Yesterday, I was with a group of six high school boys in one of our outreach programs in a juvenile facility. Two of the six boys made this statement, “I’ve been on my own since I was twelve.”
They went on to explain they weren’t homeless since age twelve but they were “on their own” in the sense that their parents had essentially “checked out” on them by the time they were twelve. In some cases, fathers leave and never return and moms fall into crime or are battling addictions at such a deep level they can’t function well enough to be a parent.
There are no easy answers, but I’d like to hear from others who have overcome difficult circumstances like this. What advice would you give a teenager who said, “I’ve been taking care of myself since age twelve.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
After living in Indiana for 21 years we moved to the mountains of Tennessee in 2010. Our family enjoyed so many things about Indiana. The people we served in the two churches where I was a youth pastor became like family. Our farm house in the country was surrounded by corn fields and flat… really flat land. But it had it’s own sense of natural beauty.
When we moved to Tennessee I constantly found myself admiring the mountains. I grew up in the foothills of South Carolina but it had been a long time since spending much time around mountains. I remember so many times during our first year here I would comment to my wife and kids about how beautiful the scenery is here. I would often say, “I bet the people who have lived here all their life don’t even notice these mountains. They are probably just so used to it.”
Don’t you think that’s one of life’s great pitfalls? It’s especially true of our relationship with God. Do you remember a time when you hungered and thirsted for God more than you do now?
That’s one thing that is so rewarding about the ministry we have with youth in juvenile detention centers. Many of them are fatherless and so many have never really known much about God or the Bible. But God often uses this time in their life to speak to them and show Himself real in their life.
Sometimes the words I hear from these youth bring conviction to me. It causes me to ask, “Do I still hunger and thirst for God? Do I still notice His hand at work in my life… or have I gotten used to it?”
Here are 10 powerful statements from 10 different youth I have met. I hope this inspires you to be thirsty for God today.
My dad died at 15, I’m 13 and I don’t want to die on the street like my dad. (13 year old boy)
I’m locked up, I’m 12 and I have two kids. Is my life over? (12 year old girl)
I gave my life to Jesus. Now I am reading the Bible and praying everyday. Please don’t bring me any other books, I just want to read the Bible. (13 year old boy)
Will you pray with me? I want God to change me. I want to know Jesus personally. (15 year old boy)
My dad died on the street two years ago and I have no one. How do I know God’s plan? (13 year old boy)
I’m glad I got locked up. This is like the whale in Jonah’s life. If I had not landed in the belly of this place, my path would not have changed. I’m ready to follow God’s path, I have given my life to God. (15 year old boy)
I have no one. I don’t even know where my dad is and my mom lost custody of me when I was 2. (15 year old boy)
Will you pray with me? Will you talk to me? Can I see you when I am released? Will you teach me to study the Bible?
I came to the Bible study tonight hoping there would be food. I got something more fulfilling than food. I learned about God and His word. (17 year old boy)
Before I got into trouble, I told everyone I was an atheist. But I now realize there really is a God and I’ve decided to believe in Him and trust Him as my Savior.
Question: When you find yourself becoming spiritually complacent, what have you found that reignites your passion for God?
After twenty-one years in church youth ministry I established an outreach ministry in 2008 with a key focus on reaching troubled youth in the community of Indianapolis, Indiana. Our ministry moved to Tennessee in July 2010 and I continue to minister to high-risk and fatherless youth.