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Refuge Ministries
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By Mike Toth



James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (NASB)

Refuge Ministries was started in 2002 by the Reverend Alan and Sharon Campbell to equip churches to do youth detention ministry work. In fact, the ambitious goal of Refuge is to see churches ministering to the orphans of the youth penal system in all 30 communities across Canada in which a youth detention facility is located. As is often the case Alan Campbell was prepared to reach the imprisoned through his own experience, and the Lord took what the enemy meant for evil and used it instead for good.

Campbell’s experience as one of those orphans started at a young age. Despite growing up in a church going family he saw his half siblings being preferred over him. By the time he got to high school he was small in stature, lonely, and felt completely rejected. Unable to resolve those holes in his life he cut class often and got suspended on a regular basis, culminating in his expulsion at age 16.

He then headed to Toronto where more trouble lay ahead. Joining up with organized crime and dealing drugs eventually lead to a prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and trafficking cocaine. This prison sentence ended up both saving his life, and changing it forever.

While in prison Campbell met two men who came on Sundays and Thursdays to talk with the men about God. He of course knew of the religious side of the faith as he had grown up with church going parents, but knew nothing of the aspect of having a real relationship with God. Being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and realizing that he would get more prison time or die if there wasn’t a change in his life, he decided to “give God a shot.” On July 4, 1983, at 8:00 pm, Alan Campbell gave his heart to Christ. He has been clean and walking with the Lord ever since.

The inspiration for Refuge Ministries came some time later. Campbell was invited all over the country to share his testimony of God’s grace, and one of those appearances was at the youth detention centre in Edmonton. At the service a 12-year-old boy came to know Jesus which thrilled him, but on the flight home he was heartbroken by the fact that there was no follow-up for this young man who remained in the facility. Although he wasn’t looking to start a jail ministry Campbell couldn’t shake the burden of it and Refuge was soon born

Besides equipping churches to do the work of reaching young offenders Refuge Ministries has teams that go into Sprucedale Youth Centre which houses males from 13 to 18 years old. At Sprucedale Refuge volunteers teach seminars from a practical, Biblical standpoint, pass out care bags with toiletries and transition guides (pamphlets to help with reintegration to society), and work to get youth set up with mentors before they leave the facility so they will have support immediately upon release.

An exciting third aspect of Refuge Ministries is the youth outreach centre they are creating at Rev Campbell’s home church of Faith Alive Family Church on Glanworth Dr. in London. The centre will feature foosball, pool, and ping pong tables, and provide a place for fellowship and mentorship for youth, as well as providing a place of support for youth who are released from custody.

“We are always looking for churches to be involved, whether providing support, volunteers, or receiving the training and starting their own programs,” says Campbell. “We are driven by the reality of knowing what God can do in a life and offering that hope.”

The life of a youth is not over if they become a young offender; in fact, were more churches and ministries to get involved becoming a young offender could actually be the beginning of their life. If you are interested in getting involved in the lives of youths, or want to support this ministry via donation or volunteering, contact Reverend Campbell at: refugeministriescanada@gmail.com or visit the website at: www.refugeministriescanada.com.