The quiet girl Stephanie Johnson taught in her Sunday School class attended only sporadically. She had a hard time getting a ride to church and often joined the class via Skype. “She was also a child who found it very difficult to put her thoughts into words, and then get them out of her mouth,” says Stephanie.
Then one Sunday, this teen, Claudia, shared with her teacher that she wanted to join DiscoveryBound’s National Leadership Council (NLC). Claudia had learned about it in an email from her local DiscoveryBound Outreach chapter, and she knew it was meant for her.
“I really wanted to come out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and be a part of the Christian Science community,” she says. “I thought by joining NLC, it would make me be a part of something greater than myself.”
In the NLC program, each student has a mentor, and Claudia asked Stephanie to be hers. The relationship had an immediate effect. “NLC opened doors for Claudia in unusual ways,” Stephanie says. “When she began high school, her school counselor automatically, without consultation, put her on a track for a career in cosmetology. We discussed the infinitude of God’s purpose for her. She told her counselor that she was going to college, and her course work was changed accordingly.”
“I can say she has done so much more for me than what is asked of an NLC mentor,” Claudia says of Stephanie. “I consider her my second mom and lifelong friend. She has showed me so much to life that I didn’t even know could be possible. We’ve gone on road trips, dinner dates, movie dates, plays, college tours, and so much more. She has taught me time management, gratitude, following through with commitments, and how to conduct myself as a young, smart woman. She has taught me more to life than life itself, and for that I will always be grateful to her.”
“Our household has been so enriched by having Claudia in our lives,” Stephanie says. “Her willingness to persevere and allow God’s nature to be revealed in every fiber of her being has been heartwarming to witness.”
Claudia persevered in improving her confidence in speaking, and that developed significantly over the program’s four years. With Stephanie’s guidance, she gave a presentation to their church after each NLC summer activity as a thank you for their support of these trips. “She needed to speak from the heart and rely upon Mind to give her the words,” Stephanie explains. “This experience opened the door for her to beautifully introduce two different lecturers for our church.”
Claudia also was healed of an eye condition that an optometrist had said could only be corrected with surgery. She had been wearing her hair over half her face to cover the eye. “But this imposition was lifted, along with all the others that circumstances had placed on this dear young lady, trying to say her life was limited,” Stephanie says. “Today, when you see a picture of Claudia, the first thing that strikes you is her two big, beautiful, brown eyes!”
“I was becoming confident in looking in people’s faces when they were talking to me,” Claudia relates. “I am seeing more and more change within myself every day.”
She experienced the blessings of speaking confidently while on her class’s service trip in Grenada during her third summer in NLC. On the last day of volunteering at an orphanage, Claudia came upon a little girl who was alone, sitting on the floor. When the girl declined, with a shake of her head, to play outside with the other kids, Claudia sat down with her. Here’s her description of what happened next:
I noticed she was very shy at first. She wouldn’t even open her mouth to talk to me. I decided to get paper and crayons for her to communicate to me, and it worked. She was able to write down her feelings freely, and I could tell she was a very funny girl. She then became comfortable with me, and she finally opened her mouth and started talking. We enjoyed talking about the latest songs, TV shows, and what she wanted to be when she grew up. We also talked about her life and why she ended up in the orphanage.
Her story was so hard to listen to, but it made me so glad to know she wasn’t letting her past define her. Later on when it was time to leave, she came up to me, hugged me, and said I was the first real friend she had ever had. From that moment I knew I was there for a reason. Just listening to someone’s life can go a long way. This experience taught me that everyone has a story, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.
Stephanie knows Claudia’s participation in NLC was life-changing. “The NLC program, as it is designed and implemented, is supremely well suited for a student like Claudia, who does not have all of the typical advantages in life,” she explains. “Claudia had opportunities and adventures she would never have had otherwise. She grew tremendously from the mentoring, as well as the consistent metaphysical basis that runs through every aspect of the program. She rose to the occasion in regards to time management, orderliness, follow through, personal growth, and perseverance.
“The greatest delight for my husband and me was to watch Claudia at her final All Class Retreat and graduation from NLC,” Stephanie continues. “The child who had a hard time saying even a word or two can now comfortably speak to anyone with confidence and poise. Knowing where Claudia came from, to see the lovely woman she is today, was worth every moment invested. It fills me with such hope, not only for Claudia’s future, but also for the future of Christian Science as a new generation steps up to the plate.”
Programs: DiscoveryBound National Leadership Council – Class of 2017E
School Year: Freshman at Radford University
Interests: Fashion merchandising, choir, public service, drawing, reading, photography