She can make more money in five minutes lying in bed than I can make in 8 hours standing on my feet. She is the real breadwinner. For the sake of this essay, let’s call him MJ (because it just as well could be me).
MJ looked desperately sad, sitting and waiting for an immediate verdict from the parole board in a few minutes that he knew would take a few weeks. I left the hearing room just as I had entered, not at all hopeful.
The court appointed attorney had tried to make the best case for MJs release. To her credit, it was a straightforward case. He was in the company of known felons who were committing felonious acts. This was not easy for her defend.
One would think that after 35 years behind bars he would know better. His girlfriend accepted but did not welcome him home upon his release from prison. She wanted more than he could give, some bigger place and better clothes. He just wanted someone to hold and hug.
MJ knew that she still worked as a prostitute and was selling drugs from their apartment. He shared his dilemma with our men’s prayer group.
‘I am trying’ he said. ‘I have been out for one year. I want her to respect the fact that I am looking for better paying work. I want her to leave this lifestyle because it is dangerous and it can get me in trouble. I want to protect and provide for her. But the money I earn isn’t enough or coming fast enough and the company she keeps are dangerous ‘clients and customers.’
And as I said she can earn more in bed than I can on my feet. So we argue and fight and I go back to jail.’ The worst part of the whole thing is that I love her and want to help her. Then MJ cried. Who needs a man like me?’
So here he is. One year after his release MJ was locked up again in the same prison for parole violation. Yes, the state was willing to welcome him even if his girlfriend wasn’t.
Now I find myself a witness to testify on his behalf and attest to the community’s willingness to hold him accountable.
‘My testimony: MJ is a consistent member of our men’s prayer group. We were in the process of getting him a better paying job and safer housing. We are in contact with his mother and sister both of whom are willing to send money from their home in Alabama to support him until he is allowed to leave the state. Please give MJ another chance, I plead.’
I guess the parole board members are not allowed to smile. No one says a word and MJ just sits a few feet away, looking at his shoes. I leave the room with no answers.
As I leave I reflect on all of the men and women we serve in the Out Of Nazareth ministries. We have helped some with jobs, driver’s license, resumes, medication, physical exams, criminal records expungement even short-term housing. These come by networking with Christian and non-Christian organizations. Our network is confident that the people we send are genuine.
We have helped men and women find peace in reconnecting with families, get married and even intervened on an attempted suicide.
MJ is not without hope. One day, and I pray very soon, MJ can get the welcome he needs from people who care and become a real breadwinner.
He will do best when he meets Christ as provider and protector.