My family volunteered to help deliver Thanksgiving groceries as part of Victory Mission’s program and successfully found the warehouse despite road closures for construction. More than 350 families received holiday food from VM, the majority of those meals delivered this morning courtesy of a volunteer pool of 80 drivers and 12 Fed Ex trucks. (It’s really cool to watch a Fed Ex truck load up with groceries and imagine the surprised smiles of those on the receiving end.) We waited our turn in the pick-up line, following a green Kia Soul, and were greeted by Captain Springfield (Day #194) who gave us our marching orders, sending us out with food for three families. Somewhat joking, somewhat serious, I asked her to find me a catch partner while we delivered the food.
An hour later we returned, all deliveries successful along with requested prayers for a child in the hospital, a spouse in prison, and a dying parent. My heart was already humbled by the immeasurable blessings I take for granted on a daily basis.
And then I played catch with Jimmy.
In the alley next to the warehouse, we played catch for about 20 minutes, and I bet I didn’t say 20 words. With almost every throw, there was another twist in Jimmy’s story.
Jimmy lived in Florida and Alaska before moving to Missouri. His mom died of a drug overdose when he was just a kid and he started using meth when he was 17 years old.
“I’ve been doing drugs for almost half of my life, spent more time in prison than not,” he said. “I was in prison for the seventh time and looking forward to getting out, running away again, and getting high. I got off the bus fully prepared to run and something — Something — stopped me, and I knew I had to make the phone call.”
Jimmy called Mark at Victory Mission.
“And Mark said, ‘We turn dope dealers into hope dealers.’ And I decided to give it a chance.”
Jimmy told me of going through VM’s restoration program and being hired as an intern to work in the warehouse. He told me that he’s working on his relationship with his daughter and all the changes taking place in his life. People who knew him in prison are able to see the transformation in his life.
“The people here, they are family. We are family. They know the difference love can make, the difference Jesus has made in my life.”
Jimmy first learned how to do art in prison. He’s now using his art to give hope to others, doing drawings during worship services at his church.
“I pray over each piece and trust that God is going to lead me to give it to the right person. God is doing good things. I have hope for the future.”
God is about the business of setting prisoners free and using those our culture often overlooks to be the bearers of audacious and beautiful hope.