Here at The T&T Project, it has never been our intention to try to meet all the needs of returning citizens ourselves. We rely on community partnerships with other organizations to provide the services that we cannot. One such partner is Providence Home, a Christian ministry that has been providing transitional housing for men here in the Columbia area for nearly 60 years now. A few months ago, we approached the leadership at Providence Home about possibly offering our T&T Pre-release course to their residents. It seemed to be a great fit because they were just about to kick off a mentorship program and our curriculum is designed to build mentoring relationships between the small group leaders and participants. Providence Home’s Program Director Mike Byers embraced the idea enthusiastically and worked with us to put the idea into action.
On Saturday, March 13, we conducted training with the volunteers who had signed up to be mentors to Providence Home residents. The following Wednesday evening, we kicked off our first session with 56 participants and 15 small group leaders/mentors. While we’ve had to make a few minor adjustments to wording here and there, the vast majority of what we prepared for those transitioning from incarceration also applies to those transitioning from homelessness, substance abuse, or other life-derailing circumstances. Furthermore, since Providence Home is a Christ-centered organization, the biblical content and open declaration of the Gospel woven throughout our course was warmly welcomed and encouraged.
In the book of Acts, the persecution of the early Church in Jerusalem is what caused the disciples to scatter and carry the Gospel out to other regions. What looked like a setback actually was a huge leap forward. Likewise, when the South Carolina Dept of Corrections (SCDC) closed off its facilities to all volunteers in March 2020 due to COVID, we were left praying, waiting, and wondering what to do. It looked like a major setback as our courses were interrupted and left unfinished in two different prisons and our plans to expand into other prisons were put on hold indefinitely. However, this new partnership with Providence Home has opened our eyes to the possibilities of offering this course outside of prison as well. We aren’t sure when we’ll be allowed back into the prisons, but until then we are finding that the fields are still ripe for harvest and opportunities for meaningful ministry abound.