“I read my Bible now,” he said, brown eyes eager for my response.
“That’s wonderful!” I cried, “What book are you reading?”
“I’m in Mark,” he beamed.
I saw life beginning to glow in his eyes. His baggy green sweater was too large for his arms, as were the state issued flip-flops. I wished that I were talking to him in a youth group building, rather than in juvenile detention.
“How did you pick that Gospel? What do you think of it?”
“Well, I started in Matthew. I read every night now, until they shut off the lights. I like it…Jesus is different than I expected.”
“How is he different?”
“Well…he hung out with, like…sinners and stuff. And he was old! He was like, thirty something when he started preaching. But he didn’t like the religious people…”
“No,” I agreed, “Jesus hung around with people who were real and honest. He was friends with people just like us…”
As we continued talking, John revealed to me more than he knew. I got to see Christ’s pull on his heart by looking into his face. His eyes were lit with excitement and hope. He smiled a smile of shy brilliance.
John is fourteen years old. His father died four years ago. John has three tattoos (wrist, shoulder, hand) all in memory of his daddy. John was put into juvenile detention for fighting. He told me he’s been getting into fights since his father passed away. He didn’t say how he died.
John is just one of the many children that we see weekly, coming and going. And yet…not just one of the many. These kids are often stereotyped to be troublemakers, problem kids who will eventually end up where they really belong—prison. (But is that really their future?)
Even people who seem the most closed and aggressive can open up to show how deeply they are longing for something to save them.
We have taught them about God, His love, forgiveness, and grace. We’ve encouraged them to take a new route. I can’t describe the joy I feel when I see them walk out their new salvation.