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I was sitting in a group of three for Bible study on the unit usually reserved for the older juveniles and more serious offenders. Two of the boys spoke out with spiritually uplifting things to say. Their "church" background shone in the stream of usually downcast and worried faces.
"Jesus died for people who killed people too."
Kenneth, however, stayed quiet, and his head seemed comfortable facing the ground. Early in our talk, one of the more open boys was expressing his faith, talking sincerely about Jesus' love and forgiveness. Next thing I knew he was looking at Kenneth's bowed head and telling him, "Jesus died for people who killed people too."
Kenneth sheepishly raised his head, with an embarrassed look on his face.
The next week there were only two. One of the boys had been sent to a longer-term detention facility. One of the bolder boys was there and again Kenneth.
Yet Kenneth was different. He spoke and looked up at us. He shared a poem one of the other two boys had shown him, from a Bible study book the boy had. This poem talked about being locked up in jail, where there seemingly is no hope or happiness, and yet finding peace through knowing God is there as the Savior, their comforter and protector.
Both boys raved about the poem. Kenneth said he read it several times a day along with his Bible, and it helped support him.
The other boy was called down for court in the middle of our study. I was disappointed to see him leave, but there was a purpose for Kenneth and me having a talk together.
"I had to have the best of everything."
Kenneth had much to say. Time in detention had gotten him thinking about the way things were, the way they are, and the way they are going to be. For half an hour, he shared his "life" back on the streets and described his hustling.
"I had to have the best of everything," he said. "I wanted people to respect me and think I really had it all. I got a new pair of tennis shoes every week because just as soon as I bought a pair to match my outfit, another new pair came on the market, and of course I had to have it. So, I just knew I'd have to sell a little more drugs or steal something in order to get it. I was always having to watch what I had because people knew I had a lot, and that led to buying guns."
WELS Special Ministries provides Bible correspondence courses, Bibles, and other printed spiritual materials for those in jails, prisons, and correctional facilities. If you or someone you know is currently serving a sentence and would like to receive these spiritual resources by mail, contact WELS.
Looking for more stories and resources that relate to your life situation? WELS has developed materials for some of life's biggest challenges and changes including going to college, death of a loved one, financial problems, divorce, parenting, fear, aging, and more.
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