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Unlikely Leaders

What if God tapped you to do something completely unexpected? Lisa Steven shares her surprising story. 


Unlikely Leaders

By Lisa Steven


I watch with pride as Alondra, now twenty-four years old, crosses the stage in her college graduation ceremony. She looks lovely in a new pink dress, her long, dark hair pulled up. She doesn’t appear to be nervous, though this momentous occasion has my own stomach doing flip-flops.

God, I can’t believe you made my dream come true.

Alondra stops center stage and turns to watch her little boy, Aiyden, saunter across the stage with his usual confident air, seemingly unaware that all eyes are on him. Alondra became a mother at just 16, and Aiyden is now a charming second-grader, sporting his first suit. He clutches a rose in one hand and a gold pin in the other, and when he reaches his mom, she bends down so that he can attach the pin to her dress in the traditional ceremony for every new nurse entering the profession.

Mother and son turn to the audience with irrepressible matching grins, searching for our faces in the crowd. Alondra might be the only graduate with no biological family members present for the ceremony, but an entire row of Hope House staff and volunteers jumps up from their seats with cheers and shouts for Alondra and Aiyden.

I am smiling and crying at the same time. She has come such a long way since she came to Hope House at age seventeen, literally carrying nothing but her one-year-old son. Alondra was homeless, scared, and alone, but she had finally found a place to belong. My heart is so full of pride and joy for this beautiful girl, who has officially broken the cycle of poverty for her son and for future generations as well.

Such a long way, and so many barriers for Alondra to overcome. Such a long way for me, too. I was once a girl like Alondra trying desperately to climb out of a chaotic and difficult childhood. I, too, became a mother before becoming an adult, and it would have been easy to believe the statistics that said I would fail as a mom, that my teenage marriage wouldn’t last, that I wouldn’t amount to much. Certainly, I didn’t see myself one day founding and leading a nonprofit ministry that would serve hundreds of teen moms in Colorado, and across the country. Yet God doesn’t see things the way the rest of the world does.

When I was 20 years old and my son Johnny was just two, my mother-in-law, Michele, encouraged me to join a MOPS group, now called The MomCo. Michele had been one of the original eight neighbors on a road called Fenton Street, who gathered for that very first MOPS meeting and sparked a revolution in motherhood and leadership that today stretches world-wide. I was scared to death of being judged by all the moms who had “done it right,” but what I found instead was a loving community, and my very first chance to lead.

When I was first asked to co-lead the MOPS Kids group at my church, I was dumbfounded and wanted to ask if they knew how old I was. I threw myself into it, creating new curriculum, training volunteers, and running right over my co-leader in the process. It turns out that being in charge of something is not the same as being a leader.

It would take many years, and some very humbling moments with God before I began my journey in leading Hope House Colorado into existence. I would come to know that God certainly calls the least likely people to do the most extraordinary things – but he never calls us to do it alone. He surrounds us with the most amazing people, and a true leader learns to listen and rely on those wise advisors, and to walk humbly with their God.

So, if you are one of those least likely people, and God is gently nudging your heart, I encourage you to ask … what if I just say yes?

I know that, right now, somewhere out there is a scared and lonely teen mom, a desperate young man in prison, a lonely, isolated elderly woman … so many hurting people, and God is kneeling right there next to them whispering, just hold on. I’m sending my people.

I also believe that at the exact same moment he is standing right there next to you, whispering in your ear: I have something for you to do.

What if it’s true that God chooses the least qualified, least likely people to do the most extraordinary things?

What if you just might be one of those people?

Maybe you have a thought you can’t get out of your head or a deep concern for something or someone in particular that you can’t shake. Maybe you feel like God might even be asking you to do something about it, but in your head you’re thinking, Yeah, but that would be crazy! I’m just . . .

. . . a stay-at-home mom

. . . a college dropout

. . . a grocery store clerk

Or maybe you have the big career everyone envies, but you can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more—but buying into God’s plan for you would cost you so much.

What if God really is tapping you on the shoulder—and what if you were to say yes?


Adapted from A Place to Belong Copyright © 2024 by Hope House Colorado. All rights reserved. Published by Credo House Publishers,

Lisa Steven has more than 28 years of experience working with teen moms. In 2003, she co-founded Hope House Colorado and has served as the founder & executive director ever since. Lisa is the author of A Place To Belong, a book that shares the miracle of Hope House while encouraging women in their leadership journey. A former teen mom, Lisa is committed to empowering teen moms in her community and across the world. Under Lisa’s leadership, Hope House has reached new levels and growth that, with a budget of over $3.5 million, puts the organization in the top 10 percent of nonprofits in the United States. Lisa and Hope House have received a number of community awards for their work. 


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