I started volunteering with Columbia International University’s Prison Initiative around 2015 and was quickly reminded why I had developed such a love and passion for prison ministry in the first place. Every week when I sat down with the guys in the CIU program I heard truly amazing stories of how God had been moving behind the walls and bars of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).
The Gospel was going forth with power, lives were being transformed, doors were being opened for ministry, and truly miraculous things were taking place. Many of the accounts seemed straight out of the book of Acts. Nevertheless, there were a few other themes that seemed to emerge from those conversations and from my interaction with others involved in prison ministry.
1. The hurdles facing a returning citizen (individual released from incarceration) were numerous and daunting. Beyond the obvious concerns of food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and employment were a myriad of other issues that wouldn’t even occur to most of us. The longer an individual had been incarcerated, the more society had evolved in ways that were completely foreign to them.
2. Though there were a number of individuals and organizations able to render some degree of assistance to returning citizens, there appeared to be a lack of coordination or cooperation between some of them here in the Midlands region of South Carolina. This made it very challenging for returning citizens to find all the resources available to them. It also dramatically reduced the efficiency of those resources when used in isolation rather than collectively.
3. Beyond just assistance programs, successful transition of returning citizens required relationships. These relationships needed to be both individual (mentorship/discipleship) and corporate (loving, Christ-centered community).
4. God had been strategically working within the South Carolina Department of Corrections
to create a unique window of opportunity for transition-focused prison ministry. First of all,
there is a tremendous move of God within the prison population that has been fueled by the
CIU Prison Initiative, Jumpstart, and other excellent ministries. This has created a network of capable, motivated, well-equipped men and women of God who are still incarcerated in institutions across the state. The value of their contribution to and participation in transition ministry efforts cannot be overstated. Secondly, over the past 5 years or so God has
strategically placed men and women of God with a heart for transition ministry in positions of leadership within SCDC, paving the way for ministries to step in and provide solutions that government cannot.
As these ideas began to emerge, I had the growing sense that something needed to be done and
that now was the time to do it. I was still not sure what that was, how it could be done, or even
who would do it. I certainly didn’t have the time, experience, or ability to pull it off myself. In fact,
I didn’t even know the scope of the problem well enough to wrap my head around it or propose a solution.
Nevertheless, in the fall of 2017 through a series of conversations, a vision began to emerge. It
was a vision so big and bold that I didn’t want to tell anyone the full extent of it for fear that it
would undermine my credibility. It was also so urgent that I couldn’t quite shake it. Consequently,
over the following months I prayed about the vision, shared pieces of it with different people, and
watched parts of it come into clearer focus. I still knew it was far beyond my ability to bring to
fruition, but if this was God’s doing (and I believed it was), He would bring it to pass and my responsibility was to be obedient.
I selectively invited others to share in part of this vision, not even knowing what to call it at first.
Some embraced it enthusiastically while others politely declined. In early 2018 we gathered
together a team of about 10 people, mostly from Sandhills Community Church, and began meeting monthly to research, develop, plan, pray, and do what we could to move the plan forward. By early 2018 the early stages of the vision had coalesced into what we called the Transformation and Transition Project. Partnering initially with the CIU Prison Initiative, Jumpstart, Providence Home, Sandhills Community Church and Manning Pre-Release Center, we finally began recruiting
volunteers and moving forward with the work of the T&T Project pursuant to the following initial
A. Assist Returning Citizens
To prepare and assist individuals for a successful transition into society after being released
B. Recruit Churches
To establish a network of churches in the Midlands actively involved in transition ministry and committed to providing loving, Christ-centered community to returning citizens and their
C. Network Resources
To facilitate coordination between organizations and individuals across the state who can
assist returning citizens with transition.
The T&T Project is still in the very early stages of its development, but we pray that as time goes on God will enable us to fulfill the calling He has placed on us. We want to see returning citizens and their families impacted by the love of God’s people in their own communities. We want to see churches challenged and strengthened by their involvement in this critical area of local ministry and cooperation with the larger Body of Christ. We want to see our communities impacted over time by a marked reduction in recidivism, crime, and incarceration. We want to see a transformation in the South Carolina Department of Corrections as a direct result of the involvement of the local Body of Christ. We want to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done in our state.
T&T Project founder