The Power of Building Relationships

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Boot Camp By Phil Bandy

Two weeks ago I took a trip to the Cook County boot camp to join Derek Polansky, YFC’s Director of Juvenile Justice Ministry.  Boot camp was in a collection of buildings about a mile square – courthouses, minimum security, maximum security and more.  To get into the boot camp, you pass through metal detectors, show your ID, go through 3 or 4 doors where you are buzzed in and at each door you wait.

We met ten young men in the barracks and Derek told them today’s lesson would be a little different.

He chose four men and me, then assigned us roles.  I was the father, a smaller man was the mother, another was a 17-year-old, a third was a 12-year-old, and the tallest (about 6’ 3”) was the 5-year-old.  The guys in the barracks loved the last choice.

Derek took out a pad of Post-It notes and asked all the young men what the responsibilities were for a father in the family, which he wrote on the Post-It notes.  The first responsibility suggested was “protection” which struck me since some of the guys had joined gangs for the protection they should have received from their fathers.  Each Post-It note was put on my chest – provider, teacher, decision-maker, leader, lover – the list grew until the 10th note was placed on my chest “Be There.”

Derek did the same for the mother (who ended up with more than my list), then the young men posing as the other family members.

When the four of us had all of our responsibilities on our chests, Derek said “…the situation just changed…Dad has had it.  He’s sick of the kids, doesn’t love his wife anymore.  He just walked out.”  Then taking the notes off my chest, he asked who gets these now?  It was unanimous “mom”.  But mom already had 15 notes on “her” chest how can she handle all of hers and all of the father’s responsibilities?  The guys thought some could be passed on to the kids, but not many.  So what could be done?  They all agreed things are going to fall through the cracks; responsibilities were not going to be done.  One man mentioned that mom probably also lost the income the father was bringing in, so she takes a second job.  More things fall through the cracks.

Derek sat down, pulled out his Bible and read the story of God’s creation of man and woman, then the fall.  He asked if they saw any parallel between the fall of man and the loss of a father from the family.  A couple of guys did and agreed both decisions destroyed the future.  Three of the young men asked questions, made comments about their families and I felt maybe, just maybe the spirit was starting to work on them.

On our way back to the cars, Derek mentioned that he would be coming back to boot camp next week and was hoping that the man most verbal about the Bible reading and families would not be there, but be home…with his two kids.

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