Advent: Please tell us a little bit about your family history.
Leslie: I’m a recovering drug addict who for 17 years had lived a life of being abused. As a child I watched abuse in my own home, never feeling safe or cared for. After being two years clean I moved to San Jose and worked at Coco’s as a waitress. While there, I had a customer who was the director at Young Life Capernaum Project, which is a ministry to disabled youths. I volunteered for some time and then he asked me if I would like to work with him. It was an amazing experience and God was moving in my life.
Advent: What brought you to Advent?
Leslie: One night the Young Life director and I went to the Silicon Valley Charity Ball, a fundraising event where big corporations give to nonprofits. As I looked at the list of nonprofits, I saw that Advent was the first one. I read what Advent does and was shocked that there was a place for addicted kids. I wished I had known that before because at the time my youngest son was in his late teens serving time in San Quentin.
Advent: What was your next step?
Leslie: The following week I met with the Advent Friendship Family coordinator with the goal of getting involved. I became a Friendship Family (mentor) to one of the boys, but once a week I would go to all three boys’ homes and take chili to eat with the kids. I found that sharing meals with people is how Jesus fellowshipped and also ministered to them. I loved it. I then had my Friendship Family child live with me for a year. As I continued to be a Friendship Family to another teen, I also had Bible studies with the girls’ group homes.
Advent: You are currently resident counselor at Advent. How did that come about?
Leslie: In the summertime, Young Life invited the Advent kids to a retreat at Tahoe where I was the speaker. As I shared my life story, I told them of God’s love for them and how God has a plan for each one of us. It was wonderful to watch gang kids ask how God could love them after all they had done. I would pray for them and feel God’s presence move in them. One day the addictions counselor said she was leaving Advent and that Advent would be calling me about the position. I told her I already had a job. But here I am . . . 13 years as residential counselor at Advent!
Advent: I’ll bet you have lots of stories to tell.
Leslie: My time at Advent has been filled with great stories of what God does in the lives of these youngsters, and also sorrow of how the streets gobble up our kids. I have celebrated Phase 5 graduations, plus high school graduations. I have witnessed a birth, and I have also had a client name his firstborn Leslie after me. I have been able to watch kids’ dreams come true, such as going to college and living a good life. I have also been to funerals of boys who had been shot and murdered because of the gang life they fell back into. I have been grateful that I was able to witness their sweet spirit when they were at Advent, and I was able to be there for them while they were here.
Advent: Did you do anything special to celebrate your 23rd recovery birthday on September 3?
Leslie: Oh yes! I celebrated with a party for all of the Advent kids so they could come and share with me. The greatest gift I got from the party was watching the kids laugh and dance as they experienced having fun while being clean and sober. As I watched them, I thought, This is what Heaven is going to be like—complete freedom, laughter and joy! Thank you, Jesus, for giving the gift of Advent kids to me.
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