One by One: Women Answer the Call to Minister to Young Mothers in the Inner City

Sep 10, 2010

one-by-one-1by Jacqueline Jones

The vision of One by One Ministries began in San Antonio, Texas when Dr. Harold Hime and Camille Simmons, current Executive Director of One by One, partnered with a major church association in Texas to strategically minister to families in their city. Dr. Hime and Camille were soon joined by Linda Hibner, current Program Director of One by One.

Burdened by the number of broken families and pattern of neglect that pervaded the San Antonio area, the team began to develop a distinctive in-home educational program for training parents. What resulted was a mentoring ministry dedicated to educating young mothers about the growth and development of their babies, improving their parenting skills, and sharing the love of Christ.

When administrators from One by One Ministries visited Memphis in the summer of 2007 to discuss starting One by One in the Memphis area, God was already preparing the hearts of several women to take part in this ministry. 

Carey Moore, One by One coordinator at Second Presbyterian and head of Table Time in Second’s nursery for over twenty years, shares: “One by One had 17 churches aboard in Texas, and said the Lord was drawing them to Memphis.  Bellevue Baptist Church stepped up and Second followed nine months later.

"The timing for me was providential as I was confident of a call into ministry to help educate underexposed moms and stimulate brain development of babies 0-3 in our area. The Urban Child Institute and The Neighborhood Christian Center were already making strides into awareness of and answers to the staggeringly high infant mortality rate in Shelby County...I was looking for a curriculum, and One by One appeared at our door.”

Celia Stoneking, retired teacher and current Program Consultant of One by One Ministries in Memphis, first heard about One by One through a fellow teacher. Having taught in Shelby County schools for 36 years, Celia knew first-hand the struggles facing teen parents in inner-city Memphis. Celia says she felt immediately drawn to get involved.

“There was never a better time for One by One Ministries,” says Celia. “While social issues are at the climax of discussion about our city and in our community, it is the Church who is called to respond.”

Where It Begins

Initiated through the local church, One by One’s approach is simple, yet dynamic. Over an 18 month period volunteers commit to mentoring a new or expectant young mother, many who are minors and come from poor neighbourhoods.

For one hour each month mentors visit the young mothers in their homes. Together, the mentor and mother learn about the development and proper care of the baby, work through an interactive baby book, and take small steps to exploring God’s Word.

“Mentors always try to meet in the mother’s home,” states Yvonne Hardin, Director of Women’s Ministry at Second. “This natural setting puts the mother at ease and gives the mentor the opportunity to train her in the place where she will be caring for her child. This also allows the mentor to create a relationship with the mother’s family, who are often present in the home, and naturally opens the doors to presenting the Gospel.”  

Celia affirms that the main qualification to being a mentor is having a heart for the Lord. “Because many of the mothers in the One by One program come from difficult homes and struggle with the issue of trust, the mentor’s life, and sheer dedication, is a key testimony.

Once mentors have built a relationship with their participant, they are able toone-by-one-2 share their personal testimony and present the Gospel,” says Celia. “Mentors never leave the home without at least pointing out Bible verses. Many of the moms are being told for the first time that God loves them.”

“This ministry is not for the faint of heart,” emphasizes Carey Moore. Even with rigorous mentor training, little can prepare volunteers for some of the challenges they will face as mentors. Prayer is vital.

That is why One by One pairs each mentor with a prayer partner. Once a month, mentors meet with their prayer partner to study God’s Word, share their struggles, and pray. “Prayer partners are the reason mentoring works,” testifies Celia.

Where Seeds Are Planted

When Diane Davis, native Memphian and member of Second, first heard about One by One, she knew that becoming a mentor would mean walking into unfamiliar territory.

“For some months I had been feeling that I had become way too comfortable in my Christian life. Although Second had provided many opportunities to serve in ministries, none had been a stretch, a growing experience, or demanded a leaning on the Lord. Dare I pray for the Lord to get me out of my comfort zone?”

Diane did pray, and the Lord led her to One by One. Every month Diane drives to Frayser to visit a young new mother.

“The mom I mentor is sixteen and will be a junior in high school. She lives with her mom, her sisters, her brother, and her sisters’ two toddlers. There is little income. She doesn’t know anything about my world, but she signed up for mentoring because of her six-month-old baby.

“We are building a baby book together...discovering and tracking the infant’s milestones, recording his short history, and playing games. We’re studying God’s provision from His Word. We’re looking at how to find resources in Memphis. We’re expanding the baby’s world, the mother’s world, and my world.

"I am praying for a bond to develop between us. I am praying to be able to talk with her easily and for insight into a culture I don’t really understand. I pray a lot because I am insufficient for this.”

Two years before she heard about One by One, Second member, Launa Brubaker, had experienced a difficult and life-threatening pregnancy.  “God placed upon my heart how fortunate I was to have the profound love and caring of my own family through every step of such a life changing event.  I often thought of single moms who might not have the support network I do. I prayed for a way to be a light to women during this often scary, yet fascinating chapter in their life—motherhood.

“When I read about One by One in The Messenger, I was covered in goose bumps” says Launa. “God was saying to me, this is how you may help those women you have prayed for and thought about! What an answered prayer, and a wonderful testament to how God may plant a seed and nurture it until the right time.” 

Where Grace Grows

Studies show that intervention makes the most impact when a girl first discovers she is pregnant. This window of time is small and critical, which is why One by One makes it their priority to get involved with mothers from the earliest point in their pregnancy. “We are also committed to lengthening the time between one pregnancy and the next,” says Celia.

As a research-based ministry, One by One consultants and coordinators work closely with local non-profits, such as Agape, Birthright, Life Choices and the Urban Child Institute, to concentrate on the specific needs of the Memphis community, obtain referrals, and gather educational resources.

Through a growing relationship with UT Nursing School, One by One ensures that their curriculum and research are statistically and demographically relevant. “One by One keeps excellent records which benefits the research department of UTNS,” says Yvonne.

“Since One by One has come to Memphis, God has put people together in ways that seem improbable,” shares Celia. Teachers, nurses, social workers and home makers comprise the core of volunteers. They are women from all walks of life, each who have seen the need and obediently opened their hands and their hearts to serve.

We are all aware of the startling statistics—of the high infant mortality rate in our city and the thousands of babies born to unwed mothers each year.

“It appears young moms in Memphis have forgotten the babies, and have no notion of how to raise them. I believe with all we know, it would be disobedience and faithlessness to ignore the need,” says Carey Moore.

Through this small and personal ministry we can faithfully minister to the needs of families in our city. As we walk forward in faith, we become God’s instruments to transform the lives of future generations . . . one by one.

If you would like to learn more about what One by One is doing in Memphis or you would like to participate in saving babies and walking with women in a foreign culture, please contact Carey Moore.