By Hailey Rice, Communications Coordinator/ Intern
When Shelli Rawson first asked me to accompany her to the State Training School for Boys in Eldora, Iowa, a facility 175 miles away, I was hesitant. The only knowledge I had of a juvenile facility was watching Beyond Scared Straight and Law and Order. That Thursday morning, Shelli and I packed her car full of balloons, streamers, party hats, cookies, and everything else needed to throw a joy-filled birthday celebration. As we drove off, I imagined yellow jumpsuits and lots of angry chained prisoners. However, that was not the case.
I was shocked when I arrived and there was no fence in sight. Just a swath of brick buildings and polo-wearing teens awaited us. We quickly decorated the chapel room and waited for our Siouxland students to arrive. After prayer, we ate some delicious Chinese food, the birthday boy’s request, and took time to fellowship.
A few of the teens enthusiastically told me about all the classes they were involved in and how they were all looking forward to getting their driver’s licenses. I found it quite uplifting that these teens, despite what they had experienced, still had hope for their future. Shelli began pulling the boys aside to have individual meetings with them.
I was asked to play Boom Blast Stix. This is a challenging game, where each player takes turns stacking triangle-shaped pieces, trying not to set off the pile. I lost every match, however, some of the things I learned are much more valuable.
These boys, regardless of what placed them at the school, were all looking for the same thing: love and acceptance. When they could not find that at home, they turned to others and gangs, whose love was conditional.
I now realize the true importance of YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry. They offer incarcerated kids the only one who offers a complete, perfect love and His name is Jesus. His forgiveness goes beyond their criminal behaviors and sees the person. He becomes the comforter to a boy who is hurting inside. We seek these teens in dark places, because Jesus is the light guiding them and offering hope for the future.
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