This past weekend, I was once again involved in the Epiphany Ministries weekend at Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino, and once again, God showed up in a big way! It amazes me each time, but it shouldn't. God's grace is especially available to those for whom life is hard.
And life is very hard for young men who are incarcerated!
The weekend is much like a "Walk to Emmaus" or Cursillo in some traditions. It is essentially a short course in Christianity with a large dose of hospitality and love thrown in. The young men are surrounded by people who show love to them--real love, the kind that Jesus demonstrated. For many of them this is the first time anyone has ever loved them. Most of them have been abandoned in some way or another, abused or otherwise forgotten. They have turned to abusing others and have been caught. For most, love was never a part of their lives.
The difference between when they first walked in on Friday morning and when they walked out on Sunday evening is nothing less than miraculous. Young men who were hardened (or trying to be) in order to protect themselves on Friday morning, find that by being loved they can show love in return and enjoy themselves. One young man said it best: "Here, I don't have to worry about who's behind me!" I told him, "That's right! Jesus has your back!"
Thank you for all who prayed for the weekend. And thanks to all of the team members who worked very hard to make it happen. But very special thanks to the Lord for truly making it all happen, for the young men, for the staff at the facility, and for the team.
It was amazing!