Have you ever asked God to change your life, but not really known how or why? Well, I have some advice for you… don’t ask it if you don’t mean it!!
4 months ago I spent about an hour touring a court-ordered residential facility for teens. It was only an hour, but I knew that my life was changed forever. This wasn’t the rough and rigid juvenile hall we’ve all seen on TV. Confidence, respect, and smiles filled the sweet faces of my resident tour guides. There are no bars here. No cells. No barbed wire. Instead, the AMIkids halls are filled with counselors, educators, mentors... family.
It’s a stark comparison to the family life most of the residents are used to--like Angel, a Cuban refugee, whose stepfather was abusive and dealing drugs out of his home. By the age of 12, Angel was battling his own addictions and quickly turned to gangs for the family he so wanted. Between the ages of 15-16 he was arrested 6 times.
Shannon’s childhood was also formed by parental addiction. She ended up living with her grandmother and multiple cousins. They struggled to make ends meet. Her circumstances caused anger, resentment, and bad choices that eventually landed her in a courtroom.
Unfortunately, the cycle of negative behavior and chronic re-offence is a reality for the majority of kids in today’s juvenile justice system. For many, it will continue for the rest of their lives unless someone steps in with an alternative to their situation.
The AMIkids family is doing just that and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. To date, over 125,000 kids have been given a chance to separate their troubled past from their bright future.
Angel earned the AMIkids Admiral Scholarship, completed his B.A. while working full time as an admissions counselor, and graduated as valedictorian. He’s currently a licensed minister working with youth and pursuing his Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology.
Shannon went on to earn her doctorate and is now a college adjunct professor of education and a high school teacher working with kids who have emotional and behavioral disorders.
Every child deserves this opportunity and I often think of Ephesians 2:10 when looking in the beautiful faces of our kids. They are:
“His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand.”
I got in my car after the tour that day and called everyone I knew who I *thought* would listen to me. Hehe! And I could go on and on about our kids now, but they really say it best:
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