Ministry in the Backcountry

Posted on by Heidi Brunsting

By Gareth Unruh, Assistant Director, Juvenile Justice Ministry, Denver Area YFC

I’ve been working with 18-year-old Miguel* for a year and a half now. Recently, I took him on a snow hut trip with another Juvenile Justice Ministry staff member, Wes Mills, who is the Chaplain at Gilliam Youth Services Center. Wes and I know many of the same youth because they often come through his facility to mine.

Miguel’s parents split when he was young, and his dad has not been involved in his life for over a decade. A big reason he landed in the system was because of his relationship with his step-dad, which in turn led to his gang involvement and school issues. So when he got out, he couldn’t go back to his mom's house, leaving Miguel with a dilemma – where would he go when he was paroled? In the end, his dad offered to take him, in spite of the the small 500-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment he shares with three children. Knowing all this, a successful transition into the community seemed doubtful.

And yet, Miguel is very invested in his walk with Christ. He has persevered and stayed close to God and to me. We have visited churches together, talked about his future in ministry, and his commitment to his family and girlfriend. All of this led up to the snow hut trip I mentioned earlier. We got snowshoes, backpacks and plenty of food and headed into the mountains to a backcountry cabin for an overnight stay. Both Wes and Miguel laughed at me as I wheezed up the trail toward the cabin.

Miguel talked about his family and his life the whole way in and throughout the night. We lite a fire and talked about the miraculous, and why bad things happen to good people. We discussed doubts, faith, eternity and what his current and future struggles will be. The next day we got up and chopped wood – it was the first time he had held an axe, let alone chopped wood OR even started a fire!

I had strapped my kid’s red toboggan sled to my pack the day before hoping to have some fun in the backcountry. We took turns making a path down through aspen and evergreen trees to the bottom of the hill. It sometimes took me ten minutes to hike back up, which of course Wes and Miguel found to be quite funny! I wish you could have been there to see Miguel finally have the chance to be a kid after growing up in the juvenile system.

Your efforts, prayer, finances allow me and the rest of the staff at Denver Youth for Christ to step into young peoples’ lives and make disciples – transforming lives! Thank you for “freeing” my hands and feet to serve young people. We had a lot of fun on this snow hut trip – Miguel had never done anything like it before.

PS: Miguel is just one of hundreds of youth who need a caring/consistent adult to step into their life and love them unconditionally with the love of Christ. Learn more about becoming a Mentor with Youth for Christ!

*Name changed to protect his privacy

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