Jesse W. grew up in a Christian family and is the second oldest of five children. He lived in parts of Baltimore City and County before he was incarcerated for 6 ½ years. While in prison, he renewed his relationship with God. He credits his grandmother with the renewal and says that she was the spiritual cornerstone of the family. She told him that he needs to go back and trust in God because nothing else will work. He was involved in church and a bible study in prison, and a pastor who regularly ministered to the men told him about the Philemon Ministry. He didn’t have anywhere to go when he was going to be released and at the suggestion of this pastor he contacted the director of the Philemon Ministry and was welcomed at the house.
Jesse said that living in the house with 8 other men was at times a struggle; all of the men were different but the house was for a spiritual purpose. Adjusting to this purpose was difficult for some and they did not last very long; some only lasted a couple of weeks or a month. In order to succeed, Jesse became responsible for his personal development as a man of faith. After living and acting out the principles of the program for about 10 months, Jesse was presented with the opportunity to become the House Manager. At first, he did not want the responsibility but thought it might be a good experience. As House Manager, he became more accountable. He says that he had to lead by example; not just tell the other men in the house what to do.
The rules of the house can be seen as strict; there is an 8pm curfew during the week and a 10 pm curfew on weekends. The men are required to participate in group bible studies, church, and accountability meetings among other activities. They are not required to contribute rent or household expenses when they enter the program, but are given tools to find employment, open a bank account and save money before being asked to pay a contribution.
While living in the house, Jesse gained employment and one of his sisters gave him a car that needed some repairs; when the car was fixed up, he was able to have personal transportation to work. After about 17-18 months, Jesse worked with mentors in the program to transition out of the house and came up with an exit plan. He currently lives in an apartment in East Baltimore and works as a driver for a post-construction cleanup crew. He says that he is not rich but pays his bills on time and receives some support from his family.
Jesse says that the most important thing that the Philemon Ministry gave him was a foundation. He did not have a clue where he was going to stay and had anger issues. He was divorced in 2013 and when he was released from prison, he was very angry with his ex-wife. He wanted to get revenge for something that she did but God put him at peace so he can communicate with her. Through the program, he learned how to let God work out everything and be humble. He had to reconcile back to Christ to get his life back together. He has become grounded in faith and held accountable for his spiritual life through members of his church family and the ministry. Romans 8:28 is a favorite bible verse: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (ESV). This renewed faith completely turned his life around and he has a close relationship with his children. Jesse says that it is better to get a spiritual foundation because a spiritual man is an accountable man. After incarceration, Jess says it was difficult to try to get back into the rapid pace of the world but, with a spiritual foundation, God will give you what you need in time and be given a better chance at life without prison.