Detention Center

A week ago (last Thursday) I was able to join in on ministry taking place at the juvenile detention center in Hamilton, Ohio. My coworker, Valaira, and members of her church regularly visit and share God's Word with girls who are there. It was quite the experience to see Valaira's compassion being enacted in her words and actions. She is being used by God!

After having some conversations with Valaira over the past several months, I told her that I'd love to visit with her and encourage these girls and their abilities that will help them once they leave. To do so, I wanted to invite them to contribute their stories and talents to ENCOUNTER--The Magazine. So Valaira asked if I would like to give the devotions as well as talk about the contributing opportunity.

For once, I wasn't nervous. That's rare for me, especially going into an intimidating situation facing teenagers -- always a tough audience, but this one sounded even tougher! Yet I was confident in what God wanted me to say. One night it just hit me what I wanted to share with them. (God does that out of the blue most times!!) I focused on this Scripture:

Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
He trains my hands for war
and gives my fingers skill for battle.
He is my loving ally and my fortress,
my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
(Psalm 144:1-2, New Living Translation)

I talked about David's background and how he had second chances for the mistakes he made. Then I told them to look at his psalm: God had given David the training and skills he needed to fight the battles he faced. We talked about physical and mental and emotional and spiritual battles they face now and would face when they leave. I told them to recognize the talents God gave them that He would use in their lives to help them battle temptation, negativity, etc. And to remember that He has a purpose for giving them those skills.

There was more said. God brought it along. But the neat thing was that I didn't want to rely on my notes -- and usually I have to unless I memorize something. I wanted to be able to look them in the eyes so they could see the sincerity as I spoke. And God allowed me to remember what to say and brought new things to add as I spoke. (Steve has told me he has these experiences each week as he preaches. I got a taste!) And I expected the girls to put up a wall. But they started breaking down -- literally! They shared heartaches and we all shed tears. Wow. There were some harsh experiences they've faced. But there was hope for the future.

God showed up in that place. I witnessed it firsthand. And I was amazed at His power. No matter how many stories you hear of God, when you see Him active and moving (or when you stop and recognize that the things happening around you are God active and moving!), it brings awe. And it was pretty neat to be there and feel used as a tiny portion of His grand scheme of things.
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