Messiah News

Endowment Dispersal Story: Pizza at the Juvenile Detention Center

For about five years, once a month, Messiah members have been taking pizza, soda, Werther's candy,and Chips Ahoy cookies to the adolescents incarcerated at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center in downtown Vancouver. Steve Friebel and Carie Wright (both members) along with a long-time friend of Steve's, John Perry, have made it their ministry to extend Grace to young inmates who have committed serious crimes. Often, Steve would invite others from the congregation as guests to join them so the ministry would get more visibility. Anyone entering has to have gone through a formal clearance process. Then, you can move inside which involves several locked doors and guards, as would be expected in any jail situation.

Before COVID, those bringing pizza would divide into two rooms with 8-12 youth in one room and 5-6 in another. The in-custody youth were brought from their cells and placed, by guards, spaced out around long tables (much like our "social distancing") where they had to stay seated. Our church members could serve, listen to, and move around them freely. Boys and girls alike are there, aging from about 12-18 years old. The photo shows the T-shirt that Steve, Carie, and John always wore. During each visit, Steve would explain to all the message on the T-shirts. He also invited them to check out what Messiah offers, especially the youth group. They seemed to truly enjoy this unusual diversion. The detention staff and supervisors also expressed their appreciation for the effort of our church group.

Everything changed with COVID, of course. For the last 18 months, to keep the prison from becoming a super-spreader area, fewer youth are in custody. The 5 or 6 remaining are the truly serious offenders. No longer can any outsider enter the Detention Center – but pizza can! The ministry continues. Steve brings sodas, Werther's candy, and Chips Ahoy cookies and orders pizza to be delivered from Domino's. All is brought to the back door of the Center and handed inside. The Endowment Committee gave Steve $750 to cover costs of the food. It should last about a year at the current level of usage.

Interestingly, there is a juvenile there, currently being held on a very serious charge, who has asked to speak with "the guy who brings the pizza once a month". He misses Steve. Authorization and clearance are underway to try to make this happen. Keep this situation in your prayers.

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