News & Updates

Youth for Christ horizontal logo Mid Valley Chapter
Youth for Christ horizontal logo Mid Valley Chapter

What’s your story?

Sometimes when I meet with youth at detention, I use a deck of special cards to break the ice and get us talking.

Last week I had four young people in my group. I pulled out the cards and randomly gave each a set of 10.  With their “Hands” laid out in front of them, I ask questions like: Which card best represents…your perfect weekend, a favorite memory from your childhood, your current view of God, something you are grateful for, a cause of your stress, your life right now.”

When I asked them, which card best illustrated their life today, they gave responses that hit me hard.

  • A photo of a broken flowerpot with dirt all over.  Youth response, “My life is broken.”
  • A photo of an escalator going upward.  Youth response, “God is always trying to lift me up.”
  • A photo of a bunch of crayons all red or orange with a green one in the middle.  Youth response, “I don’t fit in.”
  • A photo of a traffic sign at a T in the road.  “Stuck.  Do I go left or right?” (Pregnant, 13 yr. old)
  • A photo of the game Jenga.  Youth response, “My life is risky, I never know when it’s going to fall apart.”

I love how those simple cards break down walls and give the youth a safe entry point to share their story. Asking the question straight out can be overwhelming or intimidating…this way no one has to try and figure out where to begin…they can just react.

After everyone shared, I wrapped up with a few words from John 5: 1-15 and the hope and healing that can only come through Jesus.

Friend, I can’t express how excited I am to be able to share stories like these with you. But even more, I would like to show you. Please come SEE THE STORY! We are hosting tours at both Marion and Linn/Benton County Juvenile Detention facilities, and I know you will find this experience to be a blessing.

I have big dreams for Mid-Valley Youth for Christ, and I believe God is calling us to reach high.  Our current annual budget is around $150,000 and I would like to add another $90,000.  Is it a stretch?  Yes.  But the need is compelling, and we know that for some, this giving opportunity will come as an answer to prayer.

Our primary needs are personnel related: we need to hire a full-time ministry director, someone who can fully devote themselves to be Jesus’ hands and feet inside the facilities.  We also need to make tech improvements; chiefly, to purchase software (a CRM) that will better enable us to track supporter interactions.

Want to know more about these needs?  Or do you know someone who might be interested?  We would love to connect.  There are a couple of ways you can do this.

1. Go to our website at, select the “Get Involved” tab and sign up to come see the stories.

2. Reply to this newsletter.

3. Text Jen at 503-559-1005.

We are on a mission: Bringing HOPE to the hopeless.


P.S. All donations are tax-deductible.

First photo:  Thanks to Linn/Benton Juvenile Detention staff for hosting our tour.

Second photo:  Jen praying with youth.


For the last three months, I’ve been sharing about the chapter values reflected in our “Bringing HOPE to the hopeless” mission statement.  As you may recall, HOPE is an acronym:

H – Helpful service
O – humble Obedience
P – Purposeful relationships
E – Effective stewardship

In this fourth and final letter of the series, I want to talk about a couple of the stewardship goals and dreams that are driving us forward.  We want to build organizational systems that enable us to meet more youth.  But what differentiates a good system from a bad one isn’t the mechanics of the plan – in other words, a good system isn’t identified as “good” simply because it looks shiny and organized.  Its “good” if it achieves meaningful results.  And we’ve identified ambitious goals because we believe they are necessary.  We want youth in every facility to have the opportunity to be introduced to Christ through friendship with a volunteer who is a mature Christian believer.  We want our volunteers to feel part of a vibrant ministry team, and we want our collective efforts to create a cascade of HOPE through the facilities we have the privilege of serving.

What do you think about when you reflect on your own stewardship?  Have you been wired for friendship evangelism with youth?  Do you carry a burden for the needs of “the least of these?”  If so, it’s possible that our stewardship goals are in rhythm with yours.  And if that’s the case, we should meet!  We are continuing to offer facility tours for those interested in having a conversation inside of one of our ministry sites, but we are just as interested to meet at your office, over coffee, or with a group at your church.  And if your stewardship passion would be fulfilled through service in another way, we would love to share about those opportunities as well.

Brenda Roth Ed.D
Strategic Development Director

Jennifer Berg

Jennifer Berg

Executive Director


Bringing Hope to the Hopeless

Mid-Valley Youth for Christ
Juvenile Justice Ministry

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“Thank you for coming today…
I can’t remember the last time I smiled or laughed.” (15-year-old male)

During one of my recent trips to detention, I was disappointed to learn that only three youth requested to attend my group when I knew there were a total of 12 in the facility. The staff escorting us to the classroom was also surprised and asked a colleague, “Did you tell them it was Jen, and that she has licorice?!” Armed with this new information, the second staff member went back to the youth and soon, more than half of the 12 were settling into their seats, ready for the treat that earned me the nickname “The Licorice Lady” over a decade ago.

You might remember that when I do group at detention, I’m frequently meeting with a revolving door of youth because this is a temporary holding facility. So, while I can’t easily do Bible studies or engage in on-going mentoring relationships like I can with youth in long-term facilities, the good news is that in this more introductory context, I can use good materials on frequent repeat. And one of my favorite selections is to grab anything that Christian comedian Tim Hawkins produces because of how humor (in combination with licorice!) breaks down walls. On this night, the video’s main point set up a great conversation with questions from the youth such as, “Will God still love me despite some things I’ve done?” What I love about this (frequently asked) question is just how surprised the youth become when I say that God loves them no matter who they are, or what they have done (Romans 8: 38-39).

That night after the video, I was able to meet one-on-one with a 15-year-old young man who thanked me for coming because he hadn’t felt joy for longer than he could remember. Being able to bring a smile to the heart of a young person who has forgotten what it is like to feel happiness is both a burden and an amazing privilege. Thank you for participating with me in delivering the Good News to incarcerated youth in our community.

I’m grateful for your commitment to this ministry, and I wish you and your family a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday.

Bringing HOPE to the hopeless.

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