West Homestead Spiritual Formation Director Announced

West Homestead Spiritual Formation Director Announced

After thirteen years of faithful ministry, Wanda Ashworth-Valencia is moving to be closer to family in July.  As we looked to hire a Spiritual Formation Director, one of the many roles she filled, we sent job requests to seminaries, partner ministries, and made online postings to seek the best candidate to lead this important aspect of our programming.  We looked across Miami-Dade County and across the country for the right person to guide our children and youth.  After numerous interviews, we found no one with as great sense of passion, understanding of the West Homestead community, and experience with youth as our very own Martin Villa.

As many of you know, Martin first came to Touching Miami with Love: West Homestead (formerly Open House Ministries) as a second grade student. During his time in the program, Wanda’s love had a profound influence on Martin.  As he grew up in the program, Wanda encouraged him and challenged him to grow as a leader first through a summer position in high school and later as a fellow staff member. Martin has shared about his passion for TML and his West Homestead community in several settings. In 2015, he was asked about the students that he teaches, “I see my second grade self in them as I teach them and hang out with them. When they tell me their struggles, I see my struggles. I see the things I used to go through as a child with my family. I can feel them. My passion is in these kids . . .that’s what TML is for. For the teenagers and everyone else that I’m teaching now.  This is their home. This the place they need to be.”

We are so grateful to Wanda the legacy she leaves behind in the life of Martin.  Please join us in welcoming Martin into his new role as he leads the spiritual formation of West Homestead’s children and youth.

Martin with campers, Summer 2012

Making Space to Listen to Youth

Making Space to Listen to Youth

We all know the teen years can be rough for youth. The average teen deals with lots of emotions and talking to teens about their feelings can be difficult. This is true for one of our newer teens in our youth program, Asia.*  We share her story as one example of many of how your support is making a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Asia joined our youth program at our Overtown Site four months ago.  Our youth staff knew there was likely something behind her aggressive verbal attacks.  Oftentimes during our weekly Social Skills classes, the youth share about their personal lives, but after months Asia never shared. Her anger was coming from a deep seated pain, but staff were unable to get deeper conversations started.  It was instead during Creative Arts in a small group that Asia finally opened up to TML staff member, Tianna. With her head down focused on her project, Asia shared how since she was a very young girl she’s watched her mom struggle with substance abuse.  During low times when her mom relapsed, Asia had to live with different relatives and how that made school and friendships difficult.  The constant shuffling from home to home, disconnect from friends, and missing out on a healthy relationship with her mom has taken its toll on Asia’s sprit.  That night over a simple activity Tianna was able to be the listening ear Asia so desperately needed and trust began to form.

Fast forward several weeks and many conversations later, Tianna along with other youth staff from TML stopped in at Booker T. Washington School during lunch.  Asia spotted across the lunch room and nearly ran over to them.  Tianna was shocked to see Asia so excited as she introduced them to several of her friends.  The smile on her face was real and the excitement in her voice such a marked difference from the sarcastic, rude Asia just a few weeks ago.  Asia’s turbulent teen years aren’t over and her mom’s road to permanent recovery may still be long and winding, but because of your support Asia can have trusted adults who care about her in her life and a place to come for support.