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  • Writer's pictureAlong Side Ministries

Behind Bars, Earl Had No Future Then Your Love Set Him FREE

April 2020

Look at Earl Carter today, and you’ll smile.

He’s just that kind of guy. Bright, cheerful ... a “good soul.”

You’d never know he did four years in prison. And he was “lucky” to get that deal. By the time the police caught up with him, he had 19 felonies on his record.

Earl grew up in a dysfunctional home. His parents divorced when he was only 10. He watched his dad struggle with drugs. He was 14 years old when he fathered his first child. His girlfriend already had an 18-month-old.

He tried to live right. For the next 14 years, he worked hard to provide for his family. But then their mother

suddenly died of a blood clot. “I was devastated and I had two teenage daughters to take care of on my own,” Earl says. He looked for comfort through companionship and fell in with the wrong crowd. Soon he was partying, partying

led to drugs and drugs cost him his job. To keep the lights on, Earl started selling heroin.

His daughters, horrified, left to live with their grandmother. Before long, Earl was in prison, at the age of 29. “My oldest daughter pretty much hated me,” Earl recalls. “My youngest didn’t want anything to do with me. I was so blinded. I didn’t see what really mattered.”

In prison, by God’s grace, Earl came to faith in Christ. He read the Bible. The Word got hold of him. When a couple fellow inmates told him about something called Along Side, Earl was interested.

It wasn’t easy. We conduct a rigorous entrance interview, and require a number of assignments to be completed, to make sure an inmate is serious about growing spiritually. “That was pretty rough!” Earl recalls. “But the Lord kept telling me to trust Him.”

Earl was ready. He was eager. We accepted him into our ministry program — Earl began attending our services three nights a week — and wow!

“I grew the most I’ve ever grown during those services!” he says. “I can’t express how much their words, the wisdom they brought, did for me.... It rooted in me so deep, that there’s no way I could ever go back.”

Earl was becoming a new creature in Christ. “My thinking was different, my speech was different, everything I experienced was filtered through the Word of God.”

Our volunteers came into the prison and prayed with Earl and other Along Side participants. A volunteer named Mike scrupulously recorded each prayer request. When Mike was eventually released from prison, he found that God was answering each and every one of his

prayers. “They were all coming to pass!” he says today.

Our journey with Earl was just beginning. When an inmate moves back into community, we’re committed to making that transition successful. The day he was released, we had a gift ready for him: brand-new bedding, hygiene supplies, and more.

We also provided a place where Danny could live, for a while ... not a “shelter,” not a “halfway house,” but a true discipleship training center. Here, we provide Danny and others with the leadership they need to succeed in life. It’s an environment of correction, and mercy. It’s an experience of grace.

We encouraged Earl in his search for work, helped him develop his résumé. We mentored him consistently. We helped him with meals and clothing, and helped him make his rent, while he was nailing down a job. Before very long, Earl had a full-time job, with healthcare and full benefits. “I couldn’t believe what God did for me.”

Earl has thrived in that job now for more than two years. “It’s a very challenging job, it’s problem-solving all day. But every day, I rely on the Lord.”

Meanwhile, his relationships with his daughters have been beautifully restored!

Earl also serves now as house manager for our Discipleship Training Center. He makes sure participants get to where they need to be, he promotes community, he encourages the guys, he leads Bible studies, he oversees house chores, and responds to questions or concerns.

“It’s been a really great way to give back to Along Side,” Earl says, “because they’ve done so much for me.”

This is the amazing life-transformation that happens, by the grace and power of God, when you give to Along Side Ministries. And this is why I ask for your support today.

I know that times have been tough. Many folks can’t give these days. But if you can, I hope and pray that you will ... because this work is proven ... it’s important ... and there are so many inmates and ex-offenders who urgently need to grow strong in the Lord. You’ll help it happen, through your gift of compassion.

With your support, we’ll partner with local churches to provide spiritual and practical guidance and support to incarcerated men and women as they transition from prison back to the community and the church. You’ll be helping to train and equip volunteers from local churches to mentor ex-offenders in finding employment and housing, and maintaining accountability.

As you read these words, we’re expanding our efforts. God has opened the door for us to purchase a threebedroom house — and if we can remodel it, we can offer three more beds. Three beds, plus the average time in recovery, means that’s eight more people we can help each year ... people like Earl Carter. Their lives will never be the same! But remodeling will take $10,000. Your gift today will help make it possible.

Please let me hear from you. In spite of the coronavirus, we cannot turn our backs on the men and women we serve. But we need you to stand with us. I warmly invite you to give what you can. I know God will bless you for your sacrifice of compassion.

Thank you in advance!

Yours in Christ,

Ken Sheets

Executive Director

P.S. I appreciate you. I thank God for you. Your response today will touch lives!

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