VBS gives juvenile offenders another chance

TUPELO – If you had asked them last week when they last went to church, Allen and Nicholas would have had a hard time remembering.
But the two Lee County Juvenile Detention Center inmates got back into the church-going routine when they attended the annual Vacation Bible School at the center Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Allen, 17, and Nicholas, 16, were two of 11 youths who participated in the VBS and two of five who decided to get baptized. The VBS is voluntary for the teen inmates. Because they are juveniles, last names can’t be published.
Despite having several run-ins with the law and being regular tenants at the detention center, both teens hope their decision to get baptized will put them on a different road.
“I needed to change my life and fast,” said Allen, who was arrested for possession of marijuana. “It’s basically now or never. I’m 17 and next time I’m not coming to the juvenile jail, I’m going to the big jail and I don’t want that. I don’t want to end up in a worse place.”
Said Nicholas, who has 18 days left on a 90-day sentence, “I decided to accept Jesus because I want to change. I don’t want to keep coming back here. I’ve been here so many times I’ve lost count. But I really think this is going to be a turning point in my life.”
Volunteers from several churches made the three-day VBS possible. Pastors like Danny Robbins of Cedar Grove Pentecostal Church helped to deliver the word to the teens. Robbins is also the inmate ministry chaplain for the Lee County Jail.
“These three days have been very important for these kids,” said Robbins. “They get to be ministered to while in here instead of just being locked away. This can be the turning point in some of their lives.”
Robbins said the support the jail staff has shown to the youths has been overwhelming.
“This staff really cares about these kids and it shows,” he said. “They have been singing with them and just showing them that they do care about them.”
Both Allen and Nicholas know it won’t be easy to break old habits, but feel they can do it.
“I’m just going to get out and try to do the right thing,” said Allen. “I don’t have any more chances so I’m going to have to do right.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

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