CYD Engagement at Boys Town Tanay Rizal
By Leo Feliciano, SFL Manila
Last week, we went to DSWD’s National Training School for Boys or also known as “Boys Town” at Tanay Rizal with the Child and Youth Development Team. Nung sinabihan ako na kasama ako sa service team for the LCS Youth Camp na ibibigay namin para sa mga bata, hindi ko talaga alam gagawin ko, kasi first time kong makakasama sa isang “prison ministry” like na service, wala pa akong idea and hindi ko alam if ready na ako sa ganong klaseng engagement. Alam ko sa sarili ko, na ibang challenge ang maghandle ng mga kabataang nakulong compared sa youthcamp na palagi na nating nakakagisnan. I have lots of imagination in my mind what it was like inside the Juvenile center but when we arrived there, the experience was really different.
I was assigned to be a facilitator for one of the discussion group and also to be a sharer for a talk. During the group discussion, I was both shocked and amazed with their stories. Just a brief background, among the 8 persons that I handled, 6 of them have murder cases, 1 for theft, 1 for rape, and all of them where under influence of drugs. Well, pretty much of their stories are alike that because they are addicted to drugs they resorted in doing crimes and ending up in jail.
While hearing their stories, I realized that these young people were victims of what’s happening in our society, many of them are influenced by the environment they grew up in and what made it more surprising, that many of these young people were unheard of in our society. Juvenile Disciplinary Correction is not really a topic that we usually talk about these days but “Drugs” is really rampant with young people nowadays. It is sad to see the reality that drugs is destroying the lives of many young people and their families, while the society is not even noticing what is happening to them. It is like an eye opener for every one of us in the service team, to hear and see what these people had to go through at an early age.
While being shocked by their stories, I was also amazed with their sharing during the discussion for a lot of them have good stories to tell as well, how their lives were changed during the program and how they met God in the Boys Town. One of them is ‘James’ (not his real name), he is turning 22 years old, a community member, and he is one of the boys that helps the service team in the ins and outs of the Boys Town. James is about to finish the program and his case is about to be dismissed. I had a long conversation with him, he told me how he was addicted to drugs, how his father had left them and how he is seeking love and belongingness from people, how unstoppable he is, how he killed people and stole money from them, and how he had raped someone and he had been caught and ended up in the boys town. During the conversation with James, what struck me is that he said “the greatest thing that had happened to him is being sent in the Boys town because it is where he met the Lord”.
Almost all of them in my discussion group were telling me that in the Boys Town they met God and it is really a good experience for them to attend the spiritual seminars that they are having. I realized that God really wants to encounter all of us that he even sends people in Juvenile Centers and in Prisons just to encounter you. These young men didn’t feel God in the outside world but they all encountered Him in the most unique of way, indeed the Lord is really making His way in every one.
Well getting back to the story of James, he told me the things that they are doing in the Boys Town. He told me that they are having bible studies, retreats, and seminars. He also told me how his personal relationship with God is, how is now serving his fellow juvenile in the bible studies and discussions. He also told me about what he will do after finishing the program and being free in the outside world.
Today, James is really a new creation, from a boy who committed many crimes in the past, now a man who is loving and serving God. I was really in awe of God’s work inside the Boys Town – seeing many lives being changed by the Lord, one by one, letting them be loved by Him. Talagang makikita mo sa kanila ang sincerity at ang longing nila para kay Lord, totoo na hinahanap at gusto pa nilang makilala lalo si Kristo kasi ang mga batang ito ay naging biktima ng mga hindi magagandang pangyayari pero pinatawad sila ng Panginoon. More than being forgiven they are literally and spiritually ‘Saved’ by the Lord.
After our conversation, bumalik kami sa mga upuan para making ng talk ni Kuya EJ tapos sakto sabi ni kuya, “May ipapakilala ako sa inyong kaibigan ko, ADIK SYA, siya yung pag-uusapan natin ngayon, ADIK SYA SA PAGMAMAHAL SAYO – Siya si KRISTO ang tunay kong kaibigan”. Siyempre nakuha kaagad ni kuya lahat ng atensyon ng mga bata, pero higit pa don yung nakita ko.
While all them are listening, na-realize ko ay dalawang bagay, una, lahat ng adik mahal ng Diyos, pangalawa, lahat ng adik kayang magbago dahil si Kristo mahal na mahal sila, dahil adik nga sya sa pagmamahal sayo kaya di mo na din mapipigilang ma-adik din sa pagmamahal nya. What I saw in the Boystown really changed my heart and my mind. Before, I thought when one becomes a drug addict wala na syang pag-asa, wala ng future, paulit ulit na yan, pero ang nakita ko doon ay iba – mga taong gustong magbago, mga dating mga adik pero iba na ang kinakaadikan, si Kristo na adik magmahal sa kanila. Ang nakita ko doon ay mga taong nagkamali noon pero bago na ngayon, mga taong walang pag-asa noon pero ngayo’y punong puno na ng pag-asa.
Gusto kong sabihin ito sa mga taong may matinding pinagdadaanan ngayon at may mga nilalabanan ngayon, tulad ng mga tao sa loob ng Boystown, mahal ka din ng Diyos at lahat tayo ay kayang magbago sa pagmamahal nya. Kapit lang tayo kapatid. Huwag tayong susuko, na kay Kristo ang Tunay na Pagbabago. Huwag mong susukuan ang buhay mo kasi ang Diyos hinding hindi sumusuko sayo. Mahal tayo ng Diyos!