By: Tim Butler | Chaplain, Juvenile Justice Ministries
“You were born a mistake. You are such a failure and always will be… you are a waste of tax dollars.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself…Other people may think that you will learn from your actions, but I don’t think you will… I hope that you suffer.”
There’s no way to soften those hateful words, spoken by two teenagers to “A,” a former classmate during a court hearing in July. And you certainly can’t miss their justifiable anger toward him for his part in a high school shooting on May 7, 2019 that took the life of Kendrick Castillo, a student who rushed at one of the shooters. (“A” was sentenced to life in prison plus the possibility of parole after he serves at least 18 years.)
“A” was admitted to one of the facilities I serve as Chaplain within a couple days of his arrest, and he’ll remain there until he turns 18. I’ve reached out to him several times, and he’s attended one or two Bible studies, but other than brief interactions when I visit his unit, we’ve not had any conversations.
I’m sharing “A’s” story for several reasons even though there’s so little to tell. First, stop and pray whenever you see or hear a story about a juvenile being arrested and placed in jail. Pray that God sends someone who can point them to Jesus. (Because of His grace, YFC’s been in those places for more than 60 years!) Second, not every encounter with a youth in jail turns out to be a “success story” – too many end up in the adult system or in the grave.
Finally, young people like “A” need to know that regardless of what they’ve experienced in life, regardless of what they’ve done, and regardless of what others say about them, they still bear the image of God, and that He is still lovingly pursuing them.
At some point, “A” and his accomplice will fade from the headlines, but many will always remember them – his mom, Kendrick’s parents, the other eight people who were shot, and the students, teachers, and first responders at school that day. YFC volunteers and I will keep reaching out to “A” as long as we can, even when he goes into the adult system.
Your prayers and partnership during this challenging ministry season demonstrate that you too want to reach young people like “A,” believing that the story is not over regardless of the enemy’s efforts to steal, kill, and destroy. We praise God for you and count it a privilege to serve Him with you!
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.