After my arrest for molesting my step-granddaughter, while cuffed in the police car, an internal voice spoke, “I COME LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT.” There and then I took stock of my soul and realized I was spiritually unprepared to meet my Maker. Then, the internal voice spoke again, “MICHAEL, YOU ARE GOING TO PRISON TO SAVE YOUR SOUL."
Although I was raised a Catholic, I had little exposure to God's Word. But for the next three weeks, I read the Bible continuously. I felt insatiable for the Word. And as I read, a peace came over me, a feeling I had never known in my life. I was amazed at how I felt so at peace as my world burned around me through my own selfish, self-centered doing.
I devoted myself to the Lord. I became an academic block tutor, helping my fellow inmates. I also attend Christian services and classes, with the highlight of every day being the reading and studying of the Bible with 3 other Christian men. Additionally, my morning devotions gave my day meaning, praying that my trials and tribulations would serve the Lord’s greater Glory.
In due time, I paroled to Stepping Stones to Freedom, a Mennonite-run halfway house. I quickly sensed the Christian fellowship amongst the residents. The place provided the peacefulness I needed to commune with God, having never experienced such a sense of Christian unity as exists amongst the Mennonite community.
Soon, I was rebaptized at a Mennonite church. It was the most special day of my life. An extraordinary feeling overcame me. I felt joy and humility too powerful to describe. The feelings were intermingled. One moment joy pulled me up, the next moment humility pulled me down. It was so powerful; I broke down in tears.
Eventually, God led me to Hearken House Ministry, another Mennonite-run halfway house where I have found my vocation. God is using me to help expand our ministry’s mission to assist returning citizens find a home, a job, and peace through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only through serving Him that we can find peace and happiness in our lives.
So, after 15 years I finally got out thanks to Hearken House Ministry. Upon my reentry, I expected hardships, obstacles and plenty of trials and errors. But what I didn't expect were the tools and help that I received from Hearken House Ministry the moment I walked out those prison gates. Everyone was very welcoming and helpful and willing to help me acclimate myself back into society and they helped make my transition as smooth as possible.
It's been a short time since I've been out and I like to think that my reentry has been successful. I even got to make my very first garden which I mentioned in passing and got a lot of support for from my new brothers in Christ.
I was blessed to have found Hearken House Ministry. And if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come here, then you have begun the first step in your successful reentry, if you are willing and dedicated enough to do the work.
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After graduating from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in Psychology, I worked at summer camps and residential treatment centers for troubled youths. However, I spiraled out of control when I was fired from my job for “Endangering the Welfare of Children” and “Corruption of Minors,” for taking photos instead of stopping several minors from climbing atop a large, dilapidated barn. I began smoking weed, drinking excessively, and hanging out with street people. I turned my home into a “party house” for college students and minors. I also became a fence for a juvenile burglary ring dealing in stolen bicycles. It was then that I began sexually assaulting a 14-year-old.
Eventually, I was arrested for “Theft of Property.” I served a few months at the county jail, then went in and out of jail three more times for similar charges. During the times I was out of jail, I continued to sexually assault the minor. Then, at the age of 17, my victim was arrested, and my sexual crime came to light. I received a 6-to-15-year sentence before another 17-year-old came forward about a sexual assault I committed. For this, I received an additional sentence of 4 to 8 years.
I maxed out my sentence and Hearken House Ministry saved me from becoming homeless. But spending those 23 straight years in prison deteriorate my basic social and technology skills. I found it hard to function on my own. However, since arriving here, all the residents have willingly helped me. I have been taught basic cooking and technology skills, and my social skills have dramatically improved.
Hearken House Ministry provides much more than a bed, it helps you to change your life in a positive way. Now, I have found my own apartment, something I never could have done without the support from Hearken House Ministry and its residents.
From an early age, I attended Bible School and church services. As a teenager, I asked the Lord to forgive me for my sins. I did not smoke, take drugs, drink alcohol, or use vulgar language. This was my idea of being a Christian.
After graduating, I enlisted in the Army and drifted away from attending church services. I still didn’t smoke, take drugs, drink alcohol, or use foul language. I also still prayed daily and always tried to do what I considered to be good. But my relationship with the Lord was an intellectual relationship, not a personal one. I was behaving how I thought a Christian should behave. My one exception was sexual immorality. I cheated on my wives, fornicated with other men’s wives, solicited prostitutes, and had inappropriate contact with minors.
The Holy Spirit had always been letting me know my behavior was wrong and that I needed to stop, but I could not do so on my own. I turned to the Lord for help, to stop me. Several months later the Lord answered this prayer. I was arrested.
For the first time, I read the Bible from front to back and began to understand the true meaning of a Christian life, realizing my idea of Christianity was completely off base. I developed a personal relationship with the Lord and found peace throughout my 15 years of incarceration. I was content with my circumstances and had no inner resentment.
I know that each day is a blessing from God and that He has placed me at Hearken House Ministry as part of His plan, and I look forward to serving Him, to do His will, not mine.