“The youth that I work with all in need and they are all in crisis,” Chaplain Rick Johnson said. “They are angry, self centered, immature young people who are out of control. With lots of kids in trouble, you want to try anything that can be done to help them besides incarceration, because locking people up is not the answer. But it’s a better option for the most at-risk and unstable kids.”
“We have a specially designed ministry just for them when they do get incarcerated, to reach them at the low point in their lives,” Rick continued. “We have contact with 10,000 kids a year. Some will reach out for help more than others; they have to ask to be part of what we offer because it’s all voluntary. There is always somebody reaching out who wants help. Always.”
Rick is a Chaplain with Pacific Youth Correctional Ministries (PYCM), a nonprofit organization founded by Chaplain Steve Lowe in 1985. PYCM specializes in Evangelical Biblical Ministry to incarcerated, abandoned, neglected, abused and at-risk youth. Its stated mission is “to create or facilitate model chaplaincy ministries with at risk and incarcerated youth through intervention, prevention and continuity of care.”
Rick is a full time missionary, working six and sometimes seven days a week, going to four facilities weekly: Juvenile Hall, Joplin Youth Center, Youth Guidance Center and Youth Leadership Academy.
His passion to help troubled youth began 28 years ago when working at a group home for troubled youth.
“I saw the spiritual need of the youth and felt God called to the ministry,” Rick said. “I lead four church services a week, lead Bible studies, and have numerous one on one counseling and discipleship meetings every week. It’s a great opportunity to talk with kids when they’re incarcerated; they wouldn’t normally be at church. Immaturity and foolishness are bound up in the heart of the child. Kids don’t see the consequences of their choices, or understand what is going to happen later.”
“Sometimes progress is three steps forward, and two steps back,” Rick continued. “They go back home to the same unstable home life and lack of healthy leadership. Most of them are drug addicts, and it’s hard to break that. Part of breaking addiction cycle is dealing with unhappiness or pain, so we’re looking at what the Bible says about adjusting to the challenges of life and living with difficulties.”
Rick emphasized the importance of what Pacific Youth Correctional Ministries does, even if it takes time for the seeds that are planted to grow.
“Studies have shown that people grow out of delinquency by age 24,” Rick said. “That’s often when we get phone calls and letters from them, thanking us for what we did, telling us about their schooling, new jobs, new lives, marriages and families. Many stay in contact with us.”
“A lot of young people have wandered away from the Lord, but we’re trying to bring them back,” Rick continued. “Part of the shepherd’s job is not just to feed the sheep but to look for lost sheep, that’s our role in the body of Christ.”
Rick said that PYCM is hand selecting experienced, mature believers to co-teach a weekly small group Bible study. He said there are books to read, and CDs to listen to. Training and clearance can take 5 to 6 months. There is a Volunteer Orientation on Monday, September 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Juvenile Hall, 331 The City Drive South, in Orange.
For more information, email [email protected], or call him at (714) 721-6688.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].