Teams of trained Faithful Friend volunteers routinely go into state and county juvenile prison facilities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before the small group or one-on-one mentoring time, Les and Pepper and other talented performers and artists entertain the students with illusions, music, athletic demonstrations, and motorcycles in an effort to establish a foundation upon which relationships can be built.
In our presentations in juvenile prisons and churches, we have been asked to emphasize several of the following points of interest. Each point will be described and what we do will be explained.
Focus on Jesus
In this illustration, students are introduced to Pepper. Her English command “come” is explained. Les spells out Pepper’s next assignment, which is to lie down and stay. The students' job then is to coax her to get up from her position and come to them. To emphasize the temptations the world brings, Les hands dog treats to the students to arm them with what would be tempting to most dogs. Les highlights how to Pepper, treats are just as enticing as drugs, sex, or gang violence can be to students. After the students call to her a few times, they usually notice she is not looking at them at all and is still lying down as previously instructed. Les has been giving her a subtle hand signal throughout the exercise, and she is watching for that signal to change. To enliven this point, Les suggests perhaps a bigger temptation would work, so he throws a slice of hot dog meat in front of Pepper. In obedient fashion, she stares intently at the food and may even drool, but she will always stay put and look back at her master. The parallel is drawn that when focused on the temptation, the sin nature will cause one to fall every time. However, focusing on our heavenly Father and His Word will never lead one astray.
Les takes out his Bible and talks to the students about the importance of reading God’s Word. God’s instructions are clear, but if one never reads the Bible, it is impossible to know what is pleasing to God. More importantly, if you have no relationship with Him, how can one know His direction for life? The world has much to offer, and the voices inside our heads may seem to be telling us what God would have us do. However, His word is as plain and clear as Les’ hand signal to Pepper. To demonstrate further, Les will ask Pepper to lie down like before. She is given same hand signal to stay, followed by a voice command to come. She will look directly at Les but will not move an inch. Les demonstrates that Pepper may think she hears Les’ voice, but she has learned to discern the true and right command, which is to stay.
I was in prison and you came to me...
Drop Bad Habits
With this lesson Les asks if the students have ever tried to teach a dog to fetch a ball and return it. Most have and many of them will laugh when Les demonstrates with Pepper a dog’s propensity to hang on to the ball instead of letting go. Les asks Pepper to drop the ball, and she immediately complies. Les will throw the ball for her, and as she is bringing it back, Les asks her to drop it. She is again obedient and drops it. The first ball is a small, worn, dingy ball, and Les compares this ball to a bad habit. Dogs (and people) will hang on to something which they are used to, whether or not it is a wise choice. Les then demonstrates how smart Pepper is and how she has learned to drop a bad habit.
Les takes out a new larger ball and throws it for her. When she brings this one back, Les asks her to drop it. When she does, she gets a tasty treat. This shows Pepper’s understanding that there are better things to fill her life (or mouth) with if she will be obedient. Les emphasizes that when good things fill our lives, there is no room for the bad habits.
Remember those in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Controlling Your Anger
All dogs bark and Pepper will bark when a command is given either using a hand signal or verbal command. The students are asked which of the two methods they would like to see that will cause her to bark. Les gives the command and Pepper will bark but while she is barking Les will give her another hand signal to lie down and be quiet. She will drop immediately and even lay her chin between her paws. Les speaks about how easy it is sometimes for us to lose our temper but can we turn it off as quickly as Pepper can. Les can make a humorous or serious visual lesson out of this to fit the situational need of his audience.