By putting their faith into action, Senior Pastor Michael Turner and the congregation of Advent United Methodist Church have shown their dedication to making an impact in the community. Through two transformational donations to JUMPSTART, Advent has built a six-bedroom home at Restoration Village and purchased a skid steer for JUMPSTART Landscaping, a social enterprise that creates living wage opportunities for those who are unemployed or underemployed due to a criminal record.
In response to Advent's 2020 Christmas Eve offering challenge, wherein the congregation was asked to cut their Christmas spending in half and donate the same amount, the revenue fully funded the production of a home at JUMPSTART’s recent housing initiative, Restoration Village. Advent wanted their donation to address one of the most critical needs in the community: affordable housing. While Advent had already provided five homes for homeless families through an offering in 2014, they decided to focus on two other avenues—providing homes for victims of human trafficking and providing affordable housing for those released from incarceration. After researching organizations related to these two avenues, and learning more about the organization from Deb. Richardson Moore, Advent contacted JUMPSTART.
Pastor Turner reached out to Tommy Moore and Cary Sanders and asked them to provide their most persuasive "sales pitch" as to why Advent should consider JUMPSTART for their offering. Though the two provided impressive data regarding the national recidivism rate and the success of JUMPSTART, what truly resonated with Pastor Turner was the similarity between the missions of JUMPSTART and Advent UMC. Moore and Sanders described to Turner how the mission of JUMPSTART is to make disciples of Jesus Christ within prisons and continue that disciple-making process outside once people are released. They explained how JUMPSTART’s success is largely due to this mission focus. Advent’s mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Recognizing how the mission of JUMPSTART complemented Advent's, it made the decision to donate to JUMPSTART an easy one.
In 2022, Advent began planning their next Christmas Eve offering challenge and decided to once again support JUMPSTART. This time, the offering purchased a skid steer, an equipment trailer, and attachments, so that JUMPSTART Landscaping can create more jobs and better equip the enterprise. “I'm excited that the equipment will provide job training and help get people back on their feet,” Pastor Turner said. This is a full-circle moment as Advent UMC was one of the first organizations to utilize the landscaping program on their campus.
Without hesitation, Pastor Turner vouched for JUMPSTART as an ideal nonprofit partnership for pastors. He explained, “It is not a matter of if people get out of prison but a matter of when people get out of prison. With JUMPSTART, inmates are introduced to the grace and love of Jesus Christ and are helped along a path of discipleship. By leading them to a life of faith, there is now a better option to be chosen instead of turning back to whatever it was that landed them in prison in the first place.”
Jesus calls us to compassionate action, and that’s exactly what JUMPSTART is doing.
For Pastor Turner, Matthew 25, Matthew 28, and Acts 1:8 are examples of scripture that speak directly to the mission of JUMPSTART. In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about Judgment Day and explicitly describes the people who were forgotten and of the marginalized. Jesus went to those in prison, the last and the lost. In Matthew 28, just before Jesus ascends to Heaven, He says it is His disciples’ job to make disciples of all nations. “His final words are the church's first priority, and I believe JUMPSTART is an extension of the church universal and is doing the mission of Jesus Christ,” Turner says. Finally, in Acts 1:8, Jesus says to be His witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Samaria was a place no one at the time wanted to go. Observant Jews in Jesus’ day added days to their journeys to walk around Samaria to avoid the Samaritan people. But, Jesus explicitly demanded that his disciples go there to be witnesses. “Likewise, going to a prison to visit could be uncomfortable or intimidating to individuals new to the setting. However, Jesus calls us to go out of our comfort zones and be a witness to His people, equipping us to do the work He has called us to do.”
Pastor Turner described his pride in his congregation and their generosity: “The congregation lives out our mission. They are so generous and engaged in making their faith palpable by giving courageously. We are getting to be a part of the transformation of the world.”