As millions remain in coronavirus-related lockdowns across the U.S., Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net) is reaching out to teens in lockup.
Leaders and volunteers of YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM) in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas have maintained ministry momentum throughout the pandemic, investing in the lives of local teenagers living in and out of youth-serving institutions—including detention centers, probation, correctional facilities, group homes, residential treatment centers, and emergency shelters.
JJM leaders and volunteers used their time in quarantine to connect digitally with JJM directors, stocking up on encouragement and guidance to help them continue ministering to teens living in the justice system.
“Even in the midst of this pandemic, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to sit in on Zoom calls with JJM directors from across the United States,” Rhonda Lewis said. “I’ve heard great strategies on how to better serve our young people in the juvenile justice centers, as well as how to train and help facilitate our volunteers to better serve our communities.”
As Texas began to reopen this summer, JJM leaders and volunteers immediately resumed connecting with the teenagers they have built relationships with inside Dallas-Fort Worth juvenile institutions.
JJM volunteers also quickly reengaged with teenagers who had recently left Dallas-Fort Worth juvenile institutions. These JJM aftercare relationships help sustain ongoing ministry involvement with teenagers to enable them to successfully re-enter society and to avoid being among the 70% of previously arrested youths who are arrested again.
Belinda, 18, has been mentored through JJM since age 15. Belinda says her JJMmentor acts as guide, friend, and advocate.
“The mentoring has really helped me out a lot because she also checks up on me, she makes sure I’m OK,” Belinda said. “I’ve never had too many people really look out for me and really care for me, so I really appreciate how she helps me sometimes and keeps me out of trouble, telling me what’s right and wrong. She even helps at home. She talks to my mom and tells her how I feel.
“I’m glad she came into my life that day, so I can be on the right path,” Belinda continued.
JJM’s after-care mentoring helps teenagers build upon the faith in Christ that they either began or recommitted to while in a juvenile institution, through the involvement of JJM.
In July, Texas began reversing some of its reopening protocols. But even if the state re-enters a full lockdown, YFCwill know what to do: Keep calling.
“It’s been amazing times to have those JJM calls. I’ve really heard some great information, and I’m excited about the time, the opportunity, we’ll get again to go back into our juvenile justice centers,” Lewis said.
YFC Dallas-Fort Worth Executive Director LaToyia Dennis says the ministry has converted coronavirus-related obstacles into outreach opportunities.
“While COVID-19 impacted our ability to serve kids inside detention centers, it provided an opportunity for us to grow our ministry,” Dennis said. “We are launching YFC ministry to teen parents, called YFC Parent Life, with virtual workshops and planning for ministry in two additional communities through YFC’s City Life. We are hopeful to make a significant impact in the lives of young people in tough places.”
Nationally, Youth For Christ is telling inspiring stories like these through#YFCBeTheStory, an initiative to help spread the word across the nation about how YFC chapters are making a difference in their communities.
Youth For Christ has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when the Rev. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and always about the message of Jesus. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has more than 160 chapters impacting communities across America.