Being with these guys and sharing God’s truth with them causes me to understand why James 1:27 is so powerful. Authentic faith looks like this… visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keep unspotted from the world. 85-90% of these youth are fatherless. They need and they really want the hope and love that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.Want to learn more about getting involved? Contact us.
Here’s a post I wrote a few years ago giving a snapshot into the real world of ministry to youth in juvenile detention. The three of us had arrived early and went through the usual process of emptying our pockets and remembering to lock everything in our vehicles except our photo identification and our Bibles. Alex is a lawyer and Ben is a retired juvenile court judge and the three of us look forward to these times when we get to spend an evening with a room full of teenage boys who are incarcerated in the Mountain View Juvenile Development Center just outside Knoxville, TN. The guards are always friendly as they go through the process of checking us through security. We sign in, leave car keys at the desk along with our identification and clip a visitor tag onto our shirt. They escort us through a few steel doors and each one locks behind us. We get to the room where we will hold our regular youth Bible study. We set up the room by placing the plastic chairs in the shape of a large oval. It seems like there is so much to catch up on while we are waiting for the youth to arrive escorted by guards. We use these few minutes to talk about our families, our church, work, books we are reading, and anything else on our minds. All the while we catch ourselves looking toward the window as we see teens entering the hallway. Are there just a few coming tonight? Are there a lot of them? Are there any new faces and are our regulars all coming? The guard sticks his key in and opens the door. Yes, we’ve been locked in here for several minutes waiting on them. Teenage boys rush into the room. Most of them have huge smiles on their faces. Rarely do any of them go straight to a chair. That’s just not how it goes. They rush up to Alex and Ben and to me and grab our hands offering a firm handshake. “Hey, it’s great to see you! How have you been? Thanks for coming tonight!” The room is energized! Everyone grabs a Bible (Alex always brings extras) or they have their own. The room is full! We sit down and everyone shares their name and a prayer request and then we pray. We dive right into a vibrant Bible study and I usually lead while Alex and Ben chime in with a quick testimony or an insight into the topic. It might surprise you to know, there are no discipline problems. It’s not a struggle to get anyone’s attention. It is a lively atmosphere and guys can’t wait to ask questions or share a thought. And there are these “God moments” that occur. Moments where it feels like He just pulled up a chair and sat in our circle and spoke right into the ear of someone. This happens a lot and it’s what keeps me so excited about this ministry. One of those moments happened recently while we were studying Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. A persecutor of Christians became a proclaimer of the gospel, basically overnight. One of the guys started to squirm and you could see that the wheels were turning in his mind. His hand shot into the air and he said, “Ken, are you telling me that God can change someone that much and He can do it that fast?” I said, “That’s exactly what I’m telling you.” He said, “That’s amazing. Because, Ken, I’m just going to be straight up with you. I’ve probably been arrested a hundred times and every time I get out I decided I’m going to do better but I always fail. I had no idea God could change someone like that and do it so quickly.” Then, guys all over the room began to speak to him and share quick testimonies of a specific way God had transformed their lives from the inside out. It was powerful. We had a powerful and meaningful moment of prayer as our time quickly ran out. It was obvious the Spirit of the Lord was moving. We gave the gospel and this young man didn’t accept Christ in the Bible study but he took a Bible and the plan of salvation printed in the back to his room. Pray for him to trust Christ.