In two days I burned over 10,000 calories. Thank you, fitbit!

How? By building something that will last a long time: a flagstone patio.

During college, I spent summers working for my uncle’s landscape contracting business in New Jersey where I learned how to build these beautiful creations. It’s an incredible process to me. You take a patch of earth and combine that with materials from other patches of earth and create an outdoor living space. The key to building these to last is the foundation. You have to strip away the top layer of soil and get to the undisturbed earth. Next, you put down the new foundation material one layer at a time, tamping it into place…layer after layer…reinforcing it as you go…until you reach the desired height.

This is the same pattern of education and reinforcement that we get to practice every day in this ministry. While working on this patio, I got to participate in this rhythm physically, spiritual, and socially. Collectively, the three men I built this patio with have 24.5 years of prison experience. Our day was full of a rhythm of these men encouraging each other in their faith in Christ, learning the skills of flagstone patio construction, and working hard to provide for themselves and others. What an amazing blend of experiential job training and ministry. Many companies would not want to hire them because of their records, but thankfully we serve a God of second chances.

While I was privileged to rub shoulders with the men, I thought often of John 4 with the woman at the well. This woman was a social outcast because of what she had done and what had been done to her. Most people did not want her around or avoided her… but not Jesus. He engaged her in conversation. He asked her for something to drink. He knew she had something to offer. As the passage tells us, Jesus reveals to her that He is the messiah and something amazing happens. She goes to the town, the very people that disowned her, and shares with them about Jesus the messiah. As a result, many in the town came to believe in Jesus. Not only was this woman restored to a relationship with Jesus, be also to the community.

Mike, one of the men I worked with, is an amazing man. His mind is sharp and his drive is strong, but he just made some poor choices that landed him in jail. Within a couple weeks of being out, he started working with us. Here is what I really love about Mike: he knows his story doesn’t have to be the same loop on repeat. He knows that because of Jesus, his life can be different. We are convinced that God brought Mike to us. Every day Mike gets up an hour early to spend time with Jesus. Mike wrote a letter to his fellow inmates telling them that there is help for them when they get out. Mike is leading others into God’s story of redemption to see them restored to Jesus and to others.

Here’s how you can help: Pray & Promote

  • Pray for God to reinforce the layers of education and spiritual formation that we put down every day, layer upon layer.
  • Promote TSFS for more opportunities to teach these types of skills (patios and retaining walls).