Outreach believes relationships change lives. That’s why programs such as mentoring can make a difference between a youth spent engaging in risky behaviors and a youth filled with hope and bright opportunity.
Bob LeDeur is one such life-changing mentor. As the retired Warrenville police chief who served on the Warrenville Youth & Family Services board for 20 years, he’s always supported the mission of WYFS. When he retired in 2007 and decided to volunteer, he couldn’t imagine the vast blessings that awaited him and his mentee after six years of mentoring.
Bob and his mentee, *Joe, meet weekly on Thursdays at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, which has generously donated their space to the WYFS mentoring program. “Joe was looking for someone in law enforcement because he was really into cop shows like CSI,” says Bob. “We were the perfect match!”
When Bob met Joe, he was 11 years old. “He needed to refine his social skills and gain some maturity,” says Bob. “He needed to learn to meet and talk with people. I could see I needed to help him learn those skills.”
A Blossoming Faith
Joe grew up without any kind of faith or church background. But he believed God existed and wanted to know more. Bob, who attends St. Irene Catholic Church in Warrenville, started taking Joe to Sunday Mass. “We also went to all the services during Holy Week leading up to Easter,” says Bob. “He was enamored and intrigued. His spiritual fire was beginning to grow.”
Over the years, Joe increased his church attendance and decided to start taking confirmation classes. Bob attended classes with Joe and joined him on the journey as his confirmation sponsor. Joe officially joined the church on Easter 2013.
And that’s not the only good news. “Joe’s mother is starting to go back to church,” adds Bob. “Truly the Holy Spirit has helped transform this young man—and his family—into wanting to understand more about our Savior and Lord.”
A Mutual Influence
Volunteering often affects the volunteer as much as the person being served. “I gave Joe leadership, guidance, spiritual direction and a consistent role model,” says Bob. “But he also gave me so much.”
Bob tells a story about a retirement party he was planning to attend. Joe, a 13-year-old at the time, was with him that day. Bob hoped to quickly pop in and say congratulations and then leave. But there was a catch. “There were a few people at the party that I didn’t really care for (and they didn’t care for me),” admits Bob. “When we pulled up, I saw the license plates of the people I didn’t want to see, and I decided to keep driving.”
That’s when Joe spoke up. “He said, ‘Hold it, you shouldn’t worry about who’s there. You have a message to give to the person retiring.’ I looked at Joe and said, ‘You’re 13 and you’re telling me this?’
“What a lesson!” concludes Bob. “Sometimes God gives you messages in the strangest ways. But we pulled over and had a great time. And after we were done, he looked at me and said, ‘See?’”