The problems started with drugs and alcohol. Then came the DUI and a high-speed pursuit, the loss of a job in the medical profession, an angry wife and six hungry kidsone with mental and physical disabilities.
Accepting Jesus Christ and attending church was a step toward hope, but the ex-con needed so much more. A woman attending a local church knew just who to callTim White, founder and president of X-Cons 4 Christ, and his wife Kelli, the nonprofit's CEO.
White is no stranger to the problems of an ex-con. From age 17 until one month and eight days before his 40th birthday, he'd been in and out of prison. And, he said, only God kept him from being locked up for life.
In his youth, White said, he struggled with violence, but eventually his incarcerations became more drug-relatedat least until 90 days before his final release. Then he got placed in "Administrative Segregation."
White said he was put in the "Hole" due to four charges stemming from an incident in the prison yard.
"Attempt to murder an inmate, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to introduce drugs into the prison."
If convicted he faced life without any of its simple pleasures, like stopping for a fast-food hamburger, being able to come and go as he pleased or driving a car.
He was terrified.
According to White, a Christian friend had once asked if he'd ever thought about giving his life to the Lord.
"Why would I?" White asked.
While in the "Hole," however, that question burned in his mind. So the inmate bargained with God.
"I told Him, 'Get me out of this, and I'll change my life.'"
White didn't think about becoming a Christianhe just made a deal with God. Then over the months ahead, he watched the Lord keep both sides of the bargain.
Though cameras constantly recorded activity throughout the entire prison grounds, White said the District Attorney refused to pick up the charges due to a lack of evidence. White was released from prison right on schedule.
"I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, God is real and was ready to work in my life," he said.
Set free to learn
Sponsored for six months by a secular anti-drug program in Los Angeles meant White didn't have to pay for food or rent during his transition. While there, he said, God started putting people in his life. A former ex-con, who'd become a pastor, started mentoring White. Then he befriended Kelli, who, upon her own release from incarceration, enrolled in the women's program. She invited White to church.
White said he started helping out, ushering and greeting.
"God started pouring into me, making me hungry for the Word," he said.
The Holy Spirit spoke to his heart when a friend said, "God didn't pull you out of this for just you. He doesn't just see you. God sees all the people he can touch through you."
White said he realized he had to help others with the lessons he learned.
In 2010, a few years after White and Kelli married, they started X-Cons 4 Christ. They've both become certified drug and alcohol counselors and remain alert for opportunities to use their experiences to help others.
Set free to serve
White said they want those who are struggling to know that Jesus loves them so much that He wants a better life for them. X-Cons for Christ tries to show Jesus to others in a multitude of ways. For the man with six children, they started by giving him food. They also hooked him up with a church in his area because "x-cons need a support system and people to love on them."
An intake assessment determined the gentleman's needs. Then the Whites offered him a plan of what might be beneficial for him.
"This man ended up going to a school we partnered with to become a certified welder," White said.
Originally he was turned down for a school loan, but the school went to work helping him to find a new funding source. White helped to show the man that God had answered his prayers.
"It's not us," While told him. "We are incapable of doing anything outside of God. Give the glory where the glory is due. It's not anything you see in the physical, it's things in the spiritual realm moving in your favor to cause things to go your way."
Since its inception, X-Cons has sent four people to this particular school; another individual became an air conditioning technician. White said one instructor gives personal referrals to his contacts at big companies.
That makes a huge difference, said White, who became a heavy equipment operator soon after being released from prison and has been with the same employer for the past eight years. Not having anyone help him get into the union was tough, and White's eager to assist others in whatever ways he can.
X-Cons 4 Christ brings hope to young adults, adults and families affected by substance abuse, destructive lifestyles and incarceration through services such as emergency housing, shelter and transitional living, GED completion and trade schools, employment opportunities, specialized Christ-centered classes for individuals recently released from incarceration and their families, separate support groups for men and women with incarcerated husbands and Bible studies.
"These services aim to relieve the burden of societal problems by promoting wellness, healthy relationships, productive living and community involvement in a Christ-centered environment," Kelli said.
For more information, see www.xcons4christ.org.