On September 28th, In His Steps hosted a Community Fun Day in the Saw Mill Quarters for all the families in the area to enjoy food, games, and a time of worship and speaking! In His Steps has had the joy of ministering to the Saw Mill Quarters of Canton for the past seventeen years, with the Community Fun Day occurring for the past five years. We’ve seen a steady number of people come every […]
According to a 2010 census of the United States, close to 53,000 youth are living in facilities such as detention centers, residential treatment, adult prisons and jails and other justice centers. While this seems like a small number compared to the over 3 million people who currently live in the US, the fact remains that there are over fifty thousand children under the age of 18 who have faced criminal charges and are sentenced to live in a correctional facility.
To call this an epidemic would be an understatement.
Mississippi ranks third in the nation for the highest incarceration rate, with 624 people per every 100,000 behind bars somewhere. While our juvenile incarceration rate is the eighth lowest in the nation, many of our children grow up watching people they know and love go to jail. The example that is set for them is often tainted with blue flashing lights and handcuffs, so it isn’t any wonder that our youth often find themselves incarcerated in adulthood.
In His Steps continues to make an impact on this issue in the Canton community. With our Director, Reverend Bacon traveling to the local youth detention centers–Hinds, Rankin, and Yazoo Counties–to meet with the young men and women who are currently serving time there, we have been able to witness the Gospel working in places like this!
In late August, Reverend Bacon went to one of the area detention centers to meet with a small group of young men who had just been brought into the system for pre-trial. As he walked into the room, he was met with the faces of six youth staring back at him, waiting for what he would say. All of the young men were around 15 years old, many of them already jaded against the world.
Reverend Bacon knew 25 years ago when he began this ministry in the youth detention centers that this was a call placed on his heart by God, and “when God calls you, He prepares you,” he said, smiling. “I know He’s prepared me by giving me wisdom in knowing how to love them. When I walk into a room with a bunch of kids who are angry, hurt, and defensive towards everybody, I want them to know, ‘I’m here to encourage you.’”
The story he chose to share with the men was the one of Blind Bartimaeus found in Mark 10. Rev. Bacon showed them in the passage how Bartimaeus knew he had a problem–blindness, knew where he could find help for it–with Jesus, and knew he had to cry out to receive that help. This clear representation of salvation struck a chord with many of the young men listening, but what Reverend Bacon shared next drove home the message of Christ’s redemption even more.
“Even as Bartimaeus cried out for help, there was a cry of hindrance coming from the crowd following Jesus who tried to keep Bartimaeus from talking to Him,” Reverend Bacon told the boys. “We all have a spiritual blindness before we come to know Christ, and when we try to cry out to Him for salvation, there are going to be people who try to keep us down. But that doesn’t mean we stay down.”
When Reverend Bacon offered the call to salvation for the young men, four of them came forward and identified with Christ that day. It was truly a joyful moment in that meeting room as four more of God’s children decided to come home to the Father! It is because of stories like this that we at In His Steps wholeheartedly believe that the gospel is alive and working in the youth detention centers in the Jackson metro area. Will you pray and serve alongside us as we continue in the good race the Lord has set before us?
As In His Steps wraps up summer activities, we reflect on all that the Lord has done through this ministry in the past three months. Isaiah 55:11 says, “So My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do,” and we believe wholeheartedly that the work done this summer will not return void in the lives of the children and families that were impacted.
One of the foundational ministries of In His Steps is our detention center ministry in Hinds, Rankin, and Yazoo counties. Through our youth detention center ministry, we have been able to share the gospel fully and clearly with several young men and women and seen many of them enter into a relationship with the Lord. Even with the victories, ministry can be tiring and there are often several issues pulling at your attention at once.
On August 1st, Reverend Bacon took Isaiah 55 to heart at his weekly visit to the Rankin County Youth Detention Center as he shared God’s Word with a rather skeptical listener. Initially, he says, “I didn’t want to go. There was so much to do here at our main campus, it was raining, and the detention center had called ahead to let me know there would only be one youth to work with. I questioned whether it would be a good use of the time I had to drive all the way out to Rankin County for the one child. I questioned God.” With so many other things demanding his attention from the upcoming 25 years of ministry celebration, Rev. Bacon found it hard to justify driving out to the detention center, but he felt the Lord asking him to be obedient and faithful.
So he went.
When he got there, the guard that was working explained to Reverend Bacon that the child he would be working with was thirteen, and that he had gotten mixed up in gang activity which had landed him in the detention center. “He also doesn’t believe in God,” the guard shared. Rev. Bacon saw that the boy was defensive and outspoken about his lack of faith, which he knew was a sign that the Lord had begun planting seeds in this child’s life and that he was fighting the love that was being offered to him.
Once Reverend Bacon was with the boy, he asked him simply, “What did you have to do to get in the gang?” The boy began sharing his story, saying, “I had to fight five people. I told them no head shots though, only body shots so my mama couldn’t tell I had been fighting when I got home.” This prompted Rev. Bacon to ask when the boy had joined the gang, as he was obviously still living at home at the time, and as the boy looked at Reverend Bacon, he said, “Three years ago. I was ten.”
It seemed clear that the child had been looking for something to believe in, someone to look up to, and after talking some more about why he had joined the gang, God opened a door for Rev. Bacon to then ask, “So what is it that makes you not believe in God? I can tell you’re an intelligent young man, so tell me what you’ve got working in your mind about God.” The boy said something that took Rev. Bacon aback: “Why would I believe in someone who walked the earth just like I do?”
His statement led Rev. Bacon to share the gospel, telling this broken thirteen year old boy who had made mistakes while searching for something to believe in how much God loves him as he is. He explained that while Jesus did walk the earth just like we do, He did so much more than that, including dying on the cross so that we can live with Him for the rest of eternity.
Telling this story back, Reverend Bacon says, “He didn’t accept Christ that day, but I’ll tell you what he did do. He listened.”
At In His Steps, we hold fast to Isaiah 55, trusting that God’s word, when spoken in faith will never return empty. We know that even if this young man did not accept Christ right then in the detention center, God’s Word will continue with him until he is ready to accept the grace that has been extended to him. It is because of this belief that we follow Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” We are trusting today that God’s gospel will bring salvation to the young boy who heard the gospel Thursday, and that in God’s timing he will come to understand it!
When In His Steps began twenty five years ago, it started with two primary ministries–sports and the Jackson Detention Center. As we’ve continued our work in the detention center, God has revealed His desire for us to help incarcerated kids find their purpose in life where they are now and after their time in the detention center. We believe that God has a purpose for each of us as Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” With this heart, we interact with the kids in the detention center to show them that the Lord loves them immensely and has a specific purpose for their lives, to glorify Him and reach the nations, beginning with Canton, Mississippi.
On May 7th, Reverend Bacon visited the detention center and met with some of the young girls and the female officers in charge. He had the opportunity to present the gospel with eleven of them and spoke on how God’s love was for each one of them, and that there isn’t anything we can possibly do that can separate us from that love. He shared Romans 5:8, which tells us that God demonstrated that love for us by sending His only Son to die for each of us while we were still sinners.
To explain salvation more fully, Reverend Bacon told the girls about the time he got the chicken pox at 31. There was a very obvious external issue as the pox bumps broke out all over his skin, but when he went to the doctor, his doctor didn’t give him an external medicine. Instead, he gave Reverend Bacon three pills and told him that in order to heal the outward issues that chicken pox presented, he needed to get rid of the virus on the inside. Looking at the pills on the table, Reverend Bacon acknowledged that they would heal him, and made the decision to take them so he could be rid of his chicken pox.
While this is certainly a lighthearted story, salvation is much the same. Our sin may present itself in an external way and have very obvious consequences to it, but ultimately the issue lies within our hearts. In order to heal ourselves from the inside out we have to first acknowledge that Jesus is the only thing that can offer that healing to us, then act on that knowledge and surrender our lives and our will to Him and let Him be the good Doctor and Healer that Scripture tells us He is. We have to make the choice to take the pills, to allow them to do their work inside of us.
As Reverend Bacon left the detention center, he says “my heart became more burdened for the incarcerated youth in our state.” He was struck with the understanding that Christians have the answer that these kids so desperately need, and God is calling all of us now to go into the detention centers and share that answer with the children who are there. We believe at In His Steps that any time God’s love is extended to His people there is a response in our hearts as the Holy Spirit moves, so we are believing and praying that all eleven of these girls and the officers present will respond in faith to the salvation that is so freely offered.