May 10, 2021
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Gareth Unruh wears many hats for Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net). As a YFCchief ministry officer, Unruh acts as a bridge between local churches and the state facilities he works in, cultivating partnerships with churches and like-minded partners in different communities. He also serves as a member of the YFC/USA’s Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM) team.
JJM seeks to engage young people as they are met in a variety of youth-serving institutions (detention centers, probation, correctional facilities, group homes, residential treatment centers and emergency shelters). These valued relationships are sustained through ongoing involvement as they reenter their communities.
Unruh’s work at JJM continues the mission to see lifelong followers of Jesus reenter their communities as welcomed members, and he has witnessed many life-changing experiences in the lives of the teens they come alongside of each day.
“I remember sitting in a pod at the facility and doing contacting work where I share my name and what I’m doing in the facility,” stated Unruh. “One of the staff talked about a couple of young men from rival gangs having ‘beef,’ or differences with each other. Talking with each of them, I was able to reveal that they have a lot in common, except for the whole rival gang thing. This brought them to a deeper level of transparency and sharing that led to their wounds over not having a dad in their lives.
“And you could see the walls starting to come down between the teen boys. Here they were, inside the JJM facility, talking and completely relating to each other.
“The challenge is always when they get back out into the community and then they’re on opposite lines and they’re on opposite streets.”
There is another particular story that touches Unruh deeply. It is the story of DeShaun and Andre, two teen boys who were members of rival gangs in a metropolitan area. (To protect the identities of the young men, the location has been omitted.)
“[While at JJM,] DeShaun discovers that Andre had actually been the person who had shot at DeShaun’s fellow gang member, Anthony. Obviously, DeShaun is confused and angry.”
But something glorious happened. “Andre came [to DeShaun’] with such an attitude of repentance and humility, asking for forgiveness, knowing he was wrong, and confessing that he knew he had responded in anger.” continued Unruh. “And DeShaun forgave Andre — which is a miracle.”
From the forgiveness grew something deeper for the young men: both teens have since been baptized – in the same church on the same day. God is doing incredible miraculous works in young people’s lives through YFC/USA’s Juvenile Justice Ministry. YFC haschapters impacting thousands of communities across the nation that seek out and serve youth from all walks of life. Many teens are silently struggling through a variety of challenging issues—and now they see the living power of a loving God.
Youth For Christ staff and volunteers are encouraged by the YFC 3Story® concept, which is based on the belief that kids will be reached for Christ when met at their point of need—and as workers connect their stories with Jesus’s story. The ministry efforts of Youth For Christ are changing lives, one young person at a time.
Youth For Christ encourages staff and volunteers to be good news while also sharing the stories of the Good News of Jesus. It involves building relationships through the ups and downs of everyday life in order to lead people to Christ. For more information, visit yfc.net.
Youth For Christ has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when the Rev. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and it is always about the message of Jesus. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has more than 140 chapters that impact communities across America.
To interview a Youth For Christ representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.