Through Cuyahoga Hills County Detention Center to Freedom in Christ
With his body slumped, hair in disarray, and eyes disconnected, the first impression Mark made was “vagabond”. He spent years at the “Hill”, at least three. Most adults experience little change in a three- \year time span, but in three years, a 13-year-old leaps from 7th grade to driving herself to school, and a 15-year-old goes from his temporary license to military service away from home. Three years has a different impact when you are less than two decades old, but three on the inside of a juvenile detention center feels like a lifetime.
Cap and Pegi, JJM staff, met Mark during the first year of his sentencing at Cuyahoga Hills. Weekly chapel at the facility allowed them to become a constant in Mark’s life. Week after week they showed up and shared Christ’s great love through both action and words slowly shifting Mark’s heart to the light. By the time he was released, he trusted Christ as his savior.
But, there was no happy homecoming waiting for Mark on the other side of the “Hill.” With no place to go, he was place in the City Mission’s homeless shelter where he slept clutching his meager belongings. Most youth in this situation have no lifeline. Mark had Pegi’s number.
Shortly after hearing from Mark, Pegi received another call from a ministry partner who wanted to help. This partner was a board member at Off the Wall Discipleship, a Christian discipleship boarding program in southern Ohio. The partner signed Mark up for the program and paid his tuition. Cap and Pegi supplied him with essential living items. Then Mark found himself in a new home surrounded by other young believers.
The change was not easy and there were a few hiccups along the way, but Mark continued to reach out to Cap and Pegi, often calling weekly to check in. He proved himself to be teachable and driven. He accepted coaching and recommendations to keep his life on track, even working two jobs to cover personal expenses while helping cover the program’s tuition.
Now, a few years, later Mark is beginning his third summer as a camp counselor at a Christian camp and has completed a two-year Bible degree. Mark’s transformation in Christ radiates from internal change to outward expression. His body is proud, his hair groomed, his eyes focused, and his smile beautiful.