Full Circle

Matt Sweeney

Rogue Valley Youth For Christ

Just like any other afternoon sitting in my office, there was plenty to do and as usual I struggled with what to do next. That’s the way it was a few weeks ago when my cell phone rang. The caller ID said that the next voice I would hear was from Gareth Unruh of Denver Area YFC. My curiosity was immediately piqued because Gareth and I almost never talk.

Several years ago I was part of the National JJM leadership team and it is there that I first got to know Gareth. I’ve always enjoyed his company and his heart for the Lord as well as his heart for kids in the Juvenile Justice System but once my time was over with the national team it seems our paths almost never crossed. Gareth is a great guy and I always enjoyed it when our paths did cross but I never enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed this phone call.

“Hey Gareth”, “hi Matt”, followed with some small talk, that is how the call began. After a minute or two Gareth switched gears and asked if I remembered the name ‘Travis Wood’. Everyone who really knows me also knows that I am the absolute worst person in the world for remembering names so of course I had to say no. At this point the phone call began to get really interesting. As Gareth’s story flooded into my brain there was a corresponding touch deep in my heart from the Lord. A jumble of emotions like joy, amazement, hope, wonder, peace and excitement swirled around my mind and heart as his words un-wrapped an amazing gift for me.

Travis is a young man in his mid-twenties with a couple of kids and a big heart for the Lord. He has applied to be a detention center volunteer with Denver Area YFC and during the application process he let it be known that he has a past. It seems that about a decade ago Travis was in trouble and had to spend some time in juvenile detention BUT, it wasn’t just any detention center. It seems that Travis had spent his time in the Jackson County JDH in Medford, Oregon. I can only guess how the conversation went but Gareth said that Travis spoke of a man named Matt Sweeney who shared his love for God with kids in the Jackson County JDH in Medford, Oregon.

I have wracked my brain trying to remember any conversation with Travis but with no success. It doesn’t really matter though because God has it all stored away in His records. I’ve pondered what Travis’ journey has been like but obviously God has had His hand on this young man. For a period of time nearly a decade ago God allowed me to be His messenger to speak into the life of this young man. How many messengers has the Lord used to bring this child of His to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Only God could know the answer to that but I have the honor of being one of them.

Like Isaiah nearly 2700 years ago Travis has chosen to stand up and say: “Here I am Lord, send me.” As I write these words my heart is swelling with joy and wonder that I got to be a part of it and the Lord blessed me with a great gift by letting me know about Travis’ newest role in the kingdom.

Anyone who has done this kind of work for very long gets to carry the weight of knowing that kids we have loved have been lost forever, lives cut short by drugs, violence and despair. Thankfully, God allows us to also see that there is fruit that is birthed from the work we do, fruit that endures. I treasure this gift that God has given me; a reminder that in His hands I will be fruitful for His kingdom.

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