“Tony” came to us in the early fall about 8 years ago. He had been released from prison for “Intent to Deliver” cocaine & marijuana. His immediate release brought him to the Rockford Rescue Mission. He remained there several weeks until he learned about the Jericho House. I remember him as one who had unbounded energy and enthusiasm for what he described as “my new life in Jesus”. Tony took advantage of his time in prison. Sheridan Correctional in Illinois took “correctional” seriously by offering all sorts of educational opportunities to its inmates. Tony learned how to cook and he loved it. Soon the Jericho House was filled with the aroma of his efforts. Tony quickly “fit in to” our family.
When God moves within us, our surrender to His creative work can allow us to do amazing things. Those who had known Tony during his season of working the drug ‘trade’ in Rockford knew him to be aggressive, mean-spirited, dangerous, sometimes vicious. I don’t know that I ever saw him without a smile on his face. Deliverance does that to people. God can open the coldest heart and move that heart toward compassion, thanksgiving, and rejoicing. That was Tony! He kept us laughing and gaining far too much weight! The Outward Journey comes in balance with the Inward Journey. The Outward Journey allows us to be faithful, relying on the security that God has a purpose for each of us. Usually that call from God is hard to hear. The noise of our lives, the demands for our time, presence, and efforts are such that ‘expectations’ often can consume us. Tony found himself in a place where there were no more expectations. He had served his time, He was ‘clean & sober’. He was content to be where God had placed him – within a family of brothers like himself, longing for healing, for hope, for the quiet voice of God to find him. Sometimes, I’d find him sprawled across his bed, a Bible open in his hands. He reminded me of a child first hearing from a mother’s lips the poem of “Jack & Jill”. He was consumed by the delight of how the Word spoke to him, encountered him, of “falling down”, being saved by the grace of God, and finding the courage to acknowledge this God within him.
Tony Perkins – an evangelist, teacher, warrior, and prophet is a literary mentor of mine. I’ve read most of his works, and was privileged to hear him speak. He grew up in Mississippi and bears the scars of battle from the Civil Rights movement. He suggests that we walk down three roads on our pilgrimage. The first is the Damascus Road wherein we encounter Jesus for the first time. Yes God claims us in Baptism, but for all of us there is that first-time moment wherein deep within us the heart-light turns on. We know without a doubt that Jesus died for us. It’s a personal moment, very much like Saul when Jesus in his resurrected glory called out to him. Then we walk down the Emmaus Road, learning as much as we can about Jesus who is right there with us – often noticed. It is the Jericho Road that takes us home. This is the road on which we encounter the wounded, the naked, the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned, the naked, the lost…..and Tony. Tony didn’t stay long with us – just enough to invite Jesus to bind up his wounds. I lost track of him for a few years. Then one day a call came from Milwaukee, WI. It was Tony! He was still sober, he had reconciled with his family in Milwaukee, and today manages the largest Public School campus in the city. He comes back to visit every once in a while. He calls the Jericho House his “birthday cake”. It was where he knew that he was reborn – reborn to grace, forgiveness, hope, and joy.
This is only one story on the Jericho Road. There are more to come! Thanks for walking with me!