Setting Captives Free

Michelle Smith



by Michelle Smith

My life’s passion is reaching out to one of the most forgotten populations in America: the at risk and incarcerated youth! In 2002-2003 my eyes were opened and my heart began to break for troubled, neglected youth in Orange County, CA when I was a child care worker, in group homes for abused teens. This culture shock experience and the things I saw “ruined me” for life, which led me to also start volunteering with a non-profit organization, called Pacific Youth Correctional Ministries in 2004.  This gave me an opportunity to travel the world serving the needy in 18 different nations, which I then returned back to California burdened for those desperately hurting in Orange County. After 7 years of volunteering with Pacific Youth I joined the Chaplain team in 2011, taking a big leap of faith as I left my regular paid job as a school teacher and embarked on the journey of a full time missionary: living off 100% donations!

As a Para-Chaplain I teach weekly Bible studies, church services, conduct one-on-one mentoring, pastoral care inside the walls/on the streets, distribute Bibles/ministry materials, help with special events, fundraise in the community, do public speaking at local schools and church youth groups, and provide administrative assistance.  I help meet the spiritual needs of hundreds of incarcerated youth at Orange County Juvenile Hall, Youth Guidance Center, Joplin Youth Center and Youth Leadership Academy.  In Orange County, California alone there are over 6,000 at-risk youth under the supervision of show them unconditional love and believe in them.  They have become my family and I have become theirs; spending birthdays and holidays with them. I had people investing in my life growing up who helped me become who I am today. These youth don’t have that luxury, and we are able to help provide that for them during their incarceration period and follow up with them when they get released back into society as they face many obstacles and struggles. In 2011 I joined Lives Worth Saving Gang Intervention, which is also connected to Pacific Youth Correctional Ministries.  Two Saturdays a month my team and I walk the “hood areas” of Santa Ana 7pm-10pm and focus on reaching out to over 35 notorious gangs. Our goals are to prevent and intervene gang activity and violence while bringing awareness to the communities, educating parents/public schools, and being a presence of hope, love, encouragement and helpful resources to those in need and suffering.  God’s light shines bright even in the darkest alleys! I believe I am answering a call to reach out to the outcasts, those who society has given up on and labeled garbage, to show them that they have worth value and someone does care about them. I’m called to share hope with the hopeless and love the unloved. Juvenile Hall ministries and gang intervention do not just impact the lives of the troubled teens; it has a huge ripple effect! It impacts their families, neighborhoods, schools, and communities! For more information please visit www.


Lives Cut Short
Poem Written By: Para-Chaplain Michelle Sept. 2013
T oo many teens dying in the streets today
Reaching out for love in all the wrong places, being lead astray
How many more alleys will be painted with their blood?
Until we finally understand where they’re coming from?
So quick to point our fingers and judge
But how often do we stop and listen, and take a walk in their shoes
Compassion comes from understanding, but we rarely take time to get to that place
Instead we throw cold, empty words at them, like a slap in the face.
I’m sick of looking in the news paper and seeing familiar names
Front page photos of young men and women, breaking news
Their lives cut short, the guns, drugs and knives were no longer just games
Kids in gangs don’t expect to reach the age of 21
Experiences from their homies show that their future is prison or death
Fathers are missing in families and the new deadly toys are heroine and meth
Young girls trying to be women, trading in their childhood
Burdens too heavy to bear
Yet they’re left with picking up the slack and responsibilities
Dropping out of school and getting high as a hobby
Being faded is the new normal and being over-medicated replaces sober
This is not right, their lives should not be over
These youth have so much potential, so much to live for
I can’t turn the other way, I’ve already seen too much to be silent
Lord, restore our families and bring healing to our streets
May these kids know that there’s more to life than what they see
Their front yard is a battlefield but in You they can have victory
They are worth more than silver and gold, created to do great works through You
Show me how to help them see this, give me wisdom in what to do
Too many lives cut short, families being ripped apart
Raise up bold street soldiers to search and rescue the lost
I want to continue to fight for these precious youth, whatever the cost
It doesn’t matter what street we’re from, what we’ve done, or how far we’ve ran away
Your arms stretch out, and are just a prayer away
On my tear stained face, I cry out

About Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has long been a seasoned advocate for troubled, high­risk youth, with extensive experience gained since 2002. Working in group homes for abused/neglected teens led her to get involved behind the walls in juvenile hall facilities with Pacific Youth Correctional Ministries in 2004. PYCM helps provide incarcerated youth with their spiritual needs: weekly bible studies and church services, discipleship program, special events, bible delivery, and continuity of care when released into the communities. Juvenile halls, adult county jails, foster care shelters, public high schools, homeless shelters, hospitals, orphanages and prisons have become Michelle’s new favorite, regular hangouts. Michelle has a heart for the nations and has had the honor and opportunity to travel and serve on missions teams in Mexico, Namibia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Ireland, England, Romania, Malawi, Swaziland, South Africa, Philippines, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Uganda, with more countries on her “to-visit” list in the future! Her desire is to see people come to Jesus and be made whole and healed spiritually, emotionally and physically! She is one of His warriors on the font lines, wanting to set captives free, in Jesus’ name!

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