July 21, 1999


Church serves up food, love,
'StraighTalk' to youthful offenders

___By George Henson
___Staff Writer
___EAGLE LAKE--Members of First Baptist Church in Eagle Lake are learning the most effective tool in tearing down walls and breaking through steel bars is love.
___The Colorado County Detention Center and Boot Camp opened near their church in May 1998. The church began leading Bible studies there the next month.
___Pastor Brent Beasley said the first few months they experimented with different types of Bible studies, but then the StraighTalk curriculum, written especially for juvenile offenders, was discovered and has been used each Wednesday night since.
___During one Bible study that had about 60 youth in attendance, 34 prayed to accept Christ as Savior.
___Beasley said the ministry to the "cadets" has been mutually beneficial. It has changed the lives of young offenders, and "to have such a ready, open outlet for ministry has been really good for us," he explained.
___Rita Bowen, one of about 15 volunteers from First Baptist Church, agrees.
___"I love it. I love the kids. I have never felt I was very good at witnessing, but God has been allowing me to try," Bowen said. "I don't always feel like I'm the best Bible study teacher, but the girls do know I love them."
___Bowen doesn't just go on Wednesday nights to teach her Bible study class of young girls, however. She visits at other times, generally on Sunday afternoons.
___"I feel like it is something they need, but sometimes I feel like I'm getting the most out of it. It grows on you and becomes very important in your life. I know it helps them too, though. They need a hug. They need someone to care. They always say, 'Thank you for coming.'"
___Most of the young people come to the facility for six to nine months, which allows for relationships to be built. To make the most of that time, a mentoring program has been developed, and when the cadets meet certain requirements, they can be released on Sunday to come to church with their mentor. The mentors usually take them out to lunch afterward.
___All this helps to show that the Christian faith is a real one, Beasley said. "When you get that one-on-one relationship going, you really start to see a difference."
___Sometimes First Baptist takes home-cooked food for the cadets, which can number about 160. That is important because almost all of the youth are from families who live hours away, and most don't have that family-type interaction during their incarceration, Beasley said.

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