Even in Prison

The song “Everlasting God” by Lincoln Brewster has not been a favorite of mine until recently. A month ago, Steve, a volunteer who serves alongside me on Tuesday afternoons, spoke about the power of music with our juvenile offenders. Before we knew it, we were singing classics by Michael Jackson. I love seeing young people close their eyes as they sing and imagine being somewhere else.

The next week, when Steve and I met again with the group, a young man named Dev mentioned how much he loves playing guitar, so we talked to the staff at detention and got their permission to bring a guitar into the facility.

Last week, I received a guitar from a friend and brought it to detention. Dev was shackled and separated from others for his protection. The superintendent warned me that there is no guarantee that the guitar will not be damaged when it comes into this facility. I told her that I was willing to take that chance. (And personally, there is never a guarantee that I or others who serve alongside YFC won’t get hurt when we come into any high-risk environment like a detention center.)

At this point, I didn’t even know if Dev could really play. But I chose to trust him and take this chance because I have worked with him for so long and knew his excitement about music.

When I entered the room with the guitar and told him that he was setting a tone for future musicians who are incarcerated by his actions today, he smiled and started jumping up and down, making the shackles around his ankles and wrist jingle like Christmas bells.

Our assistant superintendent came in behind me and removed the shackles from his wrists. As I handed him the guitar, he began tuning it as though it had always belonged to him. I asked Dev how long it had been since he played, and he said over a year. As Dev was strumming the chords, I asked who taught him to play, and he said that he had watched YouTube for over five years to learn. Some teenagers use YouTube to destroy themselves by looking at inappropriate videos, but Dev took something that could be damaging and used it for good to empower and equip his God-given gift.

As Dev began strumming, I recognized a song that I had heard years ago in church, but could not completely remember what song it was… and then he sang the first lines:

You are the everlasting God, the everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary
You’re the defender of the weak, You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles

The presence of God filled that space and worship began, led by a young man whom I know is a troubled child of God. Dev felt freedom while worshiping because, as 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT) says, “Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – even in prison.

“Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – even in prison.

The detention staff and I will never be the same. In this unique experience, we listened to worship in a place that is hopeless to many. I am so thankful that Jesus is hope to the hopeless, and I was able to experience Jesus through a child of his named Dev.

Thank you for allowing us to serve in tough places and believing in this mission of Youth For Christ. It is an honor to steward your prayers and support as we grow, and we will never forget the main reason we are all here: to glorify God as living sacrifices of our worship to Him.

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