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  • Putting Faith into Action

    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.”

  • An Expert Witness- Retired SC Supreme Court Justice E.C. Burnett III

    E.C. Burnett III has lived in Spartanburg most of his life. For 59 years, he has been married to his college sweetheart, Jami. They have three children and three grandchildren and are praying for great-grandchildren to come along soon. He served as a soldier in Vietnam, in the South Carolina State House, and as a probate, family, circuit, and SC supreme court judge. His faithfulness to his family, the community, and Christ is well-known and admired. During his 30-plus years of public service as a judge, he made judgments in all kinds of cases, from divorce court to death row appeals. With the last 12 years of his career spent as an SC supreme court judge, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who could examine the evidence as logically and thoroughly as E.C. Burnett. After he retired from the bench in 2007, he began considering where he could make a difference in the community. Most would consider it unlikely that a retired SC supreme court judge would decide to volunteer in prison ministry. Not only did he begin serving prisoners, but for the past 15 years, he has generously given time, energy, and money into providing transformational opportunities for men and women served by JUMPSTART. He has led small group bible studies, shared with JUMPSTART classes, and recently spearheaded efforts to build a chapel at Tyger River Correctional. Why would a retired SC supreme court judge serve prisoners? In his words, “During my time as a judge, I encountered many men and women who did not understand that there was a purpose for their life. That God had given them life for a reason. Many ended up in prison because they committed crimes trying to fill a void only Christ can fill.” He went on to say, “I also saw many of the same women and men over and over during my time as a circuit court judge.” When he asked them why they had committed a crime again or violated parole many shared similar struggles. He shared, “It became clear to me that they must have a heart change while incarcerated, and then they must have real help upon their release.” When asked to elaborate, he shared, “An individual may come to know Christ while incarcerated and be very serious in their commitment to follow Him, but if they get out and go back to an unhealthy home environment or if they cannot get a job, or do not have transportation, it is almost impossible for them to reacclimate into society in a way that allows them to make it. So, they return to how they lived before incarceration. They had to learn to follow Christ while incarcerated, and they have to be helped to learn to follow Christ in the face of all the challenges life throws at them after incarceration.” He shared, “the church where I worship, Mt. Calvary Presbyterian Church, has been involved with JUMPSTART since it began. One of our members, Mark, who also volunteers regularly on our media and technology team, has been a member for over a dozen years. He is just one of over 3,500 men and women who’ve completed JUMPSTART and haven’t returned to prison.” JUMPSTART helps men and women not only not go back to prison, they also help them get employed, reunite with their families, and integrate back into the community as productive citizens. When asked if he had any final thoughts he wanted to share with the community, he said, “In my eighty years on this earth, I have had the opportunity to experience many things. I’ve witnessed society try many things to reduce crime and recidivism, and not much that excludes Christ in proposed solutions has worked. However, all of the undeniable and verifiable evidence points to the fact that God is using JUMPSTART to change lives, and I hope our community will step up to help JUMPSTART serve more people.”

  • With Christ, We Can Overcome- Kaitlin’s Story

    Some would say I was raised under the perfect conditions for success. Both of my parents were in the Air Force, I attended church regularly, I had an awesome relationship with my twin sister, and I was a grade A student with AP and Honors credits. I graduated in the top ten percent of my class and was accepted to go to college at the University of South Carolina. Everything was perfect and I was well on course to the ‘American Dream.’ Shortly before the start of the fall semester, I got involved with the wrong people and began experimenting with drugs. To be expected, my parents disapproved of my behavior, and I moved out to maintain the life that I wanted. Little did I know, the following year, an introduction to methamphetamine would change my life forever. Meth turned into heroine, and heroine turned into anything that I could get my hands on. As I started to rely more and more on drugs, I slowly watched my life slip from my grasp. It wasn’t long before I had lost my job and my home. Only a year ago, I was an honors student excited to go to college and experience dorm-life. Now, I would do anything for a place to stay that wasn’t a hotel or with people I barely knew. Right after I turned twenty, I met the father of my child. I moved in with him and was physically and emotionally abused. He constantly questioned me and attempted to control every aspect of my life. I became pregnant and could only stay away from drugs for the safety of my daughter. Shortly after she was born, I started using meth again and the cycle reset. One night, my boyfriend and I got into a big fight. He was coming down off his high and couldn’t find any drugs, so I was his outlet. He beat me so badly that I had to be hospitalized. He was charged and arrested, and my daughter was sent to live with my parents. I not only lost my relationship, but I lost my little girl. I went back to the streets and spiraled out of control. I could have gotten help, but instead I chose to use the drugs because it was easier, and it was the only way I knew how to cope. My life took a major turn when a high-speed police chase landed my car in a patch of trees. Of all the ways I could have run into the woods, I ran into the thorn bushes. I believe this was God telling me it was time to face my consequences. I was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. While in prison, it finally occurred to me that on my own, I was getting nowhere. The only way I could see a future for myself, was if I gave God control of my life. I surrendered everything to Him. I knew only He could do for me what I could not do for myself. Before my release, I was not naïve enough to think that I could go back to the environment I had lived in before I was incarcerated. If I was going to be successful, I needed a change. When I heard about JUMPSTART, I jumped at the opportunity for a new beginning and joined the transitional program for re-entry. Before I went to prison, I had overdosed and was resuscitated five times. Now, I am no longer in bondage to substance, I have a full-time job, and I’m working towards a college degree, all while mending the relationship with my parents and preparing to be the mother my daughter needs. God’s plan for my life is far better than any ‘American Dream’ I could have forged for myself. JUMPSTART and daily surrender to Him are helping me work towards a future that is greater than my past.

  • Life-Changing Generosity: Mary-Hannah Smith

    Mary Hannah Smith, a 25-year-old living in Pennsylvania, understands the significance of life-changing generosity. She is JUMPSTART’s youngest donor to give a five-figure gift. Mary-Hannah was born in Alabama and moved north to Pennsylvania to play softball on scholarship at Lehigh University. After graduating in 2020 with a degree in supply chain management, she has recently shifted into an account manager position following the sales influence of her mother and stepfather. Her employer, Millipore Sigma, supplies research labs with the tools, services, and expertise to reimagine innovation for life science and cancer research. Growing up, giving 10% of one’s savings had always been instilled in Mary-Hannah’s financial understanding. Her parents enrolled her in Dave Ramsey’s financial education for adolescents, where she implemented this giving with her allowances and lemonade-stand profits. Later, as an adult with a regular income, for every paycheck Mary-Hannah received, she put 10% into a separate account for giving. Once that 10% was in her giving account, Mary-Hannah no longer viewed it as hers. She continued this for two years as she looked for the right place to give the money where she felt she could visibly see that her donation would be used to impact others in a life-changing way. With careful research, Mary-Hannah wanted to be sure her donation went somewhere that it would make a difference. She found peace knowing God would lead her to the right place to give. Towards the end of last year, Mary-Hannah attended a JUMPSTART Luncheon with her mother. As she listened and learned more about JUMPSTART’s work, she was impressed with the ministry and felt it was the perfect place for her donation to be used in the transformational way she was hoping it would be. Visiting JUMPSTART’s Restoration Village confirmed for Mary-Hannah that she had made a good choice in her investment. She believed that the counter-cultural change at JUMPSTART was precisely the mission God intended her money to support. She found joy in giving and was grateful to have found the right place to share. Her advice to her peers is that as you feel called to give, she recommends putting 10% into a different account and no longer viewing that money as yours. Budget well with the remainder of your income and believe that God will continue to provide as you continue to give. We all make mistakes and extending a second opportunity to others is a win for us all when men and women have the opportunity to get their life back on track. Mary-Hannah hopes others, too, would find joy in giving and recognize the importance of second chances. She believes in the power of giving to break the cycle of recidivism and offer transformational opportunities to men and women hoping to change the trajectory of their lives.

  • The Value of Community- Daniel Gross

    Daniel Gross’ background in journalism has exposed him to an abundance of unique stories and situations. But not until he interacted with JUMPSTART for a story would he realize his heart for the formerly incarcerated. Daniel attends Grace Church Greenville, SC, one of JUMPSTART’s active ministry partners. After interviewing the nonprofit’s leadership for a story in the newspaper, Daniel saw JUMPSTART as a natural fit for him to get involved. As a volunteer, he was immersed in the Outside Program’s 33 Series. 33 The Series helps the men gain a Biblical perspective of manhood and discuss how their pasts have shaped them and helped them grow. Daniel notes the importance of learning from our past to influence how we live for Christ today. He distinctly remembers a morning when the men in the “Big House” made some volunteers a delicious breakfast. The gesture was completely thought up and executed by those in the transitional program. They wanted to say thank you to the volunteers who were investing their time and love into them. This is one of his favorite memories, as he said: “There was no divide or division; we were all just there together, connecting as one. We were grateful to be enjoying one another’s company.” He notices the barrier that stigmas have created between the incarcerated and our communities. He advocates that we must flip the script of stereotypes and believes that through God, this is possible. It is unwise to neglect a population of people based on stigmas created by society when every single individual can be redeemed when given a second chance. While Daniel has poured into the men at JUMPSTART, he has been inspired by the passion and zeal for the Lord and God’s word that he sees in the participants. He is reminded that he, too, should have those same desires. His volunteering has led him to experience why JUMPSTART and its participants are so successful. He acknowledges the structure of the program in allowing men and women to heal from their past, setting them up for a future of flourishing, one step at a time. In his words, “JUMPSTART reminds us that it will only happen in God’s timing. We can take joy and rest in His good will for us and that He will work it all out for us in the end, even if it is not what we initially thought it would look like.”

  • Breaking the Cycle of Violence - Tiffany’s Story

    I understand how a family unit can crumble under the destructive force of abuse, threats, and crime. My father possessed just about every negative trait you could think of: manipulation, lack of sympathy, and aggression. Violence became his main outlet after witnessing his mother’s death at his father’s hand. Unaddressed emotions from this tragedy morphed into a need for control and led to heavily relying on aggression to maintain power. When my mother and father were married, these feelings were given a breeding ground and the cycle of violence that had begun years earlier continued. When I was six years old, I sensed something was off. I went outside to join my siblings and embraced my fourteen-year-old sister. When she pulled away, my sister’s blood covered my hands. While attempting to stop my father from stabbing their mother, my sister was caught amid the assault. Both my mom and sister suffered critical injuries. My father was sentenced to twelve years in prison. He wrote me and my younger brother letters while incarcerated, but the stereotypical “I miss you’s” and “I’ll do better’s” were always laced with underlying threats and false promises. After his release, he went on to earn two life sentences for the double homicide of his new wife’s parents. My experience alone was enough to fuel a cycle of violence for generations to come. I could have harnessed the same hate and destructive tendencies that I had witnessed when I was a child. Instead, by God's grace I forged a different path marked with forgiveness, understanding, and love. My testimony gives me the daily motivation necessary to actively pursue a positive change that disrupts the continuance of abuse and crime. This true, life-changing transformation is only possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Complete surrender, accompanied by a robust support system, essential resources, and a change in mindset, is allowing individuals who were once like my grandfather and father to redefine their future and break the chains that hold them back from reaching their full potential. JUMPSTART provides all three with a holistic approach that meets a need and solves a problem. With Christ as the foundation for JUMPSTART’s programming, rehabilitation begins with a change of heart and grows outward as individuals restore broken relationships and become active in their families once again. To learn more about Tiffany and why she believes in JUMPSTART's mission watch her Stand (a TED style talk) below:

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