By: Katie Sobiech
Among the many needs of troubled youth, one of the most prevalent is the need for a mentor. Those at True North Ministries realize this and their goal is to provide mentors for the youth that most people don’t know what to do with. “We get the youth that they’ve really tried everything with – the worse case scenarios,” explained Becky Retzer, the Director of True North Ministries.
True North has been spreading God’s love with the youth and helping them find direction for years. The ministry, originally known as Summit Chaplain Services, was founded in 1980 by Esley Patsch. It began as a ministry for inmates in the Summit County Jail, providing a variety of religious services. It became so popular that other county ministries began as satellites from Summit County.
They are now operating in Portage, Stark, and Summit Counties, serving in jails, juvenile facilities, halfway houses, and reaching into Ohio’s state correctional facilities – serving over 2,200 youth yearly. Though the youth have made poor choices with life altering consequences, they show them that they can let go of the past and move into a brand new future.
From what Retzer has seen, many of the problems in the youth are related to the deterioration of the family structure. “Many of them grow up in broken homes,” Retzer explained, “they live in homes run by mom or grandma.”
This often causes them to have a lack of respect and no fear of authority, “Which all goes back to the father image,” Retzer said, “the men are missing.”
Their hope is that by providing a godly man or woman in the lives of the youth that they will find some sense of stability. “It’s all about relationship building,” Retzer said, “We just need people who are willing to give up to 2-3 hours a week to live out Christ before the youth, whether it’s taking them to McDonalds or for a walk in the park.”
The ministry provides Biblical classes on anger management, family dynamics, and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Their hope is to keep the youth from getting too deep into the system and to reduce the number that could end up in an adult correctional facility later in life.
Typically, a teen that enters Detention Youth Services (DYS) or spends any amount of time in prison spirals downward due to the combination of long periods of isolation and being around other troubled youth.
“Many of our kids get in the system and get stuck,” Retzer explained, “There was one young girl who went down and now she’s a cutter and they wont let her out because they think she’s mentally wacked, but she didn’t go down that way. I’m sure part of what the cutting is about is the fact that she’s stuck in there.”
A brand new element of the ministry is the retreat center which lies on acres of beautiful rolling hills. There the youth are given opportunities to complete community service, get job training, learn carpentry, how to maintain the pond and care for the donkeys. “There’s just such a peace out here,” Retzer said.
Retzers dream is also to have 2-4 day youth camps for the inner city kids that are run by different church youth groups. “I want our kids to realize that you don’t have to go to Haiti, Guatemala, or Mexico for mission work – its right here.”
If you are interested in mentoring or volunteering please call True North at (330) 896-2700 to request an application packet. For more info. go to: http://www.truenorthministry.org