Freedom’s Home Plan
By Marlene Houk
“What is Your Home Plan?” the case manager asked as he filled out the dismissal papers. Steve hesitated, his hands filling empty pockets. He wondered what a home plan would be if he could almost smell the burned bridges from broken family ties. When the officer released him, he would still be chained to his old ways.
Four years earlier, he had been arrested after a twenty-day drinking binge that included crime. He turned himself in and was placed under a suicide watch. He had reached the bottom. An alcoholic for forty years as well as practicing other addictions, he reflects about the times before his arrest, “I didn’t care who I hurt to get these things.” Now, he often wonders how he arrived home safely due to his alcoholic blackouts and the dings and dents in his car.
Three and a half weeks after his incarceration, Steve had walked into the prison chapel and asked the Lord to forgive him. He says, “I didn’t want jailhouse religion. I wanted to be a child of God, and God delivered!” Steve had entered prison at age 57. At age 61, he was released. “Prison is no place for an old man,” he declares. Although he had no outside money or anything given to him, not even deodorant, his trust in God kept him focused on the Lord and aiming for help.
After signing his papers and being released, he met his probation officer in the parking lot. He was driven to Freedom Ministries, a Christ-based pre-and post-release program located in Marion, NC, and Steve’s outside life began. The ministry arranged for shelter in one of their transition houses and allowed him to rest for a few days. They asked for a year of his life and together, they formed a plan for his life. Freedom Life would provide transportation for work, to appointments, and buy groceries. During the year, Steve would participate in counseling and group meetings. He gladly chose Bible study also because he realized that the Lord was the Master of his plan.
As part of his plan, he began working with Marion Fabric and Upholstery, and it catapulted his ability to recover. There, Rick and Anthony, the owners, listened to his problems, included him in devotions every morning, and supported him in reaching his goals with Freedom Life. Steve says, “I knew they were there for me, and we became like family.”
Following the grace and kindness that his mentors modeled, Steve now 22 months later, gives back. He participates in the same meetings at Freedom Life, but now he’s able to listen with understanding to other clients’ stories. “We are a brotherhood and we’re concerned when one misses, he says, “and we reach out to them.” We allow the Holy Spirit to lead, and we follow Proverbs’ wisdom that iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) For example, a typical focus of addicted men is that they do the same thing but expect different results. Steve recognizes this in the group meetings and helps them see that they need to change from within.
Now, after completing his plan with Freedom Life, Steve volunteers by transporting clients for the doctor appointments, motor vehicle appointments, IDs, to obtain clothes, groceries and job interviews. He is a transition house manager in the very house where God built a new foundation in his life. “Without Freedom Life’s involvement, I would probably have gone back to prison,” he summarizes. Then, with a chuckle, he says, “In prison, I worked for 70 cents a day in the kitchen. Now, I volunteer most of my time for Freedom Life. I’m the only one I know who took a cut in pay outside the prison walls!”
Steve describes his family at Freedom by saying, “We are not just a counselor and client but brother and brother. We are not simply acquaintances but have relationships.”
“How has Freedom Life changed you?” was asked. He offers his answer with a smile, “Back then, my focus was self-centered and hurtful. Now, I want to encourage and help others, and God lets me! I appreciate the way that Freedom allowed the Holy Spirit to lead me. I belong to a good church and my understanding of myself is different than the endless cycle of addiction and feelings of worthlessness.” He explains, “I am so sorry and ashamed of the things I’ve done. But through God’s incredible love I have learned to receive forgiveness and I am no longer ashamed of who I am in Christ. Bonding with true friends, committing to a mutual plan with Freedom Life, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance has helped him. He has arrived at a new home, not just on the outside, but within his heart on the inside. He adds, “I pray that the ones I’ve hurt will be able to forgive me. I pray that the pain I’ve caused them will no longer be a hindrance in their own heart’s ability to know God’s great healing and love. I am also working through my forgiveness of others as well.”
Now, Steve Thomas tells those in need and in the pit of addiction, “Your answer is not in a bottle, pill, or needle. Seek counsel and the kingdom of God. You can’t recover alone.” Steve asks that the community pray for the broken and volunteer in any way, even to donating an old but usable vehicle that a client may be allowed to use as he or she works toward recovery.
Steve’s home plan now is found in Isaiah 61:1 which says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” The Lord had opened the gate of new life to Steve Thomas within the blocks of Marion Correctional Institution. Today, he loves serving the Lord through helping to pull others out of the same pit from which he has been pulled.
Freedom Life Ministries, a nonprofit corporation, helps current and former offenders embrace the freedom of real and lasting life change through the liberating power of Christ’s love. Located in Marion, North Carolina. Contact information: Phone (828) 559-2224. Info@freedomlifeministries.org. Ms. Houk is a board member and volunteer with Freedom Life Ministries.
Marlene Houk is a regualr contributor to Blue Ridge Christain News. Her passion is to delve deeply into the truths of Bible women and to discuss those in Bible Studies called Backstage Pass to Bible Women. She and her husband discover joy, nurture, and challenge in their church. Her contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can purchase her book, Hidden in a List: secrets from Bible women, on Amazon HERE.