At Siouxland Youth For Christ, our goal is to reach every young person in the Siouxland community through a Christ-sharing relationship. That’s a big goal and we can’t do it alone. We need volunteers who are like-minded partners collaborating with us in our mission, volunteers such as Megan and Bryant Likness.
Megan and Bryant Likness started volunteering with Siouxland Youth For Christ (YFC) in March of 2021 as part of our Juvenile Justice Advocacy Program. This program partners young people in the Juvenile Court System, or other transitional and behavioral programs, with a trusting adult mentor or advocate.
Rachelle “Shelli” Rawson, Juvenile Justice Ministry Director, commented on the importance of the program, “Most of these kids don’t have anyone advocating for them, and that’s why we started the advocacy program, so that we have trusting adults loving on them and sharing the hope of Jesus in their lives.”
When Shelli approached Megan and Bryant about volunteering in the advocacy program, the couple who have a heart for youth, said there were no hesitations. “We know that we’re called to love others, being part of the kingdom of God. When Shelli asked us, it was an easy yes, and an appropriate thing in this season of our life,” Megan commented on volunteering.
The advocacy program matches females together and males together, or in Bryant and Megan’s case, a couple with a young person. Megan and Bryant welcomed their match, James, into their family including their two young kids.
When Megan and Bryant decided to be a part of the advocacy program and the training needed for it, they had some questions running through their minds at first. For Megan, she grew up in a conservative home. She was concerned that it would be hard for her to relate to most of the young people in the Advocacy Program because she had not experienced the same hardships they had experienced. As for Bryant, he wanted to be sure they could build trust with James during 10-minute phone calls while he was still in training school.
Despite any questions they had, Megan and Bryant felt called to give back and pour into the life of this young man. What started as phone calls, indeed grew into a trusting relationship between them. Bryant and Megan visited James in Eldora Boys State Training School and talked once or twice a week over the phone. “It was cool that he was making the effort to call us, because he had to contact us [not vice versa], so we knew he wanted to talk to us,” said Megan. Then, James started visiting with the Likness family. They would attend church together, go bowling, head to the park, and most importantly, eat a family meal together. “We almost always had dinner together. There’s something important about sharing a meal, or breaking bread, just like Jesus did with others in the Bible,” said Megan. Their relationship developed into a Christ-sharing relationship.
Over time, Megan and Bryant weren’t the only ones to see the impact that their relationship had on James. His probation officer, Shelli, and others in his life noticed that he started opening up after meeting with Megan and Bryant. He also began to recognize unhealthy behavior habits, like excessive anger, after seeing examples of healthy relationships and emotions from his advocates.
Sometimes, that’s all a young person needs, someone to walk alongside, mentoring and loving them, being a positive role model in their life. Sometimes, that can make all the difference and that is why Megan and Bryant volunteer.
By Grace Nordquist & Karl VanCura