accompanying, discipling, and being with girls—it works,” added Debbie, who has thirty-five years of experience in youth and women’s ministry, leading Pine Hills Girls Camp, mission work, speaking, and writing. “In today’s culture, young people need personal care and formation, not just information. Mentorship is not passive; we walk with them day in and day out, helping them to confidently choose Christ.”
“Mentorship is an investment in someone’s life,” she continued, “and it can be hard to do because it takes time, energy, and patience. By being present we want to remind them in a visible and tangible way that they are loved and valued.”
According to one high schooler, “I’ve grown as a daughter of Christ; I’ve learned to face my fears, try new things, and I don’t have to worry about being judged by others.”
BLR was featured on a 2018-19 episode of The Choices We Face. Afterward, Debbie said they received dozens of calls from women who want to implement BLR in their parish or school—which reflects the “hunger and need for this kind of ministry to young people.”
BLR has begun expanding outside of the Ann Arbor area. According to Debbie, there is a fledgling chapter in Maryland and one starting in Lansing, Michigan, that is “ready to go, has the vision, and has the support within the local high school and parish.” Groups in northern Canada, Kansas, and even someone in Italy have all expressed interest in establishing BLR in their communities as well.
Debbie said, “If women have a vision for what we are doing and the ability to not just run a program, but to invest in and mentor young women—to create a culture of love—then they can do what we are doing. Saint Mother Teresa is our model because we believe that loving the person right in front of you is possible for all of us, and this causes a ripple effect. We sincerely believe we can transform the world through a revolution of love—one person at a time.”
This article originally appeared on the blog for the Be Love Revolution, which you can view here.
Many Decembers ago, in a small dorm room at the University of Michigan, a miracle happened. The God of the Universe broke into my selfish and sinful heart. That night after months of searching, my unnamed longing was revealed to me in the person of Jesus the Messiah, and through my feeble YES, faith—as new as the baby Jesus—was born in my heart.
Now as a disciple of Jesus I’m trying to help others, especially young women, to know, love, and follow Him too. My idea of a great week is Pine Hills Girls Camp, being on mission in the garbage dump in Mexico City, an early Tuesday morning bible study at the local coffee shop, and being with my grandchildren.
Yet despite all the good things and God things in my life, I am prone to discouragement, and at times I struggle with HOPE. After many years of following Jesus, I have faced great joy and great pain, triumphs and disappointments, answered prayers and ones that seem to fall on deaf ears. But during the season of Advent there is a truth that has helped me cling to and grow in hope. Hope is a Who. I know this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book title, but hear me out…
When I was pregnant with each of my children I was filled with such expectant hope because I was preparing to giving birth to a real person, not a theory or a concept, but a real, living person with a name (Sarah, Michael, Joshua, Rachel), a face, an identity, a personality, and a purpose. I couldn’t wait to welcome that little person into our life.
Advent helps me remember that God who really exists—not as an idea, a philosophy, or theory—was born into our world as a human person, with a name (Jesus), an identity, a personality, and a purpose. Hope is a Who. My hope is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ and the certainty of what God has promised in Him. My hope isn’t based on my feelings or circumstances which change constantly, or in material things which break and wear out. My hope in others can bring disappointment, and hope in myself incites self-reliance and often ends in failure.
What fills me with hope is Jesus’ unbreakable promise: “I am with you always.” The name Emmanuel, God-with-us, reminds me that I am never alone, that he came to earth to set up his dwelling within me; that he will never leave me or forsake me. True hope isn’t anchored in my word, on wishful thinking or what I want, but on what the sovereign, loving God knows I need, revealed to me in the Word made flesh, and the rock-solid truth of the Scriptures.
Hope has a name and His Name is JESUS. When the light of hope fades within you, like it does in me sometimes, I challenge you to speak, proclaim, and praise the name of Jesus with the confidence of a trusted friend. Let your hope grow—not in what is to come or in what may be, but in Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah who has come to make His home in us. This Christmas, may Jesus, the Hope of the world, find a welcome place in our hearts.
There are some words used in the bible that we just don’t hear very often in our modern world, and so they fail to carry their weight. “Behold” is one of those words that has begun to fascinate me, because Jesus used it to grab our attention and make a really important point.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with them , and they with Me.
I went to Webster’s Dictionary for a little help with this word:
be·hold, averb. To see or observe (a thing or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one). To look with deep understanding; to take your breath away, to give your undivided attention to.
This definition rattles me a bit, because it’s so hard to do. To behold someone or something, and in particular, to “behold Jesus”, means stopping still, ceasing all other activities, and giving my full attention and searching gaze to Him. He stands knocking at the door of my heart and says, “I’m here, look at (behold) me!” He will not enter in uninvited, where there is no space or place for Him. But the instant we ask Him to come, He is there.
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to Mexico City. Both of my parents and my two older siblings had gone and I expected it to be a life-changing experience. But I couldn’t anticipate the way that my heart would be broken out of love for each person I encountered and how these encounters would change my outlook on my life.
We spent three days in the garbage dump, where thousands of people live and work every day, and from the first moment when I gave Giovanni a “caballito” (a piggy back ride), I experienced total freedom to love and be loved. These people have none of the things we often value as most important—money, homes, possessions, important careers, or status. Yet I have never experienced such rich and radical love as they welcomed each of us into their lives with loving, open arms. I never once worried about what I looked like or if I was saying the right thing, which I often worry about at home. These people just loved me, and despite their horrific conditions, they exuded pure joy and thoughtfulness. The way that these people love broke my heart, because although they have nothing, they love with a generosity and lavishness, while I who have much more, often love less.