As the Girls Program Coordinator, Nina has helped to create some of Teen Havens biggest events for teen girls in the community, including the Princess Experience, helping girls grow in self-worth and see themselves as daughters of God. But she also plans and leads programs throughout Teen Haven and you can find her teaching the gospel message and investing in Lancaster’s youth most nights of the week!
On weeknights after Teen Haven, Nina Maldonado piles her van full of kids and takes them around the neighborhood, dropping each one off at their home. As the van empties, leaving just her and the Teen Haven volunteers, the last few students suddenly come alive. “Van rides home, often times it’s like the last one or two kids in the van…they just start spilling their guts.” In these moments, Nina gets glimpses into everything God is doing in these young hearts.
Eyes of Jesus
But before she gets to see this inner growth, Nina has to sow seeds. With her natural passion and energy, Nina has a gift for working with Teens. She treats each student in a way that makes them feel so unique and special, that they grow to love and trust her. Even students who feel unseen because they are struggling in school, come from tough family lives or question their own self-worth—she chooses to believe in each Teen and see the “hidden gold,” in all of them. To her, their identity doesn’t come from anything they have done, but from what the creator says about them as children of God. “Anybody can see the mistakes, and the bad and the failures in people…but it takes the eyes of Jesus, it takes the heart of God to be able to see and believe what scripture says about them.”
“Anybody can see the mistakes, and the bad and the failures in people…but it takes the eyes of Jesus, it takes the heart of God to be able to see and believe what scripture says about them.”
One of Nina’s passions is helping young people discover their own gifts and callings. Sometimes she sees amazing success like when one student came back and asked to volunteer after she graduated. Even though it felt amazing to hear this young woman say she knew she wanted to take everything that was poured into her and pour it into someone else, Nina doesn’t take the credit. She always points back to God for the work He is doing in these young people. Not taking their success personally also helps Nina not take their mistakes personally either. Throughout the emotional highs and lows that comes from working with kids and entering the messiness that can go along with that, Nina remains invested, but not overtaken. Ultimately she has learned to rely on Jesus as the one who has already paid for all of our failures and who gets the credit for all our success.
The Van Ride Home
One night on a van ride home, Nina got to hear a quiet, young girl open up about something difficult in her life. When kids begin to really see and experience obstacles in their lives, it opens up the opportunity to show them how the bible gives us hope, even in hardships. In the van ride home, after they cried and prayed together, Nina got to be a part of a very personal, formative moment for this young girl. Afterwards she just thought “Wow.” Praising God, she said, “after all this time…I still get blown away getting to do this job.”