Not Just a Case File

June 18, 2019


By: Tim Butler | Chaplain, Juvenile Justice Ministries 

“Sometimes I think I am just a ‘case file’ to everybody!”  

The intensity of “Daniel’s” despair and pain was undeniable, and even though he made that statement to me months ago, I still have vivid memories of that conversation.  In the 4 months we’d been meeting at his group home, that was the “most honest” he had ever been, and his vulnerability was a priceless gift. 

Daniel’s Christian therapist had contacted YFC last January asking for a mentor, and I welcomed the opportunity to build a relationship that would last more than a few weeks.  (Youths who are placed in two of the facilities where I serve as Chaplain are locked up on average just three weeks.)  As Daniel’s mentor, I’m a member of his “support team” which includes his divorced parents, his therapist and 4 other professionals.  Here’s part of a report his therapist sent to the team last week – it’s difficult to read:  

“Youth [he’s 16] was adopted into a home with great conflict, issues surround disciplinary tactics that were considered abusive and neglectful…Youth’s developmental stage may be between three to five years old…Youth has also processed how his family’s Christian belief system has impacted him, noting that he has had some difficulty in following this faith after his family was pulled apart…He has difficulty believing that a higher power could have a plan for him.”  

Last week, the support team met to give our monthly reports of recent interactions with Daniel, his progress, and new goals.  It’s humbling to participate on the team; however, it’s difficult to watch the poor dynamics between Daniel’s parents, and between Daniel and his dad.  But the half-hour conversation I had with his mom after the meeting affected me the most. 

“Tim, it hurts my heart to see my son hurt so much.  He wants so badly to have a relationship with his dad, but he cares more about Daniel’s younger brother than he does Daniel.  And my son knows that.  I know God cares about Daniel, and I’m so glad you have been there for him for so long.”  

Like all the other young people I meet, I can’t change Daniel’s past or take him out of his difficult circumstances.  But because of our partnership together, your prayers and support, I can bring Jesus to Daniel and let him know that he’s not “just a case file” to me, to you, and especially to God.  Pray that Christ will soften his heart, and that he’ll come to know the personal God Who forgives sin and Who offers him a life-changing relationship.  

Thank you for being a part of the ongoing conversation with youth in our city and helping us share God’s story.  It’s our honor to be the storytellers on your behalf who meet kids right where they are and give life to their story.  

Providing young people in our community with the opportunity to make an informed decision to be a follower of Jesus  Christ and become part of a local church.