Why Juvenile Justice Ministry

Chad Fincham-North Iowa Youth For Christ


The Laugh

I couldn’t help but chuckle as I heard the words, “Chaplain Sellers has been trying to get a hold of you. He’s retiring and wants you to consider his position.” My brother was speaking, having just finished an annual basketball skills camp for the adjudicated delinquent males at the State Training School in Eldora, Iowa. My laughter wasn’t the result of a lack of interest but rather the conclusion of immediate mental objections:

• I grew up in a Christian home. My mother homeschooled me for half of my life… I couldn’t relate.
• I’m 24 years old. I’m not ordained, licensed, or certified for chaplaincy ministry… I wouldn’t qualify.
• I have been married less than a year, have been working at my job for only 9 months, and I just found out we’re expecting a baby in less than seven months... I shouldn’t apply!

The Plan

As daunting as the number of possible objections seemed, I could not ignore the desire to tackle them. As best I could tell, this aspiration stemmed from two influences: a mental image that appeared simultaneously with my “chuckle” and a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s leading. We’ll come back to the image. First, I needed to test this “leading.” I thought of two steps:

1. See what my wife thinks.
2. Do what my wife says.

Ok, I kid a little on the second one, but Rachel’s support was imperative. So, I decided to casually tell her of Chaplain Sellers’ retirement, give no inclination of my thoughts, and emphasize other things that didn’t seem to move me (like our ugly black shag carpet). But before I could finish the first line, Rachel blurts out:

“Maybe you should take his spot!”

The Kid

At that moment I could only respond with, “That’s what I’ve been thinking.” You see, the image that had surfaced in my mind was of a young man named Terrell whom I met during my internship with Chaplain Sellers. The memory replaying was when Terrell (a strong, 18 year old gang member) looked at me with tears flowing, holding a book entitled How to Have a Relationship with God, and said, “I have one wish in life, Chad. I want my dad to come back. Twelve years ago, when I was six, he turned his back and walked out. And that’s the image that keeps replaying in my mind.”

As it turns out, one strong kid in a weak moment took down all my mental objections. And there are many others like him, all of whom have a loving Heavenly Father who desires for them to become a part of the family.

That’s why I do JJM.

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