When Rev. Marvin Vander Vliet takes teenage boys from the Kent County, Mich., Juvenile Justice System sailing on Lake Michigan, it’s an adventure in rehabilitation.
As a Youth for Christ guidance director, the Christian Reformed minister uses his sailing ardor to model Christianity and foster deep conversation. “These kids have thousands of questions, about Jesus Christ in particular,” he said.
The young sailors learn to cooperate and bond with one another while encountering creation. “They live in places where they rarely get to experience the world as God made it,” Vander Vliet said. Last summer four of Vander Vliet’s sailors entered the Chicago to Mackinac Yacht Race and the Clipper Cup Race, where they discovered, in the absence of wind, new insights.
“For kids who normally see what life has shorted them, these kids learned thankfulness to God for his gifts,” Vander Vliet said. “Those who have committed their lives to Christ become especially close to each other and God.”
Vander Vliet meets weekly with the boys who sail and with other teens in a Calvinist Cadet Corp club and regularly visits the Juvenile Detention Center, where he originally met the adolescents he takes sailing.
Some of the youths are in the system because of parental neglect or abuse and others for criminal involvement, Vander Vliet said.