Saturday, March 6, 2010

What is Juvenile Jail ministry like?

I have been involved with a Juvenile Jail (perhaps I'll cover the adult County Jail another time)ministry for about 7yrs, which I became apart of through a church I was going to (an Assemblies of God church). Unfortunately this church only named this ministry as one of 'their' ministries, but when my wife and I left the church, so did the ministry.

The 'service' is more like 2-20 teens who sit around a table within their cell block (which means that we hear all radio calls, interrupted by guests or the nurse, and also have the 'privilege' of being in the same room where the toilets are (which thankfully contains a partial door). If all things go well the time given is 45mins, which usually means 30-35 mins of actual teaching time.

These teens are usually never there for more than a couple of months, some just days, this is the FIRST place the teens have to go.

They do have access to bibles, and they can take them into their rooms.

For the most part the guards control the mood, which means you have very inconsistent oversight, some wishing to be looked at as 'cool', others who have obvious power trips, and a few who really maintain control. There was a time where one guard in particular who was clearly opposed to the gospel, would stall me for 10, 15, even 20mins before bringing the teens for service, and then would make it a point to close the service just a couple mins early (even cutting off a closing prayer), this was absolutely one of the most trying times because I so wanted to do something or say something, not to mention trying to calm teens who would get incredibly angry at such interruptions.

Due to the varying nature of each service and due to the reality that most of the teens are hearing me for the first time, any pattern I follow will consist of small progression through certain passages with a LOT of reviewing/reminding and seeking to press the Gospel each and every week!

One MAJOR problem is the 'type' of ministry they are or have received. A separate ministry comes on a weekday and this group sticks strictly to the four spiritual laws, when I say 'strictly' I mean just that, they go over it every single week. Though I typically go alone to my section (and if accompanied by others it's quite clear that it's my section) there are other days where the teens may be exposed to Word of Faith filth or wild and wacky Charismatic doctrine.

The other sections are constantly bombarded by such faulty teachings, and a great number of them have been deceived into thinking God has saved them and only wants to make them feel good about themselves and to keep them out of prison.

There is one other chaplain who comes frequently that I can say is solid and recently there are a group of brothers who have been coming who actually label themselves 'Anabaptists', in my brief conversations with them they seem to be stuck on pointing out things like 'denominations' and mentioning little things like 'the church met in homes...'. Granted they could be quite legit, but I do wonder, though when they spoke of the Gospel the one brother mentioned the way Ray Comfort preaches the gospel, so if they do likewise I can still rejoice, that the gospel is preached.

As you may have detected the oversight is quite loose, so loose that several yrs back we had a lady who was a 'christian Scientist' who was able to go with our group for several months without ever being confronted, except by me and my wife. I assume that she decided to leave because my wife and I did NOT give her room to spread her poison (though she tried to desperately) at least in the 'girls' section.

Generally girls are the more violent and the more outspoken in their wickedness. We have witnessed several fights, prevented some (though we can't do much), and have even seen one girl enter our service grab the hair of another girl and start punching her in the face during the preaching!

I had a time where I was put into a horrible situation by a reckless chaplain who thought it a good idea to bring communion elements for those who might want it during the service. So the announcement was made before I started, the elements were left on the table beside me and the lady left to go to another section. Well I explained to the girls with all I could how fearful such a thing is, what it signified and why I wasn't going to distribute. Of course I had that ONE girl who demanded it, constantly interrupting me and even walking to the table to get it herself, this problem took the whole service to address. Though the girls have separate sleeping areas, lesbianism is rampant (however most wouldn't claim to be such, even though they may have participated in lesbian acts). It's such a problem that some girls have to be separated because they want to hold hands under their desks (among other things) DURING service!

It is very rare to see these teens again, though sometimes you do and rarely do they wish to talk of Christ, even though some will want to talk to you. One problem is that there isn't a way to communicate with these teens beyond the service, we are not able to find out where they go or how to contact them.

Yes there have been times where a small few have showed some fruit and have made it a point to thank us for proclaiming the gospel to them.
In a sense it's HARDCORE ministry, because you never know what to expect and if you are able to hear of the situations they live in or what they have seen or done it will absolutely crush you.
We have met teens who have been forced by mothers to have abortions, even through violence. We have met little girls even boys involved in prostitution. Met runaways who are in dangerous homes who as a means of survival try to get to that 'safe' relative (and if you're thinking, 'well just tell the authorities' then you must live in a nice world, but that's not really how it works). We have met teens who because shelters or group homes are overcrowded, they are mixed with teens who are criminals and treated as such. We have met teens who have killed, who have parents who have killed, who have seen their parents killed, who have had parents who have committed suicide etc.. So when I say HARDCORE I mean, I don't attempt to 'build relationships' or make them think I'm cool or funny or try to be 'edgy', I don't lower the standards of the gospel nor throw out holiness for the sake of 'reaching the unreached', I lovingly and unflinchingly PREACH the gospel to them and that sometimes shaking, sometimes weeping, sometimes YELLING because some of those teens are literally walking on the edge of death. Though that may seem EXTREME to some, many of these teens are convinced that I care even though they reject the gospel.
However I must say that such things are NOT the biggest hurdle, as any minister would testify the most difficult aspect, the most discouraging is the lack of laborers, the lack of people lifting up such things in prayer, the lack of concern shown in the casual attitude of those who ask about such a ministry for a conversation starter (I mean the type who aren't looking for details, just chit-chat).

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