I (Jonathan) want to tell you a story. I have no pictures, not even a name to give, but I want to tell you about one individual, ‘E’, at the Patrick J. Thomas Juvenile Justice Center (JJC).
There are 3 unique areas at the JJC. First, there is the SCEP school (Sarpy County Education Program) for juveniles expelled from school. It is a last resort for teens who can’t be in regular school and is run by our local school district. Second, there is the Day Reporting Center (DRC) for juveniles who are suspended from school, a place for court-ordered help for schoolwork, and probation. Lastly, there is Holdover, where the real juvenile offenders are placed. Teens in Holdover have been there for up to 4 months. Many are awaiting their court date or placement in a home for boys or girls. Offenses from these teens range from armed robbery to auto theft to violent offenses.
Holdover is where I first met ‘E’, who has been locked up for 4 months. When we first encountered ‘E’ he was constantly getting in fights, calling others names, and being very disrespectful to the guards.
For the first few months we mostly taught and discussed soil and regenerative agricultural
design principles. (They always want to talk about mushrooms, lol) As the harvest season
drew to a close, we began focusing our energy in the kitchen, bringing the food from the
gardens and making nutritious meals alongside the Holdover teens. The most incredible thing
is that the detainees’ engagement went from less than 50% to 100% instantly!
For the past month, we have been talking with the youth about what it means to be forgiven, forgiving, and free, using curriculum from a local ministry called Fresh Start. We are focused on seeing hearts healed and restored. At first, ‘E’ said, “Farmer Jon! What is this? You were teaching us about farming, now you are talking about God?” Life is all about relationship, both vertical and horizontal. ‘E’ thought I was crazy; he told me so, more than once. But after months of investing in relationship, where is ‘E’ now? He is on the honor roll and ready to be placed in a home for boys, only a week away from being released. He has also recommitted his life to Jesus and is reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
So many in the JJC have been impacted by the work of Keipos, including students, detainees, and guards. Truthfully, I am the one that has been impacted the most. I am thankful to meet people like ‘E’ who make it all worth it, reminding me, “It is never too late for a fresh start!”