His page was empty.
It had been empty for weeks.
No one was coming.
He went to bed rather than listen to all of the other families having fun.
He and his brother had been taken by DCS to a boy's group home because of truancy from school and other mistakes he had made. They knew it was there fault. They knew they were stupid mistakes. What do you do however when all you know are mistakes? Their whole family is a history of mistakes. According to the town they live in their last name is synonymous with the word mistake.
Sunday afternoon is free visitation. That's when families and friends can come and visit for a few hours as long as they had permission from DCS. I had been seeking permission for a few weeks to visit the boys. They are two of the teen boys that attended my weekly Thursday night teen boy Bible study that I have at Burger King and I wanted to keep in touch with them. First I was permitted to write letters, then, finally, Sarah's and my name were put on the list of people able to visit them on Sunday afternoon.
Sarah was sick on the first Sunday after we were given permission so I went alone. The GPS said the group home was about an hour away. It finally led me down some back country roads to a beautiful facility. The sign said to check in at the office and had an arrow pointing to a log building. However, the door was locked. After knocking a couple of times, I heard a lady calling from the top of the hill behind me.
"Could I help you?" she called.
"I'm here to visit a couple of boys." I hollered back.
"Ugh!" was her answer. "Did you use GPS? You are the third person today. Your GPS led to the wrong place. This is the camp, the residential home is on the other side of the mountain. I'm sorry but only four wheelers can make it on the only direct path. You'll have to drive around the mountain. The directions are easy, but it will take you about 20 minutes."
She gave me the simple directions but I also found that I had the visitation times incorrect. She said that the visitation ended at three and it was already after two.
With much prayer that I would make it on time I drove away. I did, indeed, arrive on time. Again, after a drive down back, country dirt roads. The two boys were in two different houses on the same property. I visited the older brother first. The small parking lot and driveway were so full of cars I had to park almost a quarter of a mile from the house. As I walked I could see the house surrounded by families and boys laughing and having a good time of visitation.
On the porch a young man pointed the way to the check in office. After my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I walked down a small hall and turned the corner. There he was sitting on a counter talking to the check in person. He looked at me with a shocked look on his face and jumped off of the counter.
The man began to leaf through the book for my friends page. I could see pages that were filled with signatures of family and friends that had come to visit different boys, but when he finally found my friends page it was blank. He had been there for over a month and no one had come to visit him. I had to print and sign my name and then put down my relationship. When I asked what I should put down my teen friend said to put down that you're my uncle. I knew that I couldn't put that down and after some discussion with the attendant I put down that I was a pastor.
After some small talk I asked him how he was doing. At first he answered that he was okay but after a little pressing he got a tearful look in his eyes and said that he wanted to go home.
But he can't go home.
He can't go home until the judge says that he can. Or he can work his way through the program that is set up for boys who are sent there. Even after he works through the program, though, the judge still has to give permission for him to go home.
After praying with him I left to visit his brother. Before I drove away, however, he hinted to me that I was allowed to bring him something next time if I wanted.
"You know." He said. "Like McDonalds or Burger King or a meatball sub from Subway."
I smiled at the not so subtle hint and told him I would see what I could do.
The visit with his brother went much the same. Only they had to wake him up when I got there. He didn't think anyone would come. After all, no one had come any of the other Sunday's since they had been there.
He walked out groggy eyed but surprised. As with his brother we chatted for a little while then I asked him how I could pray for him throughout the week.
"What?" Was his response. "What do you mean?"
"You know. Is there anything that you want me to pray for? I answered.
After thinking for a while, he asked me to pray that he could go home soon. I prayed over him as well before I left. I never told him what his brother had hinted about but before we left he told me the same thing. Only he didn't mince words. He came right out and asked for the meatball sub from Subway!
I drove away with a heavy heart. I know that this is an age old problem with kids and families. I know that many have tried to help them before. Still, I thought, there has got to be some way to help these boys (and girls) who feel unloved and unwanted. Who have no training at home and have to wander through life aimlessly. Or perhaps their parents try but somehow things just got messed up.
These are the children that always seem to fall through the cracks in so many churches and ministries. These are the children that I feel like God has led me to work with.
Would you please pray with me as I minister to these children and families. It is a big task. There are dozens of children in our small town that are just like these two brothers that I went to visit.
I have been reading David Wilkerson's book "The Cross and the Switchblade" on how he began Teen Challenge in the worst neighborhoods of New York City. One thing that really spoke to me was when he asked one boy what he thought the worst problem that boys who joined gangs had. Immediately the boy responded that it was loneliness.
I realized then that the boys in my small town weren't that much different than the boys in 1960 that lived in New York City. They are lonely. They need the Lord. They need to know that there is someone who loves them far greater than any earthly father or mother could love them. That is Jesus Christ. He died on the cross for their sins and all they have to do is accept His free gift of eternal life. Then they will have a perfect, heavenly Father!
Pray for the lonely boys and girls not just in my town but in yours as well. And for those all around the world. Pray that someone will come into their lives to introduce them to their heavenly father.
PS. Sarah and I went to visit the boys again this past Sunday. We were a little late getting started and didn't have to time to pick up anything special for them. The younger brother had been moved into the same house as his brother so they were both waiting on the porch for us to show up. With a whoop I heard one of the boys yell "There they are!" We had a good visit and they were excited to see Sarah.
I don't know if I can go back this weekend. It's Memorial Day weekend and my anniversary. I am definitely planning on going back next weekend though. I plan on leaving early enough to stop someplace to make sure there are two hot meatball subs from Subway sitting on the seat beside me.
Some of the members of my teen boy Bible Study
out to eat at Burger King with me and my kids.