The Cost of Independence
By Terry Cheek
July is upon us, with it comes Independence Day. We remember and celebrate our Declaration of Independence from England. With that declaration came the Revolutionary War. We cannot have one without the other. This is more than a history lesson, it is a life lesson.
Preceding a Declaration of Independence was a realization of dependence upon someone or something. Historically for the United States of America, it was England and their taxation and oppression along with economic, physical, and political sanctions of the colonists. The life lesson we learn from this is the tragedy of dependence in our society. Today there is too much alcohol, too many drugs, and too much domestic violence. The Justice system is overwhelmed with offenders. As a bi-vocational minister, I am employed with the prison system as a maintenance technician – a job I have held for many years. With my job comes contact and communication with inmates. These men have tremendous stories and many of them have tremendous testimonies. I also have the privilege to serve on a very special council as a community faith leader – the North Carolina Re-Entry Council, McDowell County Chapter. We are part of a larger State-wide group that addresses the difficult process of a released offender making the adjustment back into life on the outside of prison walls. Of course, the foundation of re-entry success is their attitude; they have to want to stay out of prison. If that’s their attitude, we want to help them break the dependencies that took them down that road and offer them independence from the old. But, as said earlier, it comes with a war. To name a few battles these folks face: there are physical battles, job battles, social battles, housing battles, family battles, perception battles, transportation battles, and, in my opinion, the biggest of them all, spiritual battles.
In McDowell County, our Re-Entry Council is fortunate to have Freedom Life Ministries to function as the wheels that move us forward. Danny Hampton leads this Christ-centered organization. From the FLM website, you will find a great deal of information regarding their work with Justice-Involved individual’s. For example, “Freedom Life serves justice-involved individuals and their families with programs designed to help our clients begin a journey to a new life”. I have known Danny for many years. He and his family came to our community, and very quickly Danny became aware of a problem – when offenders were released most of them returned to their old life and quickly became incarcerated over again. From that awareness, Danny became an advocate for those wanting independence from their old life.
The awareness and advocacy of Freedom Life Ministries and N.C. Re-Entry Council, coupled with my personal involvement with the Justice-involved, have moved me to become involved; to be the change I want to see in my community. The battles are real in the lives of these men and women. Those with the strongest convictions to succeed in gaining their independence realize they cannot do it alone. They need us to come alongside them and engage in the battle with them. Getting involved begins with the local church. We are the body of Christ; we are the hands of Christ extended into the world around us. From the passage given above we read this, “35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Those who helped were rewarded and those who didn’t were judged. How did they know if they were doing the right thing? Well, Jesus answered that question too. “40 Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” The least of these are all around us. Will the body of Christ reach out into the local community and be the advocate for Jesus Christ?
Fellow pastors and Christians, these folks are not looking for a handout, they are needing a hand up. Freedom Life Ministries has an excellent music ministry that visits the local church. They have provided song services for me where the altars have filled, and I have seen the Lord Jesus Christ change lives through this ministry. If you have regular singings or a special event and will be using music, I encourage you to give them an opportunity to minister. If you are interested, give Danny Hampton a call, meet with him, and let him explain in detail what Freedom Life Ministries does for our community. Become aware of the battles and become an advocate by joining the fight for Independence these released offenders are facing. You can learn more by contacting Freedom Life Ministries at (828) 559-2224 or by visiting their website https://fredomlifeministries.org.
Terry is the Executive Director and broadcaster of The Inspiring Word media ministry. You can contact Terry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or by visiting www.theinspiringword.org