Big Bethel AME Provides “Juvenile Justice Ark of Safety”
By Rev. Bessie Robinson-Donaldson
I truly believe that God knew that the desire of my heart was to touch the lives of young people in a way that would give them hope of a better future, and as a result He began sending children, one-by-one to my porch as we sat and talked just about general things, school, the family, etc. This led me to extend an open door invitation to “come and hang out with me at bible study sometimes”, which was happily accepted. One child went back and told someone else; and that someone else told someone else,…because they were experiencing love-relationships with people who truly had concern for their happiness and well-being.
The Juvenile Justice Ark of Safety Community Outreach Ministry was birthed at Big Bethel AME Church (Atlanta, GA).
Along with monthly worship services at the Regional Youth Detention Centers and group homes for boys and girls, this Ministry began to partner and network with various agencies to see what part it could play to better the lives of children and families.
In partnering with other faith communities, agencies, and organizations, the children are afforded opportunities to attend and be exposed to cultural, educational, and fun activities that impact their lives in such a positive way.
Many of the children have become active members of our congregation and are beginning to impact their homes by going back and talking about their experiences and being excited about them. Parents who had not made the church a part of their lifestyles are not recognizing that this is a very much needed in the upbringing of their children.
A new initiative At Big Bethel is called, “The Saturday Children/Youth Life Enhancement Initiative” which is held every Saturday from 10am – 3pm. This is designed to provide physical, emotional, spiritual, moral, and academic support to deprived, neglected, delinquent, abused and underserved children. We offer worship experiences to those who are detained in state facilities, or who are at-risk of becoming a part of one. This ministry enhances academic performance and achieves social stability while building self-esteem. As a part of this Initiative, some of our programs are: reading lab, math lab, computer lab, writing lab, etiquette, public speaking/presentation, the arts, parenting classes, personal growth through musical instruments, abstinence and pregnancy prevention sessions, and summer program opportunities to keep the children safe, healthy and engaged.
I believe that our charge is to find a way to assist and bring change in a simple way. Simplicity is the key. I also believe the old saying still stands, “It is easier to raise up a good child than it is to fix a broken adult”.