In coming to the commencement of their Christian Life Program (CLP) experience, staff seeks input from graduates to help us assess the program. The following are some of the answers from Johnny, at his CLP Commencement Interview.
1. What brought you to City Union Mission? Why or how is it you came to be at the Farm instead of in the city?
What brought me here was a desire to completely change the way I used to live prior to my incarceration. Not wanting to be part of my old hometown (to change playmates, play things, and play grounds.) I came to the Farm through people I met while incarcerated. People who knew people who knew people.
2. What would your life be like without City Union Mission?
I don’t believe I would be the person I am today. I began a relationship with Jesus Christ 4 years prior to coming here and my trust in God assures me that I would have been OK somewhere else- OK would have been the best. Being here has allowed me to grow a lot more spiritually, has given me Godly people to watch & learn from. I have in a positive way experienced new skills to living a productive life, from communicating to be a good steward, finding the right church-just how to represent myself as a Godly man. I believe my life in Christ has been dramatically affected by all the positive teaching and influence of staff here.
3. What do you like best about City Union Mission and the program(s) you’ve participated in?
That the staff is easily accessable. I honestly believe I could walk up to any staff member at any time and discuss any issue I needed to discuss and I also know I would get good, godly counsel in return, and brutal honestly if needed. I enjoy the small groups (Mountain Movers) and on-on-one counseling/case management where I can express my concerns and know I am being heard and concerns addressed.
4. Do you have a family? Tell a bit about your background, where you grew up. Were you raised in a Christian home? Basic life info…
I grew up in Sedalia, Mo. I was the middle child of 5. I was raised with a God-loving Mother and Grandmother and alcoholic Dad. I got married at an early age and have 3 kids and 8 grandkids. My marriage lasted over 20 years and I had the same job over 20 years. After my divorce in 1998, I started making some very bad choices and ended up in and out of prisons and jails. I gave my life to Christ on February 24, 2007. Life is now worth living again!
5. What does City Union Mission do that no other organization was able to for you?
The Mission has helped me to see my failures as learning experiences and not disasters. They show mercy, grace, forgiveness and love, something I have never found elsewhere before. They have genuine concern for my success!
6. What would not be accomplished or possible in your own life if City Union Mission did not exist?
I have had so many faith building experiences in my personal life, my personal relationships, family restoration etc. since coming to the Mission. I believe that God blesses this place and those involved with it and those who participate in Mission programs. If City Union Mission did not exist I don’t know where I would be today. Through the teaching of God’s word here and the examples of the way staff live their lives, I have found hope that I don’t think I would have found elsewhere. Maybe I would have, I just don’t know. But I do know I found that hope here.
7. What are your future goals? What does life look like for you now?
My goals are very simple - To live a Godly life, to serve others, to be part of the solution and not the problem. To give back what was given me (hope) through service, prison ministry, church outreach programs and volunteer work for City Union Mission and other rescue mission type work. To maintain a life that God approves of.
8. What has been the biggest change you've had to make?
My biggest change I had to make was depending on someone else to provide for my needs. I have always been a survivor. I could take care of myself under any condition whether I did it legally or illegally. Today, I trust God to provide what I need and I trust the staff to guide me to a point where once again I can care for myself legally and in a Godly manner. Pride, self-centeredness and judging others are areas I have struggled to change, but I still must work on each one.
9. Did you gain from the program what you had hoped for? Please give examples if you can.
I've gained a whole lot more from this program than what I hoped for only because I put a very limited expectation on the program to begin with. I came here expecting only a transition back to society and what I have received is a complete, new exciting way to live a Christ-centered life. I have formed life long friendships, gained two new church families - River Church and Abundant Life, been a part of a great ministry - Camp CUMCITO and City Union Mission as a whole; and have established partial ties to this community of Warsaw. I have been educated Biblically and socially. I’ve learned new, very important life skills and I have gained a greater understanding of what Jesus Christ has done for me. The ideas I arrived with have now been turned into concrete plans.
10. In your opinion what do we do that is good and should be continued?
There is not one single thing that I have experienced here at the farm that has not led to some kind of growth as a man. I would continue every single thing that is being done now. This program changes lives and will change the life of any person willing to put forth the effort to participate and the willingness to allow God total access to his life. I feel confident of who I am in Christ Jesus today and the Opportunity Farm, Christian Life Program has guided me to regain that confidence in Christ, as well as a new confidence in myself.
Thank you so very much and God bless this place, the staff here and City Union Mission as a whole.