Craig came to us in July of 2006. He was recently released from prison where he had learned to cook and passed his exams as a ‘licensed food handler specialist’. Once he was settled in, it wasn’t long before he began to look for a job utilizing his new licensure. After about a month, he called me one day and asked if I could drive him to his new job! I was excited. Craig had been hired by a large, extended care facility for the elderly here in Rockford. I drove him out to his work site, promising to pick him up when his shift ended. I was home for about 20 minutes and the phone rang. It was Craig, wanting to know if I could come pick him up. Perplexed, I drove out to the facility and found Craig on the side-walk waiting for me. I asked him what had happened. He said – matter of factly – “They fired me”. In the conversation back to the Jericho House he told me that because he was a ‘former offender’ he was prohibited from working with the elderly. Concerned, frustrated, and angry I wrote a letter to the Director of the facility, voicing my frustration with his prejudice toward former offenders. He then explained to me that while he wanted to hire Craig, he would lose his license as the operator of the facility if he hired Craig.
Craig began a long struggle with ‘the powers of evil and the spirits of darkness’ in the heavenlies. Gradually he withdrew. Each day, his isolation from the family of residents, from the Church, from the Community and from God became deeper and deeper. He confined himself to his bedroom and the kitchen off of it. His daily routine became one of keeping the kitchen clean, but rarely venturing out into the community for support, work, and fellowship. Finally in April of 2007, we asked Craig to leave. He simply was not moving forward toward anything of significance. All of our efforts to engage and encourage him failed. We had to admit that we had failed Craig.
I lost track of him for almost five years. Then one day our House Manager informed me that he had ‘bumped’ into Craig down at our Rockford Rescue Mission. “Catch Up” was in order. At first meeting, I knew something was different about Craig. The pain of his life and inner-being seemed to be gone. He shared that he had migrated to Springfield, Illinois, found the Salvation Army there and went through their recovery program. Following his graduation, he returned to Rockford and entered the Men’s Recovery Program at our Rockford Rescue Mission. Having completed that program successfully he asked if he could return to the Jericho House. We welcomed him home. Craig had walked for a long time down the Damascus Road before the ‘lightning bolt’ struck him. When it did, the transformation of Craig was amazing to see. We discovered he had a delightful sense of humor. He participated freely and often in our Jericho House activities. He volunteered to cook, of course, but he also was a terrific student of the Word and freely shared his learning with the other residents. About six months after his return, Craig was elevated to the position of house manager.
Craig now works at our Rescue Mission. He puts to bed each night 60 of Rockford’s most chronic homeless. They know and trust Craig and have labeled him “Sergeant Schmitt”! He prays with them, shares the Word with them and has done so through many adversities. Over a year ago 120 high school students descended upon the Jericho House for a work day. Craig kept up with them all the way up to the time when he went to turn out his bedroom light and promptly suffered a heart attack. The Lord prevailed!
Craig’s story is one that is often told along the Jericho Road. His heart, his passion for God, his servant hands have touched often and frequently those whom our city would rather not take in from the cold. Craig’s endurance and passion for Christ have made him a new person. He’s one of the stories you’ll encounter at the Urban Outpost.