Blocks away from our Golden Valley halfway house for men with criminal histories, Oak Grove Church opens its doors to its neighbors, including convicted felons. [pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]…we have a heart for the community and Damascus Way is part of that community.[/pullquote] A sign hanging up in our Damascus Way Re-entry Center transitional house invites the men who are out of prison, but are on Supervised Release or Work Release, to join its Golden Valley members for prayer and worship on Sunday mornings.
“We have a heart for the community and Damascus Way is part of that community,” said Brad Little, Pastor of Oak Grove Church.
The criminal history for some of these men may be tough to swallow for the average church-goer, but Little says some members of his church have a heart for prison ministry.[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]I enjoy church, I enjoy the community.[/pullquote]
“Our people are non-discriminating; they don’t pick and choose who they will be friends with. They have a heart to really extend themselves to whoever walks through the door, regardless of their history,” said Little.
“I enjoy church, I enjoy the community. The people are so nice, they act like they’ve know me for years. ‘We miss ya,’ they tell me. It’s great. It’s not like the church Sunday schools on the military bases that I remember growing up,” said Todd, a Damascus Way resident.
Another Damascus Way resident, Steve has been attending church at Oak Grove and recently shared his testimony with the congregation, including the story of his murder conviction.
“Being right down the road, I started attending Oak Grove Church, everybody is so personable and friendly. It’s just awesome, and it’s a good message with a meaningful sermon,” said Steve.
Pastor Little understands the transition for these men from spending years or decades in prison, to a new life in the free world, is challenging.
“They are in a tough spot in making transitions, if we can encourage them, we’re glad to do it,” said Pastor Little.
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]Everybody needs the gospel and reconciliation with God.[/pullquote] Some churches shy away from welcoming a population with a criminal background; but Oak Grove welcomes the former bank robbers, drug dealers, and murderers into their house of worship.
“We want to connect with the community, make Christ known, everybody is messed up, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re at Damascus Way or not. Everybody needs the gospel and reconciliation with God,” said Pastor Little. “A lot of these guys have been seeking and have become Christians.”
In order to keep everyone safe and comfortable, Oak Grove sets up boundaries as to where the Damascus Way residents can go in the building, and they’ve established a check-in system with staff. [pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]A lot of these guys have been seeking and have become Christians.[/pullquote] And those provisions aren’t hindering the men of Damascus Way from experiencing God in new ways.
“I’m going to turn my life over to God. I’m struggling a little bit with some of my faith, but I’m early in the Christian days, not years. I really like the church,” said Todd.
Oak Grove also opens up the doors on weekday nights, so the men at Damascus Way can come and play basketball, and have a place to gather for small group counseling sessions.
“We’ve enjoyed our relationship with Damascus Way, and look forward to it continuing. We’re glad to support them,” said Pastor Little.
If you or your church would like to get involved with Damascus Way, email Craig to learn more. Damascus Way Re-entry Center has transitional housing in Golden Valley and Rochester.