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May 30, 2013

reVision Offers Redemption and Support to Incarcerated Youth

Article_reVision[Diolog MagazineHouston: reVision is responding to God’s call to bring hope to gang-affected and at-risk youth, offering them a new family and redeemed identity.


Life Change for Gang-Affected Youth

What does “boundless compassion” look like? Houston: reVision, through its partnerships with St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, is building a community of boundless compassion and love in southwest Houston. 


reVision’s Mission

reVision is not in the business of policing gangs, but rather in building relationships with teens and fostering positive peer support. Charles Rotramel, co-executive director of reVision and founder of Youth Advocates, brings 25 years of experience working with underserved, gang-affected youth to this ministry. According to Rotramel, reVision’s mission is to get young people to see themselves not as gang members, but as members of a vibrant community. 


“We are focused on their new life, which includes a totally new way of dressing, talking and interacting,” he says. This new life begins with loving relationships with positive adults, many of whom are volunteers from St. Martin’s and St. Luke’s. These one-on-one relationships are at the core of reVision’s purpose. 


“Nothing can change for these young men until trust is established between a gang-affected teen and a positive role model,” he adds. 


The Power of Relationship 

But as is the case in Kingdom work, it is not just the life of the youth that is transformed. John Newton, a reVision volunteer mentor and Canon for Lifelong Christian Formation with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, states that: “serving as a reVision mentor is perhaps the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. God continues to open my eyes to new things about myself and about what it means to work for justice. At the end of the day, I am coming to believe there is nothing we can do to ‘fix’ another person. We can only love them and make a commitment to walk alongside them. The friendship I’ve established with my mentee is slowly but surely impacting both of our lives for the better.”


Barbara and Brent Johnson, members of St. Martin’s, co-mentor two reVision kids together, both of whom have been certified to stand trial as adults and potentially face many years of incarceration. Brent Johnson notes that often these kids “are feeling totally hopeless. It is a very challenging situation to be able to communicate God’s love and forgiveness and assure them that God has life for them on the other side of their incarceration.” Through the difficulties, the Johnsons continue to demonstrate God’s love to these kids. 


“We don’t have a lot of answers, but we know we are not called upon to face this alone or with our own strength,” Barbara Johnson says. “For now we trust in our Lord God and obediently show up week after week to encourage, to listen, to love, to cheer, to laugh and sometimes to cry. What we do know for sure is that there is no other place we would rather be each week than with ‘our kids.’”


A New Picture of Social Justice

“Before coming on staff with reVision, I thought I knew what social justice was about,” said the Rev. Laralee DeHart, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and chaplain/co-executive director of reVision. “But now, I see things differently. Truly engaging in social justice is more than just seeing an issue that negatively affects someone else and working to overcome that issue. Social justice becomes truly transformational when we begin to feel that issue for ourselves—when it becomes our own—because it affects ‘us,’ not ‘them.’ That’s what’s happening with reVision. As our mentors and volunteers get connected to our kids, as they begin to fall in love with them, these kids—who started out as ‘them’—are becoming one of us, one of our own. The issues that affect them—poverty, education, the juvenile justice system, mental health, substance abuse, immigration—we begin to feel in a new and more personal way. We take them to heart, and that’s when true change can happen. That’s what reVision is all about.”


reVision is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more information or to volunteer with reVision, please contact Rotramel or DeHart at 281.656.6615 or visit the reVision website at