By: Katie Sobiech
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3
We often hear their stories…the details of a robbery, murder or some other horrific crime splashed across news headlines. Open any newspaper and the negative events will threaten to scare you, but it isn’t often that you hear about the good that comes out of these situations. Little do we hear about ex-inmates turning their lives around.
This past summer Perry Clark and Steve Wewer with Truly Reaching You Ministries (TRY) opened up to us about their ministry, which helps men change their lives from the inside out. They give men a “hand up” rather than a “hand out”, providing them with the housing and resources they need to lead productive lives after prison.
There have been some changes over the past several months, including new house rules, business endeavors and lessons they have learned, which continue to mold and shape the ministry.
Crack, Crime and Coming Out
The beauty of TRY is that they offer a second chance to those often cast aside in society. They provide them with the resources they need to get back on their feet, making it possible to help them walk away from a lifestyle of crime.
One couple TRY now works with spent 20 years doing crack together. Both the husband and wife gave their lives to God, quitting their drug habit only to find that after living a life of dishonesty and crime they weren’t left with much except enormous debt.
Others leave prison with only the clothes on their back and nowhere to go. It’s hard to get a job with their record, and even if they do, the types of jobs they get don’t pay the bills.
These types of scenarios often lead them back to a lifestyle of crime. They see no other way to make ends meet, which, Clark explained, makes it much easier for them to go back to the same corner or to old friends and get caught up in the old habits that put them in prison.
“Being on their own too soon will easily drive them back to where they came from,” Clark explained, “If a man has nothing to go to or no one who is reaching out to him its easy to go back to that.”
Employment: A Cure for Crime
In order to break the cycle of crime TRY not only provides housing, but has made business connections to provide employment for the men.
“We’ve added a handful of commercial contracts in lawn care and snow removal,” Clark said.
They have teamed up with the YMCA in a joint venture, providing jobs also in cleaning and eventually in remodeling.
This not only helps men get out of debt, but gives them job readiness skills.
“It makes the man more employable,” Clark said, “and that’s the biggest key. An employer can look at them and see that they’ve worked for seven months or a year, versus coming home from prison and working nowhere.”
The mentality of those involved in crime life have “takes a lot to undo,” Wewer explains. “It is a process to undo all of those wires in their thinking that are wired wrong.”
Clark, an ex inmate himself, understands the struggle after spending years in prison. It took him nearly 6 years after being released to shake off the “prison mentality”.
“I see things that they don’t realize their doing, or that are a part of them.” he said, “They wonder ‘How does he know?’”
“It’s because I played those same games somewhere in my life.”
No Enabling Here
TRY exists not to enable men, but to help them grow spiritually so that they can lead a productive life. They have found that in some cases it works and in others it doesn’t.
“It might not work all the time,” Clark said, “because some people don’t want to change. They don’t want to surrender.”
Two specific things Clark and Weewer refuse to enable are unhealthy addictions and irresponsible spending.
“If they don’t make the right choice then we have to put them on the street. If we don’t, we are killing them,” Wewer said with concern, “We are burying them further in shame, further in debt; in a hole that they will never get out of if we don’t force a decision.”
“Adopt a Man”
But not all of the men coming out of prison are looking for an easy ride. Some genuinely have shown TRY that they will do anything it takes to lead productive lives. One of their men is actually now team leader for their commercial cleaning, snowplowing and landscaping.
And these are the men that need our help.
In just one day, Clark got an email from someone looking for a place for 14 men out of prison to stay. Because of this they are now looking at ways that people, churches and businesses can come alongside them and “adopt a man”.
“I think churches in our community need to be more open armed to say, ‘We’ll accept you as you are. We are here to help you,’” Clark said, “That is one of my cries.”
His desire is for churches not just to know something about the problem, but to realize that something needs to be done about it.
Aside from all of this, a new set of rules have been established, including:
Daily quiet times (and journaling) 15 hours of community service each month Diligent pursuit of employment; continuing employment Participation in two Bible studies a week Recovery Coaching Turning over all paychecks/income to a financial counselor for help in managing money to provide for current needs and to save for future
Making good financial decisions is crucial for these men who are up to their ears in debt.
“If we realize a year after the fact that we bought a car that was too expensive for us and the debt was weighing us down, it would be a nuisance, slow us down, make it a little harder,” Wewer explained. “But that kind of choice for the folks we’re working with is a matter of life or death.”
Many of the men throw away half of their income on items like cigarettes.
Therefore, “We’re very specific on how they use money,” Wewer said, “We want to see receipts and how they are paying off past debts.”
He went on to say, “We have solved the problem of housing, where the housing we provide them is affordable.”
Therefore excuses are erased and debts get closer to being paid off, which makes independence more of a reality for these men.
For more info. go to the website: http://www.trulyreachingyou.com