by Amy Jacober
What happens when a teenager has a vision from God and a praying mom who takes her seriously.
Every once in a while there is a teen situated in that sweet spot of being open to the voice of God and surrounded by adults who will help discern what to do with the message. Every time I hear a story like this, I can’t help but wonder, would more miracles happen if we as youth leaders fostered such things in our youth and their families? I can’t say for sure. But what I can share is what happened when I met a teenager who had a vision and a praying mom who took her seriously.
Courtesy of this dynamic duo, my first waking sensations on the island of Kauai were more magnificent and breathtaking than any dream I have ever had. The sound of a gentle rain and anticipation of a day filled with laughter, praise, hard work and honest talk about God lay ahead. We were on Kauai for a week of camp. Not a bad way to spend time, especially being wired for ministry. I kind of figured it was like payback for all of the camps and retreats I had done with mattresses that resembled blankets and shared bathrooms and cold showers. It was in this idyllic setting that I met Shealynna Ringor.
Shealynna, a recent high school graduate born and raised in Hawaii, is a force to be reckoned with. Her smile lights up a room. Spend a few moments with her and you realize that her effervescent laughter and willingness to laugh at herself is contagious and a characteristic implausibly better than that smile. Just a few moments more with her and you learn that her heart eclipses both her smile and effervescence. To outsiders, she looks like a stereotypical teenage homecoming queen. She is anything but.
Shealynna Ringor had a vision between her sophomore and junior year in high school. I don’t mean some thoughts on what might be. I mean an honest to goodness, literally see this as if it were happening in front of her eyes kind of vision. “I see myself on stage, in front of me were all kids with disabilities worshipping–a glimpse of heaven.” She went on to elaborate this vision of teens who had been rejected by many in the world, most often teased or isolated. Only in her vision, they were in a place of pure joy. All of the heartache and loneliness were eclipsed by singing, laughing, raising hands and worshipping together the holy and living God. At the end of her sharing her experience, she stated that she was “so confused at the vision.” She says that, while a part of a church and youth ministry and certainly a believer, she wasn’t actively seeking to change the world or even her own life. Visions were certainly not a typical part of the youth group conversation. Not knowing what to do with this vision from God, Shealynna sought the person she trusts most in the world: her mom.
Finding someone who believes in you is a rare enough gift. Finding someone who will believe in you when you have no idea what the heck you are seeing is amazing. Sheila Ringor is a woman of prayer; in fact, she is the state coordinator for Hawaii with Moms In Touch and is the powerhouse mom of Shealynna. As Sheila listened to her daughter, she began to pray for what this would mean in their lives. In one of those crazy, only God could have orchestrated this kind of moments, Sheila found some direction. Through Moms In Touch, she read an article where one mother talks of her daughter’s autism, their blessed experience with God, and a ministry known as Capernaum. Sheila read that article and contacted Nick Palermo, the founder of YoungLife’s Capernaum ministry. Shortly after, Nick flew to Kauai to pray and talk about what a ministry with teens with disabilities might look like for them. This mother and daughter were hooked and believed to their core that they were to pursue the fulfillment of Shealynna’s vision. They shared this vision with another family, the Munozes, whose daughter has Down’s Syndrome. Together they all began to dream of what might be. In the summer of 2010, all four saved up and headed to the mainland for a week of camp designed for teens with special needs. There was no turning back.
In one short year, the vision turned into a reality. They gathered a community of likeminded helpers, engaged the community, and sought out teens with special needs from all over the island of Kauai. By September of 2010, Kauai experienced its first ever YoungLife Capernaum club. Each month they held club. And each month more people got involved. The vision steadily grew into a reality. But the best was yet to come.
Fast forward to summer 2011. Sheila and Shealynna, still an intregal part of the ministry, were there for the first YoungLife Capernaum Day-camp. Leaders and buddies, campers and a support team were all gathered from all over the island with a few volunteer supporters from the mainland for one week of an amazing adventure designed to share God’s love with friends who are most often left out and overlooked. When I asked Shealynna what it was like to be a part of camp that week, knowing that it was her vision that had been the catalyst for dozens of lives to be changed, she humbly said it “doesn’t feel like it’s real. I don’t grasp this at all.” Perhaps it didn’t feel real because within two years, people throughout Kauai gave of their time and money, the mayor of Kauai came to visit the day camp, and 16 volunteers from the mainland spent thousands of dollars of their own money to spend a week in Kauai not sitting on a beach but working with teenagers with special needs, all in order to participate in Shealynna’s vision.
The ministry is currently headed up by Ana Munoz, the mother who went to camp in Arizona with her own daughter and Shealynna. Shealynna said that it was “hard at first with so much vision but I had to let go and watch Ana run with it.” The vision is coming true. Shealynna did her part in being obedient to share with others publicly what God was telling her privately.
I am blown away by this young woman and her mother. They each took a tremendous risk: Shealynna in sharing a vision that she never dreamed would amount to anything, and Sheila in discerning God’s message through her daughter. I love that a mom was willing to take her daughter seriously and change the world based on her daughter’s vision. All of us who work in youth ministry can take a lesson from both of these women.
Shealynna has just begun her freshman year at Biola University where she plans to study speech pathology. I asked her at the end of camp what she would say to any other teenager out there open to hearing from God. “I don’t feel like I’m anything special. Once you surrender to God, the things He does are so worth it. And what the devil does makes it hard…but God, the kind of love that you were born for, makes it happen.”
Amy Jacober is the proud mom of two beautiful girls and wife of one husband. They spend loads of time as a family doing ministry together. When not at camp or on a mission trip, they can be found at home cooking and playing games. She is a professor of youth ministry, serves as a volunteer with teens and loves to write and read with the intent of being a part of kingdom work. She has most recently authored The Adolescent Journey and has two new projects in the works.