"Can you give me Jesus? I think he's the only one who can help me survive this."

Sharon stood in the lobby of the community center, relief and trepidation mixed in the lines of her worn face.

I’d had the privilege of working with her during her last few months of incarceration, helping her plan for a life change when she was released. Now that she was on the outside, she had come to me looking for help to maintain her growth. We’d scribbled a 7-day plan where she could meet with someone each day to encourage and teach her how to be a successful member of society. Sharon was thrilled to begin, but voiced her unease about finding a place to live.

Her mother had no place for her to live. Motels turned her away. Homeless shelters and halfway programs wouldn’t allow her to bring along her children and niece. She told me she had a few days left at her mother’s but felt confident she could find a place for her family.

While Sharon focused on the week’s written plan, Andi, her niece, pulled me aside. She revealed to me that during her aunt’s incarceration, she had been forced to live with her father who molested her.

She looked me squarely in the face, desperation spilling from her eyes.
She looked me squarely in the face, desperation spilling from her eyes. “Can you give me Jesus? I think he’s the only one who can help me survive this.” Andi’s words gripped my heart as I promised her I would do all I could to help her.

Within a few days, Sharon had found a home for the family. They would move in with a male friend, and he would provide a roof over their heads. It wasn’t long before Sharon began missing our weekly appointments. Then Andi stopped corresponding with me. I don’t know how Andi and Sharon are today, but I pray they are safe and still reaching out for Jesus.

Every time their faces come to mind, my heart breaks again.
Every time their faces come to mind, my heart breaks again. These women are just two of many with whom I’ve worked. We build a relationship during our in-jail bible studies. They learn about Christ and the hopeful future he provides, but once they leave, they have very few places to turn. It isn’t long before they are traveling the same desperate and hopeless road again.

Recidivism in this East Tennessee County is an alarming 90%.

In reality, this isn’t surprising considering that when women leave incarceration, they have nowhere to turn but back the same negative influences.

This has to stop.

Not long after my encounter with Sharon and Andi, someone asked me what my big dream would be for the hurting and hopeless women and children in this area. The answer came easily. “

I want to build a farm,” I told him. “A safe place for women to come after they are released from jail.
I want to build a farm,” I told him. “A safe place for women to come after they are released from jail. A place where they can work on skills they desperately need, so they can start life over with their families and be contributing citizens to their communities. A place where women wouldn’t have to trade favors to meet their basic needs. A place where children can reunite with their mothers and learn the tools necessary to become healthy families.

This is the Smoky Mountain Dream Center!

As an example to those whom we will minister, we will be modeling debt-free living. Therefore, anything we build or service we provide needs to be paid for before we launch this ministry. Currently, we are preparing a budget with the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions team and are actively raising funds to meet that budget.