Serving USA (SUSA) partners with non-profit organizations nationwide, including those that bring The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) into prisons. TUMI’s Capstone Curriculum is a 16-module seminary-level course designed to equip men and women for urban ministry and church leadership.
Epiphany Life Change is a Houston, Texas-based nonprofit with a mission to support men and women on their spiritual journeys after a period spent in prison. They offer a holistic approach to prison ministry, including anger management courses and Climbing Up, which teaches how to navigate the world upon reentry, empowering disciples to become the next generation of Christian church leaders.
Serving USA sat with Pastor Charles Anderson, Founder and CEO of Epiphany Life Change, and Felicia Anderson, TUMI Houston Prison Site Coordinator, and Life Coach, to discuss how a leader’s own life experience as a prison inmate adds credibility to their mission and the impact TUMI has on its students.
“God is doing magnificent things with these men,” says Mr. Anderson.
“I had an individual who spent 56 years incarcerated. His driver’s license expired in 1966,” he shares. “He started without hope, and now he is helping transition other men through the process. He's holding down a job. Now he has his own apartment. He has become a productive part of society. There are numerous stories like that.”
Mr. Anderson credits the individual’s experience as an inmate to the success of other students.
“When you have sat where they’re sitting, then your voice resonates more with them,” he shares. “I don't know if I want to deal with a lawyer who has never been in a courtroom. I don’t want to deal with a doctor who has never been in an operating room.”
The skills learned upon their return home are often based on situations others may not be able to understand entirely.
“When you are incarcerated, they limit the number of decisions that you need to make a day. Everything, every decision, is made for you. When you get out in the world, you have to make hundreds of decisions every day, and so, they feel stymied by that,” explains Mr. Anderson.
“What’s building in them is the muscle of problem-solving… by putting them in circumstances where they have to think deeply, they learn how to problem solve instead of reacting at the moment.”
We asked Mr. Anderson what he wished more people knew about TUMI, its students, and Epiphany Life Change's work.
“What we have to understand is that most people who have been incarcerated have paid their dues for the mistakes they made in life, and they truly just want a second chance.”
As a faith-based organization, forgiveness is engrained in the hearts of its employees.
“It’s all our responsibilities as Christians to be our brother’s keepers. It's our responsibility as men and women of God to see how we fit in the process of helping our brothers and sisters back.”
Mr. Anderson refers to the book of Philemon, where Paul writes a letter to Philemon asking him to accept a disciple back into society not as a slave but as a brother in Christ.
“For men and women on the inside, we can be Paul. We could be the ones that say, regardless of what this person's done in the past, they could be of great use to you in society right now.”
While reintegration is often discussed concerning society, we cannot forget the impact the return has on families. As a Life Coach, Felicia Anderson discusses the change in dynamic.
“There’s a need for people to recognize the trauma, and as men and women are being trained up and supported, the whole family is involved. There are ways for us to help the entire family because they are not just reentering back into work…someone’s been waiting on [them] to come home,” she shares.
“I think its vitally important that we recognize the children, the wives, the mothers. It is not just [adjusting to] them being present…it’s actually a way that we all have to learn, to live out what the new normal is going to be.”
As a former student and now teacher at Epiphany Life Change, Mrs. Anderson offers a unique and necessary perspective to students and their families upon homecoming.
“Being able to cohabitate with the individual's family has never been an individual walk, but it is a walk that the community and family have to tread together,” Mrs. Anderson states.
Serving USA is proud to partner with organizations like Epiphany Life Change. To learn more about their programs, please visit www.epiphanylifechange.org.
About Serving USA:
SUSA’s mission is to bring grace and redemption through Christ to incarcerated individuals, women in recovery, and military veterans through a supported network of exceptional partner organizations.
Our support for prisoners and ex-offenders includes restorative and redemptive pre-release programming and discipleship, addressing life skills and physical, spiritual, and vocational needs. We are making a difference to better prepare these men and women for release and walk with them when they get out by providing housing, transportation, job placement, legal aid, and other wrap-around services to reduce recidivism drastically.
Our commitment to women in recovery includes programs that walk alongside women, offering shelter, compassion, counseling, life skills, job training, spiritual development, and encouragement as they recover from various forms of abuse and transition to healthy and productive lifestyles.
We provide an array of services and innovative programming to our wounded warriors, emphasizing PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) and combat trauma issues that lead to a suicide rate of 21 per day and contribute to violent crime and homelessness.
For more information and to learn about all partners, please visit www.servingusa.org. Questions, comments, or concerns can be relayed to firstname.lastname@example.org.