I first met Markus as he was coming out of a cell in at the Miami Dade Regional Detention Center. He was 16 years old and quiet. I wasn’t sure if he was quiet because it was his first time being detained or because that just happened to be his nature. It turns out he was just nervous, and while he awaited sentencing, we got to know each other.
Markus is short and skinny, so I told him, “Trust me, you don’t want to keep up this string of bad decisions too long – prison gives an extra portion of hard to small dudes.” He laughed and said he had been told by his lawyer that he would be getting placed at a day-treatment facility. I informed him of a newly established program of Miami Youth for Christ entitled Project Dade. “If you want to continue some of our conversations about God, choices, life, and change, then you should be there. Plus, you’ll have someone to keep you accountable to the changes you said that you want to make while you were in detention.”
Markus said he felt like the program was something he desperately needed in his life. This is the norm for most youth we meet: while they are “inside,” they feel the urgency to change in an environment devoid of vices, temptation and the lure of the streets. As much as YFC strives to believe the best about our youth’s intentions, we are very aware of the factors that prevent youth from making good on those promises once they re-enter society. Project Dade is our first re-entry program, and it’s essential in helping youth sustain positive momentum and severing the attachment to negative environments, friends, and behavior.
I met Markus again months later at his day treatment facility, and he was ready to make good on the commitments he made to his family, God, and himself. Markus began attending Project Dade in Liberty City and has been on the path towards renewal and deep change. He is impacted by the Gospel and has hope for his future.
While dropping off students one evening, Markus climbed into the van’s front seat and said, “Mr. Ronnie, it’s crazy how we were talking about Project Dade at the detention center, and now you’re dropping me home.” Markus has been promised a lot of programs and help in his life, but YFC – and Christ – are surprising him by actually coming through.
“Markus, we’re doing the same thing for you that someone did for us – helping you become a better you. And one day it will be your turn to do that for someone else,” I told him. At YFC, we believe that with God, all things are possible in Markus’s life.
-Ronnie Lillard, JJM Director
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