Features | Autumn 2011
A Testimony of Urban Impact’s Role in King County Youth Chaplaincy
By Steve Bury, Executive Director of Urban Impact
Nearly 25 years ago, when Pastor Harvey Drake founded Emerald City Outreach Ministries — which became Urban Impact in 2005 — his first ministry activities included being a chaplain at the King Country Juvenile Detention Center.
Today, Urban Impact continues this work by collaborating with King County Youth Chaplaincy to provide services and reach out to the young men and women at the Youth Detention Center in Seattle.
Our staff regularly share amazing stories of their interactions with the youth in detention.
They encounter kids who are hurting, hungering for God’s word, wondering about their futures, feeling desperate for caring adult relationships, and longing for someone who will listen to them and help them sort out their world. One young man read through the whole book of Revelation and had tons of questions. Many youth ask our team to go with them to court and often we’re the only adults there to support them.
Our goal is to connect with youth in detention and build relationships of trust, and then reconnect with them back in the neighborhood. We intentionally place our community youth leaders and outreach workers as chaplains and they also participate in the weekly worship services. This means that when youth return to the community, they have a good chance of running into the same folks they met in detention.
One youth met Chaplain Glenn McCray at a Sunday night service while helping set up chairs for the service. Glenn followed up with him later that week, played a game of chess, and discussed life. A few months later, this young man reconnected with Glenn at Cleveland High School, where Glenn runs our Leadership and Mentoring Project and the after-school homework center. They were both excited to run into one another. The youth was ready for a change in his life, and Glenn was a trusted mentor to walk with him.
This young man got involved in everything Glenn and our Urban Impact team had to offer. Poetry writing classes, leadership classes, Bible study, a youth-led monthly spoken word event, our church youth group, Sunday morning church — even helping remodel an old house that we are turning into an Urban Arts Center. He has become a faith-filled and faithful young man. His life is still has some challenges, but when he confronts these significant life issues, he now has support from caring adults.
Youth at a crossroads
We are connected to a number of the young people we see in detention. The opportunity to meet youth at this crossroads and stay connected with them as they return to the neighborhood is a great blessing. Although only a small number of them are now involved in local youth groups and churches, it is a start and is happening.
Relationships, good or bad, follow our youth back to the community. Many times they are not positive relationships, and all too often, our youth return to negative choices and get in trouble with the law. We want to use every opportunity to help support our young people and get them back to God’s purpose for them. If we don’t get them redirected as young people, the cost to themselves, their families, and society is far too great. These are precious opportunities to make an impact, and we want to seize every opportunity.
It is a blessing to be co-laboring with the many churches involved in King County Youth Chaplaincy, and we are honored to be serving Christ’s church and communicating the good news of Jesus through this important work.
Steve Bury is the executive director of Urban Impact. This Christian community development organization has a passion for breaking the cycles of social, material, and spiritual poverty in urban neighborhoods. It also has a focus on racial reconciliation, leadership, education, health, and economic development. Steve’s heart is the development of dynamic multiethnic community focused ministries that create Godly, lifelong disciples and urban leaders..
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