Prisoners to Pastors

James stands on the street corner where both his training home and partnering church are located. Richmond, CA.

James stands on the street corner where both his training home and partnering church are located. Richmond, CA.

Back in 2006, James was detained in a jail cell. He knew he would be going to prison, but he didn’t know for how long. In that moment of fear and loneliness, James made the decision to follow Christ. Later that week he was sentenced to 8 yrs. When James arrived at prison, he was immediately confronted by inmate politics. Prisoners are expected to choose their affiliation; which is generally determined by race and gang allegiance. However, a small number of men like James will choose Christianity as their “gang.”  This means they serve no one but God. However, this is a very dangerous decision, because no gang will protect you, and all inmates will watch closely to see if you are really a Christian!

The first day in the yard can is scary experience for any prisoner. The yard is where general population interacts outside. They lift weights, congregate in defined groups, walk along the fence, play sports, etc. As luck would have it, James was pointed to where the Christians hung out. Having no friends or protection, James walked bravely toward the “Christian group.” He was immediately greeted by Ray. Ray was an ex-gangbanger from Long Beach, CA. He was a humble brother that had already been in prison for 15 yrs, (serving two consecutive 25-life sentences). Ray immediately took James under his wing. He discipled him daily in the yard and connected him with the prison's church and Chaplain. Ray was not an ordinary Christian inmate. He was more like a theological professor behind bars. Having built a complete Christian library in his cell, this brother composed his own seminary courses to train impassioned inmates. Seeing much promise in James’ walk with the Lord, Ray led him through his advanced Christian studies, and appointed him elder of the prison church.

James began leading mid-week Bible studies at the prison church. Along with his daily meetings with Ray, James taught John Macarther’s Fundimentals of the Faith and biblical anger management classes. But after 4 years, James was transferred to another prison. He would never see Ray again. Before he left however, Ray admitted the Lord had instructed him to disciple James. James would also attest that Ray's discipleship began his calling to shepard the lives of Gods children.

When James arrived at the next prison, he was exposed to TUMI (The Urban Ministry Institute). Although it took him a year to be admitted, he began taking TUMI classes. By the time he was eligible for parole, James had completed 7 TUMI modules. In 2012, he patrolled and took up work as a plumber, but James still had a desire to teach God’s word. He continued his TUMI training at a local church in Riverside, CA., but being an ex-felon, he saw no ministries willing to move him toward a pastoral position. He applied to work at a local church, but they didn’t feel comfortable appointing an ex-offender to as a church leader. So James began leading Bible studies at his home, but no churches would partner with him or promote it.

In 2014, James went to the Men’s SIAFU retreat at The Oaks camp. There he heard Paul Chan share his vision for a leadership training home specifically designed for ex-offenders. Paul recognized that many churches aren't properly equipped to lead ex-offenders into pastoral roles. But he also recognized that a certain ex-offenders are exactly what urban communities need as Christian leaders. They are men who have experienced drugs, violence, gangs, addiction and prison time. But more importantly, they've experienced a radical transformation in Christ. Paul envisioned a Men’s Pastoral training home that would be connected to a local urban church. This would be a place were men coming out of prison can complete their TUMI training, be discipled by a local Pastor and gain experience ministering and serving at a church.  This was the first time James had heard of a ministry specifically seeking someone like him! James introduced himself to Paul after the conference and World Impact leaders began meeting with James regularly.

It’s now 2015, and James is the the first house manager of World Impact's first pastoral training home. Based on Paul’s vision spoken a year earlier, James agreed to quit his job and move up north to Richmond CA., where he would live and work next to a local church. Under the supervision of the local pastor, he serves daily in the church, continues to take TUMI classes, leads Bibles studies, and even preaches sermons when the senior pastor is away. Most recently, a second man, Anthony, has joined the house. He too had a radical transformation in prison and had taken TUMI classes. Now James serves as a disciple to Anthony, and this model of cultivating "Prisoners to Pastors" has begun to take shape. This would not be possible without the support and services of World Impact, Serving California, and Associate Pastors like Aaron Roy (in Richmond, CA.). The end result is to grow and plant more churches in high crime urban areas, with the knowledge that heathly churches reduce crime and violence. In two years, James is expected to plant a church, and begin another pastoral training home at that church.

World Impact Associates

Pastor Marvin Hall after preaching a sermon at City Team recovery center in San Francisco's Tenderloin District.

Pastor Marvin Hall after preaching a sermon at City Team recovery center in San Francisco's Tenderloin District.

Greetings World Impact staffers and supporters! My name is Marvin Hall, and I am pastor of Starlight Community Church (SCC). I live and work in a neighborhood called Bayview-Hunter’s Point. It's a high crime neighborhood located in southeast San Francisco, were we continually deal with violence, poverty, homicides, broken families and drugs. But our ministry is strong, as we see are seeing more and more people looking for hope and healing!

Bayview-Hunter’s Point was not always such a rough place. It was once a flourishing ship building community! During the Great Migration, many blue-color African Americans moved across the country to live and work in thriving industrial areas. Bayview-Hunter’s Point was one such place. In fact, it was here, in 1867, where the first west coast “dry dock” was constructed to build ships. For the next 100+ years, shipyards and naval defense testing filled the east bay employing tens of thousands of San Franciscans. But in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the ship yards began closing due to environmental regulations. Sadly, this heavily populated african-American community never fully recovered. As the ship companies moved away, drugs and crime took their place.

Our little church plant exists primarily to draw others to Christ. But once they find God, we assist them in their growth so they can be a beacon of light in their community. There’s no greater testimony than a life transformed by the love of God’s Word. Our church services are held on Sunday Evenings, followed by a community meal. Bible Study for the community is offered on Saturday evenings, and we recently partnered with Bay Community Fellowship Church (BCFC), headed by World Impact Bay area director Pastor Curtis Flemming. There, we prepare community breakfast every fourth Saturday for the residents of West Oakland. Starlight and BCFC are very similar. Both are small churches doing big things in tough places.

We look forward to the work God has for us in Bay View-Hunter’s Point. By partnering with World Impact and becoming an Associate, our ministry can become more effective. Our relationships in the community stay the same, but we’ll be equipped to do more. Some of the things we look forward to implementing once I become a World Impact Associate include: Homeless outreach & evangelizing, clothing and food drives, Bible studies in drug rehabilitation programs and mentoring those who are called to be Pastors and leaders. World Impact and SCC are working together, modeling the one body in Christ, and manifesting God's Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. God bless you and we thank you for your support and prayers.

Paul Chan Sermon - "Should Christians pray for everyone?"

Paul Chan cropped.jpg

Pastor Paul Chan speaks on 1 John 5:13-17. It says: "If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death." 

Does this mean that the Bible doesn't' want us to pray for everyone? How can we determine what sin leads to death and what sin doesn't?

Meeting With The Mayor

Our new LA director Peter Watts was hired less than a year ago, and already he's making quick strides as a strong leader and networker. Just last week he met with Los Angeles’ Mayor, Eric Garcetti, and later with former Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. 

Pete's meeting with Garcetti was a one-on-one style meeting in an intimate setting. The purpose was to make deeper connections with city officials, thereby leveraging World Impact's ability to demonstrate compassion and justice. Pete spoke confidently in God and told the mayor about World Impact and its four focus areas. He then spoke about one of WI’s newest initiatives called "Siafu Leadership Homes." When he mentioned the Siafu Homes, Mayor Garcetti stopped the meeting and said, "I want to do that!" By the end of the meeting, Mayor Garcetti wanted to do a re-entry home program for recently released inmates as a result of Proposition 47.

Pete was reminded of Nehemiah 2:4-5 when he stood before the king and made his request: 4The king said to me, ’What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5and I answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.’”

To follow up, Mayor Garcetti has requested to meet with Pete Watts again, along with any others interested in developing and rehabilitating those who have the potential to be urban community leaders on behalf of the poor. 

Pete also met with former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a leadership development program called LEAD: Los Angeles. It’s focused on entrepreneurship in education and nonprofit leadership. Mayor Villaraigosa spoke about his journey to become mayor and his desire to begin his bid for governorship. This was a time of development and connection for Pete as a leader.