What I See: more than the labels

Posted on by Heidi Brunsting

By Gareth Unruh, Assistant Director, Juvenile Justice Ministry, Denver Area YFC

I hear a lot of opinions everyday … about society, people groups, how to do something, what people think of other people or maybe just what people think of the things other people do! And I see a lot of things … especially people – their behaviors, their emotions and how they act out on their emotions, their opinions of themselves, and other people’s opinions of them. Here’s a fun one, “I’ll tell you who I think is going to end up in adult prison (DOC).” I’m sorry, care much?! 

The youth I work with get labeled many things. Our facilities are called juvenile facilities, and the kids I work with are called delinquents or they're committing delinquent acts. Some people see them as troubled, some as “problem kids.” Even the church community calls them “lost.” But, have you ever wondered, What happened? How did all this start? What part of their past led them here?

Here’s what I see…

I see a youth who was molested by his uncle every week.

I see a young man that was beat unconscious every time his parent came home drunk.

I see a 18 year old that never had a place to call home because his mom was strung out and didn’t give rip about her son enough to stop sleeping with her abusive drug dealer with whom she traded sex for heroin.

I see a kid who never had a dad or a positive male role model.

I see someone who longs to feel like they belong to something, anything and his gang excepts him as he is…of course he’ll just have to “put in work."

I see a scared kid who saw his dad kill himself right in front of him.

What do you see? Can you see the youth who is having a hard time through that lens? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that each one of these youth can make choices and decisions that don’t involved breaking the law and they should be held accountable for their actions. There are consequences and discipline for poor choices, and for the victims that have been hurt. But I think we forget, each young person that is acting out or has been labeled as a “menace to society” has a past and has been influenced by the actions of others.

I’m a Chaplain with an organization called Youth for Christ, we partner with the Division of Youth Corrections (DYC). I get the honor and privilege to speak into young people’s lives what Christ sees in them everyday.  They’ve been told they won’t amount to anything, they don’t matter, their lives don’t count, they are a waste of tax payers money. I GET to tell them of Christ's love for them, His UNCONDITIONAL love for each one of them! I get to speak a message of HOPE, not condemnation, not judgement, not guilt. God allows me to see them for the potential they can become and help them start NEW!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

The next time you see a group of teenagers acting out, trying to fit in with each other, being loud at a restaurant, cussing behind you in line, destroying public property, or tagging up a table … before you scold them, judge them, or yell at them; ask them how they are doing today and then LISTEN. You might be surprise by what you hear or what you “see!”

This article originally appeared on perspectiveofachaplain.wordpress.com and is being republished by permission.

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