Delivering hope behind bars

Friday afternoon comes along and nine JBU students load the van and head towards the Juvenile Detention Center in Fayetteville.

While driving, our conversation is always the same: we finalize lesson plans and prepare for what is to come. After arriving, we enter the blocks; my partner and I have three to five boys sitting in front of us.

Everything we planned for is often thrown out the window and we talk, sometimes about sports, sometimes about God. The team and I are given an amazing opportunity to reach out to kids who have told us that they feel like nobody’s because of the choices they have made.

Kids, only 10 to 17 years of age, have made choices that they must pay the consequences. This does not mean that they are bad people, nor that they should be considered less than us.

In all honesty the majority of us have made some of the same mistakes those kids did, the only difference is that we didn’t get caught.

But how do you tell teenage kids that what they did doesn’t matter to you, that their past doesn’t define who they are? You just don’t tell them.

These kids have heard too many lies in their life. They probably won’t listen to what some college students with a badge have to say.

Instead you show them that you care, you continue to visit every week. You let them teach you, you pray for them by name, you love those kids with your whole heart.

With time you see they get it. They understand you respect them as people and not criminals. It was a few weeks ago when a few members of the Cathedral choir went and sang a few songs.

The week after I was handed a stack of letters. All of them were completely voluntary; the kids chose to write them. What they wrote made me weep.

One of the teens was facing one of the worst types of conviction wrote, “When you sang ‘Amazing Grace’ I knew everything was going to be OK.”

Another wrote that because through the words sung that day he saw God and knew he needed to go back to church with his mom. He hadn’t been to church since he was eight, and today he is 16.

What we do is making a difference. Not only in the kids lives, but also in ours.

The majority of the volunteers have said that it has helped them to be more humble and admit that they are not greater than those who society views as worthless.

I don’t know how to even begin explaining what God has shown me through these kids. I can say that, although the first day I looked into a cell and saw a kid in complete hopelessness, last Friday I saw that same kid, only this time full of hope.

What we’re doing is impacting these kids’ lives. We would like to be there more than two hours a week. Our only issue is cost. In order to go more than once a week, we need to raise $20 for every week. We will do whatever it takes to be there to show these kids God’s love.

I will collect pennies off the street, have a bake sale in Walker student center or cut costs on anything, in order to go twice. And this is where we need your help.

We are not asking for a lot. If we can raise funds, then we can plant seeds. Then the seeds can grow, and we can rejoice in the hope that we can gain a new brother or sister in Christ!