Jesus at Juvenile Hall

“Ain’t you the church guy?” the words shot across the table at a career fair as the teenagers were ushered in through the building to collect information that might inspire them to go a certain direction.

Darryl Anderson rarely saw the teenage boys outside the walls of Kearny Mesa Juvenile Hall where he and five other volunteers from the Rock Church share a message of love and hope. As minors, these boys come out of the system with no additional follow-up allowed. But on this rare occasion, on Career Day at the San Diego County Education Center, as Darryl handed out Bibles he looked at the kid wearing the grey camp uniform and said, “Yep, that’s me. And what did you learn when you heard me teach?”

The dark faced teenager looked Darryl in the eyes and said, “I learned Colossians 3:20, Obey your parents to please God.” Darryl beamed that the boy remembered the scripture he preached to the boys who rotated every three weeks through the chapel services.

As a retired letter carrier for the post office, married for 27 years and a father of two grown children, Darryl now has the time to carry the Word of God to the troubled youth behind bars. Never incarcerated himself, Darryl experienced the pain of a father who chose alcohol, women and gambling as a poor example of what a man and father were supposed to be. Darryl vowed never to be like his father when raising his own children. However as a young man at seventeen he left home bitter and angry to join the navy. When Darryl’s older brother was miraculously unscathed in a horrible car accident his brother came to know a God who saves. God began chipping away at Darryl’s hard heart by using his brother’s testimony and other Christians to share the love of Jesus with him.

God pursued Darryl, took off the blinders of unbelief, and changed his attitude, demeanor and his heart. Recognizing God’s grace and mercy that saved Darryl he had a burden to serve the men at Donovan State Prison. After a couple years of showing love to the men behind bars he discovered a common denominator with most of the inmates. As teenagers they had been to Juvenile Hall and most had no father in the home.

With a daddy’s heart Darryl saw an opportunity to show the compassion of the Father’s love and to stop the crime from perpetuating by planting the seed of God’s Word into the hearts and minds of the incarcerated youth. He knew God’s promise that the Word will never return void, that it’s alive and active, and will transform our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). God’s Word convicts us of sin and draws us to our Savior.

Darryl teaches the youth to obey their parent’s rules, to obey authority, and to obey God to be blessed. Using an illustration that teens can relate to, he teaches that obeying traffic signs protect us from going off the side of the road to get injured. The same is true of God’s Word that protects us from experiencing harm, regret and despair when we stay on the straight and narrow road following after God.

Darryl said, “I emphasize the importance of reading the Word daily to get all the blessings that God has for them.” After his message he offers them the opportunity to sign a contract that reads,

“I                                  will obey my parents in all things for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Colossians 3:20.

Most of the wayward boys agree to sign. One boy asked Darryl for another contract explaining that when his mother visited him the prior week he gave her the signed agreement as a gift.

Darryl Anderson depends on his dedicated team Danielle Barrett, Ron Britton, Carl Smith, Russell and Shemane Steppe who come together with their various gifts, talents and compassion to minister God’s grace to the youth and to pray together for God to raise-up a generation of teachers, preachers, and ministers of God’s Word.

Recently volunteering at Donovan State Prison, Danielle asked ten of the inmates who accepted Christ into their hearts, what advice they would give the youth serving time in Juvenile Hall. Six of the men said, “I would tell them to obey their parents.” The other four said, “Stop listening to negative music and watching bad TV shows.” Danielle took this message to the boys she ministers to each week.

Danielle became involved with Prison Ministry after touring Juvenile Hall as a psychology major in college. She looked into the eyes of these broken teens discovering that many had uninterested fathers, some involved in gangs. Crime became a way of life with the belief that to kill the opposing gang would demonstrate love and earn acceptance. Grateful to God that he provided wonderful Christian parents, Danielle has a heart to show these wounded teens a different kind of love.

Darryl and his team invest in the lives of our hurting youth in San Diego. “Nothing God starts will go uncompleted.” Darryl said, “The church started strong and it will end strong.” These faithful servants from the Rock Prison Ministry demonstrate the love of Jesus at Juvenile Hall to plant seeds of hope that will change future generations.

Leave a comment


  1. Kenji Stratton

     /  November 16, 2010

    This story is amazing. God is truly working through these brothers and sisters. I am blessed to personally know them and Kirsten as well. Praise God for their work.


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