Billy had been on 4 S, the Youth Tier, for 23 months awaiting his trial and sentencing. During his exit interview, I asked him if there was anything else unCUFFED could do to for young men in the system. He said nothing, paused, and then said it would be helpful if the guys could hear from men who had been in the Department of Corrections, returned home, and were now successful. On the eve of Billy’s departure from the familiarity of 4S he was looking for hope that a successful future was still possible for this parochial schooled young man.
After hearing his request, I reached out to James McCray of the Anointed Ex-Offenders and a Saturday afternoon concert was scheduled. Ronnie, Tom and James connected to the 18 guys on the tier with their singing, dancing, and personal stories of hard core street lives that were interrupted by years of incarceration and an unexpected heart change because of an encounter with Jesus. Now home, they could testify of how they had truly left the streets and were used by God in crazy ways. James was recruited to be a Chaplain for the Baltimore city police department. In a youth culture where the police are rarely trusted this picture had no room in their ‘us against them’ mindset. After the concert was over, the teens were encouraged to ask questions. Some of the youth who are facing long sentences wanted to hear about how to keep safe. Others wanted to know what side of town the group members were from. The most common question to James was how could he possibly work with the police after being on the other side of the law.
Here is what James shared: “My response was how God has allowed the Holy Spirit to direct me in the right path. I am not perfect, but do understand that I have a Perfect Spirit living inside of me. This allows me to respect anyone I meet, including the police, and the laws they are called to enforce. I told them I don’t believe what I see anymore, I see what I believe. When they see an officer, I see a family man. When they see an inmate, I see a strong soldier for Christ. Told them that with God, more has been done for the good in my life in 10 years, than the 50 years before! “
We are so thankful for Billy’s suggestion that brought the Anointed Ex-offenders to 4S. We are elated to see the testimonies of changed men impact youth who have lost their way.