Jennifer. I appreciate your openness. Responding to your question about evangelism:
mmmmmmm!!! When I was a chaplain to teenagers in detention, I was gentle but more upfront with evangelism expressed in the form of talking about Jesus’ forgiveness. Kids from struggling families who were now caught up in the legal system due to some of their impulsive or wrong choices seemed to need some reassurance that they were ok. Justice is also part of the good news and I believe that the guilt or shame these kids were experiencing was a good thing as it took them out side themselves a bit and maybe helped them feel some of their victim’s pain. But to be able to tell them that Jesus loved them and wanted to forgive them was huge and many prayed for that forgiveness. Most were from some sort of Christian background so it was not an offense. If they were Jewish (rare) or Muslim or another faith, I respected that and tried to build relationships and provide faith material or experiences that were connected to their faith ((e.g., taking a Jehovah Witness student to a local Kingdom Hall.) It was ironic, as occasionally there would be a teen who was a satan worshipper and they would call me. I would try an d build relationships. There was one atheist young man who was not interested in visiting. I briefly greeted him for three months and one day he asked to talk with me.
I think of Jesus hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners (including me.) But Jesus often referred to people as lost more than being sinful. Zaccheus too was a son of Abraham, lost in his greed and isolation. Jesus came to seek the lost and hurting. The good news that we are loved by God is for everyone.
Working with teens who have been arrested however is different than working with adults who I meet because they are sick and/or dying. Forgiveness was one of the main presenting issues in the teen population. Not so in the clinical areas we serve.
The good news that we are loved by God is for everyone. In our clinical settings, we have the opportunity to demonstrate that love with gentleness, kindness, compassion much more by our presence than by our words. Where love is, God is.
Maya Angelou helps me here, ” I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I am guessing each of you has experienced the mystery of going into a difficult situation and somehow God is made very real despite our not knowing what to do or say. I leave those moments going wow.