I’m Dennis Raasch, a Youth-Reach Houston (YRH) alum, and this is my story…
In 1997, I was 16 years old and in juvenile court in Austin, Texas. It was my third or fourth appearance in this court and the judge gave me an ultimatum. Unless I could find a family that would take me in, he’d have to send me to the state’s juvenile corrections agency, the Texas Youth Commission. He gave me two weeks to find someone or else face a five-year sentence.
When No One Would Take Me
By that age, my mom was nowhere to be found. I’d also already caused enough trouble with my dad who was also an addict. I tried hard to get my relatives to take me in, but my family knew of my addiction and life of crime and didn’t want to invite that influence into their homes. No one would take me.
Two weeks went by and about an hour before my court appearance, my appointed attorney met me and he told me my grandmother had driven all the way from Houston… with pamphlets. The youth pastor of her church was good friends with Curt Williams, the founder of YRH. The judge accepted the YRH program and released me to my grandmother’s custody on the condition that I was going to YRH and on probation.
The YRH staff had a bigger impact on me than any of my biological family or friends. Dave “Mohawk” Miranda was my counselor.
Going into a place like Youth-Reach as a broken teen and seeing a man of God like that — who came from darkness but was brought into the light — profoundly impacted me.
With an all-star cast of staff, YRH taught me how to be a man of God.
Right Back Into It
Unfortunately, I didn’t stick it out. After I got off probation at 17, I left early, hitchhiked back to south Houston and got right back into gangbanging.
I was soon incarcerated for drug possession. When I got out on adult probation, within five short months I held up a restaurant at gunpoint. I served two years for that robbery — and the consequences of that bad choice still follow me. Later, I ended up in Arizona and in 2004, was arrested for robbing a house for an Xbox.
The Doors God Opens
The Lord recently created an opportunity for me to work with Big Fish Ministries, a Christ-centered residential recovery ministry. I’ve been there for about a year and a half, working to create a transitional program of accountability and discipleship for reentering the culture once residents graduate. I also help with intake and get to see the full-circle journey for when residents come into the program and helping them transition out.
It’s a miracle that I’m here and it’s the goodness of God that I’m able to be used in that capacity.
Not Just Troubled Teens, But Disciples
I’m very grateful for YRH and the profound impact it’s had on my life. YRH planted all the seeds in my heart, but the harvest came later as an adult. If it wasn’t for their influence and acceptance of me, I don’t believe I’d be here today.
Even into my forties, I’m still remembering things I learned from the counselors, Bible studies and life lessons.
As minors who come from a place of brokenness, the boys who come to YRH only know one way… the wrong way. To experience family firsthand, they need unity through community.
When sponsors and volunteers show up, cook for them, or take them places, that’s really huge. I believe it’s really the community’s job to turn that dysfunction around.
If you feel like your son has heart issues that need intervention through the goodness of God, the Lord will use the men at YRH to mold and shape him so that he grows up to be a Godly husband and father. The cycle can be broken. Sometimes the cycle starts with bad parenting, but sometimes these boys have the best parents on the planet and the Lord wants to use Youth-Reach to call that child to something bigger and better than his parents can give him.
I’ll always be eternally grateful for the model Curt created at Youth-Reach: not just to take in troubled teens, but to make disciples.