Cascade UMC in Atlanta helps female inmates break the cycle of recidivism. Church members say it doesn't take a lot of time or money to change someone's life for the better.
(Prison door slams)
Voice of Kimery Finger: "God spent a lot of time talking to my heart. And then I learned how to pray. And then I started focusing on what I wanted to do to not come back and be in the same place."
When Kimery Finger was in prison, she found support from the Restoring Hope ministry at Atlanta's Cascade United Methodist Church.
(Locator: Atlanta, Georgia)
Finger served two years for forgery.
Kimery Finger: "The ladies started communicating with me while I was still incarcerated. Wrote me and I wrote back to them. When I had my release date, the ladies were there to pick me up at the bus stop. They helped me get into a halfway house. And that's where everything really started working from there. For me living in the halfway house, I attended church here every Sunday, and Bible study. And the ladies would each week spend time with me on the weekends. And we would do activities together, have dinner together. They were a bunch of sisters holding me up. I thank God that the ladies from Cascade were there for me."
A volunteer for ten years, Levada Spann knows the program works.
Levada Spann, Cascade UMC Restoring Hope Ministry: "For a lot of people this is their last resource. They don't have anywhere else to reach out. They've severed their relationships with their families, with their spouses and with their friends. And we come into the picture to encourage them to keep trying, and that they can turn their life around if they truly desire to make that change."
Cascade United Methodist is a dynamic congregation of 5,000 worshipers on Sunday mornings. But the Reverend Marvin Anthony Moss will tell you this church's lifeblood is its commitment to the community the other six days of the week.
The Rev. Marvin Anthony Moss, Cascade United Methodist Church: "Every day we are inundated with the negative aspects of what's going on in the world. That's when our faith kicks in."
Church members run nearly 50 outreach programs from prison and homeless ministries to job fairs.
Allene McCollum, Cascade United Methodist Church: "We can't save anybody. But at least we can tell them there's a better way of life, and you have the opportunity, through this church, letting us help you to do something with your life."
Cascade serves as a success story for SBC21, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, a United Methodist program designed to revitalize congregations.
Engaging lay people to take on active leadership roles is a key component.
The Rev. Marvin Anthony Moss: "Jesus has empowered us to be the word. And so what we look at are all of the opportunities and not obstacles. We look at ways to help individuals become employed. We have individuals in this congregation who, with a phone call, can make that opportunity available. And so we appeal to them to do that. Basically using the gifts that we have received to re-engage with the community, help people see this is an opportunity for the kingdom of God to show the strength of God, and allow God's people to give God the glory."
Levada Spann: "I started with Restoring Hope and I was blessed by the experience. I didn't realize how easy it was to really help someone in need. And a lot of times we don't understand that it doesn't take a whole lot of money to make a difference. And something as simple as just offering hope and working one-on-one with the women has been a blessing for me."
Kimery Finger: "I just want to say with Cascade and Restoring Hope, you gave me hope and you gave me the courage to walk with my head up. The ladies here built my confidence up to let me not settle for anything less."
For more information on the Restoring Hope prison ministry, contact Cascade United Methodist Church at 404-691-5770.
Posted: February 7, 2013