While leading a Project A.R.T. class at Rockdale RYDC, I met a boy called “Lee.” He was very reserved and quiet, keeping to himself as the other guys in my program engaged with each other easily. He seemed very alone, so I decided to sit with him to share markers and continue drawing. I asked about his project; he kept replying with one word answers and gestures.
As I checked in with the other boys’ progress, I kept returning to Lee, trying to make conversation, but still no luck. When I took a closer look at his drawing, I realized he had written his name in Korean with the English translation below it. I asked him if he was Korean, and he nodded yes. When I asked him what the other Korean writing on his paper meant, he responded with broken, simple English. I asked if English wasn’t his first language, and he said slowly, “No one talks to me here because I am hard to understand. So, I don’t talk at all.”
My heart shattered. As we continued drawing, I continued to ask him about parts of his project, the various Korean phrases he included, and even about his life. He shared with me how he misses his family, his church, and his Korean community at home. Despite his struggles communicating with me, I kept listening to Lee. As we neared the end of our program time, I learned that Lee was a believer but struggled to feel God’s love while incarcerated. I took a moment to pray with him, speaking in slow and simple sentences so that he could understand my English better.
As I went back to the front of the room to close out the program, I looked back to see Lee sitting up straight with a smile on his face. Later, as Lee walked out, he said “Thank you for talking with me. I feel very happy. I haven’t felt that here.”
My favorite part of serving in correctional facilities is how different each experience is. Sharing Christ’s love with Lee meant simply listening to him. Despite language and cultural barriers, we shared a common language: prayer. Because of your support, we got to share Christ’s love with Lee during our Project A.R.T. program at Rockdale RYDC. THANK YOU for making that possible. Please pray for Lee and the other boys at Rockdale Regional Youth Detention Center.