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Mentoring Youth a Rewarding Endeavor

By January 3, 2019January 26th, 2023No Comments
Jeff and Anna Maria Gilstrap, mentoring youth at Miracle Hill

Jeff and Anna Maria Gilstrap

My husband, Jeff, and I have prayed for quite some time for the Lord to reveal to us how we can minister to others and show others the love of Jesus.  Both of us grew up in Pickens County and have been somewhat familiar with Miracle Hill all our lives.  We never really became more knowledgeable about how it operated or the scope of its ministry until more recently.

I knew that Miracle Hill was an organization that needed community support whether through charitable giving, volunteering time in service, or making donations to the thrift stores for raising money for their operations.  At the same time, but independently, my husband and I began to learn more about Miracle Hill and felt the need to get involved on a more personal level.  We knew the organization’s mission was faith-based, and that played a significant factor in us deciding to move forward seeking a ministry opportunity there.

I began to read online all the aspects of Miracle Hill, and when I read about mentoring children, I wanted to find out more.  At the same time, my husband came across the business side of Miracle Hill through his vocation, and he began to explore the different aspects of their ministry and opportunities for service.  That led us to where we are today, serving as mentors to siblings.

Making Mentor Memories

We went through numerous training classes and background checks to qualify.  We prayed for the Lord to match us up to the right sibling pair, and we waited.  In March 2018, we were paired up with a 13-year-old girl and her 15-year-old brother from two of the cottages at Miracle Hill Children’s Home. These siblings had interests in fishing, crafting, outdoor activities and really wanted to ride go-karts and go to Skyzone, a trampoline park. As mentors, the objective is to spend time with our mentees at least twice per month.  We enjoyed taking them hiking and to ride go-karts, and on several occasions while the guys fished, the girls worked on some craft projects.  She really enjoyed learning to do string art, and I enjoyed learning from her how to tie-dye t-shirts, one of her favorite crafts.  My husband learned a great deal about fishing through his mentee’s knowledge and experience (as well as love for) fishing.

We enjoyed spending quality time with these two and getting to know them and their personalities as well as letting them get to know us.  The girl asked me for a Bible with her name engraved on the front.  Her brother and sister each had one and she did not.  This request touched my heart as I do not know many teenagers whose request is for a Bible.  She was so excited to receive it and proudly told me on multiple occasions that she was reading her Bible.

Each visit when we picked up this brother and sister pair, they would spend the first several minutes catching up and just talking with one another.  My husband and I would just be quiet and let them talk.  It brought a smile to us.  They lived in different cottages, went to different schools and did not get to spend much time together.  This blessed us to be able to unite them together during our visits.  They both cared a lot about their family and desperately wanted to go home.  They would look forward to family visits and court dates which would possibly lead to their going home, which they finally did in June.

On our last visit together, we were able to take them to Skyzone, and they had a fabulous time jumping on the trampolines and playing with one another.  Our time was short, but we connected with these teens, prayed for them and hoped we were making a positive impact in their lives.  After each visit before returning them to their cottages, we would pray together and share prayer requests.

Anna Maria and Jeff Gilstrap in front of mountain creekIn September we were matched up with another sibling set.  They are a little younger with the brother being older than the sister like before.  We have enjoyed getting to know them as well.  He likes to play basketball, and she likes to crochet, which are common interests of my husband and me.  On one of our visits, we went to a gym and were able to spend some one-on-one time with each one.

We also have been on bike rides on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, enjoyed hikes, and treated them to meals at restaurants.  Their personalities are entirely different from the teenagers we had before, but we are enjoying getting to know this sibling pair too.


Teachable Moments

We recently went on a hike to a waterfall and had a picnic lunch.  They seemed to enjoy the trip to the falls, but on the return hike to the car they complained some.  We let them take breaks as often as they needed.  I began to think about how this hike relates to life, and so I began to illustrate for them how completing this hike is comparable to our lives.  We all face hills to climb, and we grow tired and out of breath like in life when we go through hard times, perhaps similar to when these two first came into the care of the providers at Miracle Hill, or like when we have hard things like an illness or loss of a loved one (the girl’s teacher’s father had recently died), or when they started a new school and didn’t know anyone.

dark mountain with catch our breath textIn life, we have to stop and catch our breath before we can go on. We have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. Then, the trail levels out, and things get a little better or easier.  It’s not quite so hard to breathe.  This may be like when they made some friends at school, or began to understand what was expected of them in their new class or new cottage.  And, then, sometimes there are downhills or beautiful views like the waterfall.  It is a lot easier to breathe. These are times that are fun like birthdays and Christmas, times when we get to do things we like to do and it is not quite so bad.  I explained we should be grateful especially for those times and thankful we have eyes to see the beauty of the waterfall and legs to help us walk to and from there.

Though we are fairly new to mentoring, we have been blessed through these teens and children.  We pray for them and with them.  We hope they see in us a healthy marriage, someone they can count on and trust, people who will encourage them and help them in any way we are able, people who we can have good times with and make lasting memories together, and people who rely on their faith to get them through the good times and the challenging times.

Post submitted by Anna Maria Gilstrap.  Anna Maria can be reached at  If you would like to learn more about becoming a mentor, visit the Mentoring page on Miracle Hill’s website.


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