Sometimes I struggle when I try to explain to others what it is, exactly, that I do here in my role with unCUFFED. When I’m speaking to church folks, the easiest connection for me to make is ‘youth ministry.’ I mean, that’s essentially what I am doing: I am building relationships with kids, hopefully encouraging and pointing them to Christ.
But these are kids in crisis, where their very lives hang in the balance. ‘Youth Ministry’ doesn’t quite capture for me their reality or how important guys like DeShawn, Henry and Josh have become to me.
The community organizer in me would label them ‘at-risk-youth.’ To the police, they are ‘detained youth.’ To the news anchor and the circuit-court judge they are thieves, gang members, drug dealers, sex-offenders and murderers. To the social worker, they are abused, neglected, traumatized and boys without Fathers.
The court appointed psychiatrist might label them as depressed, lead-poisoned, bi-polar and drug addicted. As far as the legal system is concerned, some are guilty and some are innocent. Some are instigators and some tag along kids. Some display genuine remorse and pain for their crimes; others only regret they were caught.
So many angles, so many labels. So now I need to ask: what does Jesus call DeShawn, Henry and Josh?
I’m pretty sure he does not opt for the criminal label of ‘thief’ or ‘distributor of an unlawful substance.’ I think Jesus would call them broken, lost, forgiven and redeemed. More than that, he would declare they are not fatherless but dearly loved by their Heavenly Father.
Sadly, like the starving peasant with the unknown inheritance, these boys are not yet convinced of the Father’s love and Jesus’ power to transform their lives. That’s why I do – however you label it – what I do.
Thank you for your support and prayers.