Making a difference in the spiritual lives of juvenile delinquents is the only motivation two Floral City church members needed recently to start a Bible study at a local juvenile delinquent detention center.
Just three weeks ago, the Rev. David Clevenger and Mike Willis started a Bible study that they hope will help spread the Gospel to dozens of juvenile delinquents at Cypress Creek Academy in Lecanto. Clevenger and Willis are members of New Testament Baptist Church in Floral City, where Clevenger serves as assistant pastor and Willis, draftsman by profession, is a youth worker volunteer.
The two men said that the main reason for starting a Bible study for Cypress Creek's youths is to convey God's love and his plan for their lives.
"There is a tremendous need for the youth of today to realize that there is more to life than just living for today. God has a plan for each one of their lives, if they will just surrender to him," Willis said.
"I would hope that our going out there will make a difference, not to just give them knowledge but to help make a difference and equip them to make a decision for Christ," Clevenger said.
Their goal is not just to teach the youths about God, but to explain how to use their knowledge while incarcerated and after they are released, Clevenger said.
"It's not the knowledge or information that is going to change a life, it is the application of the truth that is being taught. I am burdened first of all for their salvation and beyond that, equipping them in spiritual things to be able to live their lives there within the prison or when they get out," he said.
Willis said he is thankful to have the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with these youths and to see them understand what a difference he can make in their lives, no matter what crime they may have perpetrated.
Willis said the crimes committed by those at Cypress Creek range from armed robbery to attempted murder and rape.
"It is the greatest thing in the world, seeing young people realize that God has a plan for them and to come to the personal realization of Christ as their saviour. This gives them a whole new meaning in life, it's what life is all about," Willis said.
"In the past we've seen teens who have been on drugs and alcohol give their lives over to God, and it has made all of the difference in the world forthem," he said.
Willis said during the first two weeks at the center, approximately 12 of the 56 juveniles participated in the Bible study.
Clevenger and Willis said they are very pleased with Thursday night study.
"The kids that are coming in (for the study) are serious about changing their lives. They know that the ways of the street and the ways of the world do not pay and they are determined to live for God once they get out," Willis said.
He also commented on the importance of friend and family support once the juveniles are released.
"When these guys have finished up the program and turned out, they need to be able to go back to people who will accept them and give them a chance," Willis said.
Clevenger also emphasized the significance of the goals of Youth Services International Inc., that runs the facility.
"I have noticed that Youth Services International is concerned with the individual and reforming them, not just punishing them, and I think that is what makes a difference there," he said.