Monday, June 22, 2009

This One's For My Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Can you imagine a better opportunity:

You are invited into a secular institution in which youth spend a great deal of time. You are not only allowed, but encouraged to interact with these youth. You get to participate in fun, edifying activities and crafts and share the hope of Jesus Christ in ANY way you’d like. You are surrounded by enough volunteers so that the youth to volunteer ratio is nearly 1:1. You get to share a meal that is so rare for the youth that they are excited simply to eat it. It costs you NOTHING but five hours of your time. When you leave, the youth and adult leaders are already asking, “When can you come back?” Would you pass up an opportunity like that?

Saturday I had such an opportunity and am so thankful I didn’t pass it up. I went with the Wings Ministry (click here to see a post I did last December when I went to SCI) to the Scioto Juvenile Facility in Delaware, Ohio. This is the only prison for juvenile (girls 10-21) girls that are felons in Ohio. Currently there are nearly 70 girls here and about 55-60 attended our party on Saturday. Here me now – all of these girls are felons. Can you imagine a group more desperate for the hope and forgiveness of our Savior? They are adolescents – the age group most desperately searching for meaning and significance. And we have the answer! John 4:30 – This is Jesus talking to the disciples (and us), “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” This is so true here!

Family members are invited to Wings parties too and for this particular party (watch for the significance here) about 15-20 of the girls had family members show up. Maybe one-third of these girls had families come to spend three hours with them. Surprised? Me neither. I was taking portraits of the girls and their families or the girls with their Wings volunteers. Usually I would take the pictures home, edit them, print them at Walgreens and return them to the prison to be distributed. But because these are youth, the Department of Youth Services does not allow pictures of the minors to be taken off the premises so my mom (who also helped me) let me borrow her printer and we printed out about 40 pictures. It actually took us an extra two hours after the party was over to finish printing but it was so worth it. My friend Dawn helped out too and she was great with the girls!

Over and over I hear Christians lamenting the fact that prayer and the Bible have been “removed” from the public schools. This is not even close to being true. There are restrictions on how much adults can LEAD such activities but student led groups are actually protected by the Constitution and the Supreme Court has upheld those rights. These groups can even bring in adult speakers (read: Christian youth workers) to speak to the student groups on a regular basis. At the high school where my husband teaches, a group meets twice a week and the student leadership is supported by a group of wonderfully committed ladies that bring fellowship, teaching and cookies to the school each week. Instead of complaining, they are doing something. Many of you are ministering to others in equally exciting and impactful ways. I’d love to hear about them! I’ll figure out a way to put links in here to your site if you let me know!

4 comments:

Stace said...

FABULOUS experience! Tell me when you're going next and I'll GLADLY come, too! I knew you were going. Why in the world didn't I think about getting involved!

I am familiar with that facility. I worked with DYS kids in the past! before having my OWN kiddos.

Jennifer T. said...

Ohhh I would love to help with something like that if I were in the US!

You have an award awaiting on my blog. Have a great day! =)
Jennifer

Wendy said...

Janis,
I would love to come do this with you the next time you go. What a wonderful way to share our beliefs and make a difference.

Misty said...

Awesome! Thanks for checking out my blog. What a wonderful opportunity!