Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 3, 2013

In His Image: Mentoring program builds character in Christ

Amy Brocato Pearson
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Fourteen-year-old Trinity  Montgomery had a problem.

A big problem.

Someone was bullying her at school and the actions weighed on the teen so heavily she contemplated killing herself.

Luckily, the a friend of the soft-spoken middle-schooler told Trinity's mother, who went straight to the girl to talk about the issue. The help didn't stop there: Trinity's mother got her straight into a new group forming in Cherokee County, In His Image.

The brainchild of Jacksonville resident Regina Brown, In His Image is a mentoring ministry which promotes "self-awareness of who we are in Christ … for adolescent girls to have a safe place to address difficult issues and for them to learn who God says they are as opposed to the world."

Brown was at a birthday party for 13-year-old girls last December when she overheard them using language and having conversations she didn't think were appropriate for young ladies.

"Something had to be done to show them that kind of behavior is not okay," Brown said. "It really weighed on me."

She thought about how to address these issues and went to her cousin, Dewanda Runnels.

"This is what God laid on my heart," she said.

Several days later, during devotional time spent quietly, "God gave me the name for the ministry. And He said, 'The time is now.'

"I called my cousin and we just started making notes."

The first meeting for In His Image was held at Brown's apartment. Seven or eight girls attended that first night, along with a few mentors. There are now 13 girls signed up for the program, which formally begins on Sept. 5, with room for two more participants. Girls should be between 12 and 17 years old.

"Our goal is to provide a safe place to discuss issues that are important to them," Brown said. "It's not a lecture; it's not church."

In fact, the girls themselves came up with the topics for the monthly discussions, which include insecurity, bullying, trust, anger, beauty, overcoming abuse, dealing with peer pressure and improving self-confidence.

Mentors are carefully screened to insure they are "proper role models" for the  young ladies, Brown emphasized.

The group, which will meet once a month at the Jacksonville Public Library, isn't "just about building character; it's about learning your true identity," said Brown.

Trinity is looking forward to the group meeting on a regular basis.

"Whatever I'm going though I can go talk to other people about it and they won't judge me," she said.

A licensed social worker, Brown is looking forward to what the year brings for the group. The girls have officially adopted Twin Oaks nursing home in Jacksonville and will facilitate activities for the residents the third Saturday of each month from 2 - 4 p.m.

"I know God is going to work through us and through these girls," she said.