A new Tyler ministry program aims to keep troubled youth from returning to the juvenile detention center.
Ark of Hope will be the first Tuesday of the month at Centro Cristiano Church, also known as the Castle on North Broadway Avenue. It is specifically for youth who have gotten out of the juvenile detention center and are on probation.
The youth and their families will eat together, have a light devotion and play games for about two and a half hours each month, Jordan said. The facility also has pool tables and ping pong so the youth can hang out and have fun without their parents being worried.
“The idea is if we can get the kids here with their parents, we can build relationships,” Jordan said. “Building relationships may help change the home and so the kids don’t wind going back into juvenile services.”
Volunteers from each geographic community will play games and have fun with the youth and provide a sort of mentorship within the community and perhaps get them involved in a church, Jordan said.
The program is an off shoot from a program Jordan has been involved with for two years called Luke 17:10, where members of varying churches come to the detention center each Wednesday with food, fellowship and games for the youth detained there, he said.
The youth are not allowed to participate in the Luke 17:10 program unless they have been good all week. Jordan said the program has been successful and become something the youth look forward to.
“Three hundred kids go through the juvenile probation system each month. Ten percent of them wind up incarcerated, so we have an opportunity for that 10 percent to impact them while they are in (the center),” he said. “They are there for weeks sometimes months. What we hope to do is, the relationships we built (in Luke 17:10), to continue that, and for them to build new relationships that may be close to where they (live).”
The first meeting was Tuesday. There were about 30 volunteers but no youth. The group still ate and had a devotional together, then they took a little time organizing committees for food and volunteers.
Jordan said he asked probation officers to invite the youth on Thursday but that may not have given them enough time to notify all their clients.
Jordan said he feels certain the program will take off once the youth are notified, and initially only those they have worked with in Luke 17:10 will be invited to the new meetings. But once the program gets its feet wet, they hope to extend the program to others in the juvenile detention center.
As part of their probation, students in the juvenile detention center usually are not allowed to “hang with each other” once released from the center, Jordan said.
“(Probation officers) are making an exception because of what we are doing (with the Luke 17:10 program),” he said. “We are impacting them, and they are allowing them the opportunity to be here.”
Chris Hood, 26, of Tyler was among the volunteers. Hood said he grew up in a dysfunctional home and thanks his sister for helping him make good decisions and from keeping him from going down a bad path.
Hood said he heard about the program at church during a weekly men’s devotional and saw an opportunity to pass the lessons he learned from his sister to others.
“What’s wrong with the world is no one is willing to stand up and be an ambassador of good,” he said. “I think it’s very important that people do what they can in their own communities and help the less fortunate.”