Everyone who knows Richard and Judi Jones affectionately calls them Papa and Mama Jones. And, the name rings true, as they really do serve as parents in Christ to many in our Kansas City community and beyond.
Alex Mathew, Youth For Christ Executive Director serving Kansas City, met Mama Jones when she began to teach theater through her non-profit, Kansas Academy of Theatrical Arts, at a local youth center. Her joy was infectious, and they soon found that they had a similar passion for serving youth with difficult backgrounds. Later, when he was asked to transition from Juvenile Justice Coordinator to Executive Director, Mama Jones was at the top of Alex’s advisors to call.
In a recent interview, Mama Jones shared that initially her main goal was to “serve as an advocate” for the local ministry. Growing up, Mama Jones had experienced YFC as an organization that was not accepting of young people in her ethnic neighborhood. She explains, “I witnessed tokenism and exclusion.” Mama Jones was transparent about her experiences with YFC leadership, and she states, “I was wonderfully surprised to see the organization turning. And the turning is still there. They are working to build a culture of inclusive accountability.”
In addition to serving on the Advisory Board, Mama Jones also leads our prayer ministry. She thinks of herself in this role as a “locked arms prayer warrior.” Papa and Mama Jones invite their prayer group and local ministry volunteers, advisory board members and community partners into their home to pray for YFC once each month. This past month she even led prayer virtually. In our prayer time together, we lift up the specific requests of the YFC teens, pray for the staff at all the detention facilities, and pray for the leadership of YFC.
Mama Jones gets particularly excited about how accepting the courts are to Youth For Christ ministry. She says it was “overwhelmingly unexpected to see how wide they have opened their doors to us.” She is also excited about the launch of Parent Life as an aftercare initiative for teens we meet through our Juvenile Justice Ministry. She states, “This is an opportunity to redirect the lifestyles of these young parents and to redefine new lifestyles for their children.” Mama Jones has been coordinating a special worship and fellowship night at her church for the Parent Life teens and their families. She looks forward to hosting this when precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.
Advocates like Papa and Mama Jones are priceless, and we are blessed to have her on our team. Mama Jones is passionate about serving the youth in our city through helping build this ministry. She is proud that, “Youth For Christ in Kansas City is not just making a difference in the juvenile justice system, but in the entire youth culture of this city – and with the adult volunteers who have stepped up to serve.”
Each month we post the prayer requests from the teens we serve on our website. Many of the youth we serve do not have anyone praying for them. Please consider spending a few minutes praying for our youth each day.