Praise God for 30 years of Hope Church and leading Craig Strickland and a courageous band of our Lord’s followers who accepted the call to plant a church for the “unchurched/de-churched” in Cordova. My truly unimaginable journey with Hope Church began in 1975 when God orchestrated my career move from Los Angeles to Memphis. This was a time of disruption and disillusionment about my church experience and my spiritual journey. At the time, I could not fully appreciate and understand that the career move was really about how God was directing my life to carry out his purpose—which some two decades later brought me to Hope. I am eternally grateful for the dear friends who attended Hope at the time and had been talking to us about it for some time.
The monumental turning point in my spiritual journey came on Easter Sunday, April 2000, when my wife Éthele and I attended Hope for the very first time. It was indescribably amazing and connected with me like nothing I had experienced in a long time. Although there were few people who looked like us, I was overwhelmed with an inexpressible feeling of inner peace and a compelling sense that I was where God wanted me—and my decades-long search for the God-led church connection I yearned for had ended. We attended the very next Introducing Hope class, joined the church that June, and the rest is an amazing history and journey.
At Hope, guided by the teaching of godly leaders and pastors, I have grown immensely in spiritual maturity, wisdom, service, and ministry. I have come to understand my relationship with the Lord in wonderful new ways. God has been gradually preparing me for ministry and service in ways I could not have foreseen, including roles of leadership as an elder and in multiple areas of service. Topping it all, I now see God has been preparing me for a very special ministry outreach to help men and women who have made mistakes and been incarcerated in prison. God has given me a vision for a different paradigm and approach to church prison ministry—with a focus on helping incarcerated men and women successfully reenter society. We do this by demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ through mentoring incarcerated men and women to help them return to society and build positive, faith-centric lives, and close the revolving of returning to prison for so many. Since its launch last fall, God has wonderfully blessed Hope’s Prison & Justice Ministry to grow to 30 volunteer mentors working with 45 mentees, both in prison and back in the community.
I am eternally grateful for Hope and the heart and passion for the service of our mentors. I am excited about what God is doing through Hope and feel so blessed by His grace to be used in ministry to our community.