Behind the Fence

It is a bit unnerving to get out of the car and leave everything in it except my student folder, driver’s license and keys. Walk to the gate, let them know I am there with unCUFFED and wait as they take down the info, hand me a visitor pass and then invite me to walk through the metal detector. Next I get patted down and then wanded before the big gate slides to let me in.

Walking the path to the school, I pray for God’s blessing on the young men, on our time in English class and for His heart and words throughout the time. Staff recognize me now and we speak. That’s nice.

An incredible blessing that Kim Turner was “tuned in” to the Lord’s suggestion that I volunteer there – it’s challenging in ways I didn’t expect and easy in others. The reality that these boys are here at Hickey for “adult” crimes is reinforced as they are patted down before and after class, that staff is in each class with them, there is a tenseness constantly present that is sometimes stronger than others. The reality that they are just boys is reinforced every day too as they demonstrate “typical” high school behavior of taunting each other, of not wanting to do what’s expected, of needing encouragement, of glowing in simple praise, of being touched when I remind them I am praying for them. It’s that reality that both breaks my heart and strengthens it.

At my age, I don’t really think there are any behaviors that I haven’t seen or at least been aware of as possibilities. With this group of guys however, some are more powerful somehow. When a kid who is locked up shares something personal – usually something painful – you want to grab them and hug them and tell them it will be OK. You can’t and it often isn’t OK. You can remind them by your words and your presence, that God indeed loves them. God indeed will not abandon them. God indeed wants to give them His strength and joy. Yes. Even in lock-up there is joy. I’m so grateful to have seen it and I’m addicted to it now.