Trending: More Business Executives Are Being Caught Going to Prison

Darin and Sandi Caught Good 2017-12-07

Business Executives Caught For Being Good

I heard a statistic that the top three fears that people hold are (1) public speaking, (2) public dancing, and (3) going to prison. If true, I guarantee that the thousands of business executives, who have paused from their work schedules to volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), would wholeheartedly disagree with that third claim. In fact, I would bet they would say spending a day in prison with PEP men is more fulfilling than the work they do and successes they’ve had.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll let photos tell the stories that words cannot describe. PEP was founded in May 2004 and operates exclusively in the Texas prison system. Their first operation started in the Cleveland Correctional Facility, north of Houston, which is where many of my colleagues and friends volunteer. Graduates of this program receive a certificate from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, but the PEP men aren’t learning only business skills. They will tell you the most challenging part of the program is Leadership Academy, where they do a deep personal dive into character and come out transformed men. The program starts with leadership, because people cannot be successful in business long-term without having a solid foundation of character underpinning their decisions and actions.

If you want to learn more about this program which is transforming men, families, and communities, I’d love to introduce you to the PEP Chief Empowerment Officer (CEO), Bert Smith, and is senior leadership staff. Even better, I would love to take you to prison, so you can hear firsthand testimonies from the men and servant leader graduates. Ask me how you can get yourself a Get Into Jail FREE card.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

God’s Message: People Have a Deep Desire to Be Known and Accepted For Who They Are!


Excerpt from LWI El Salvador 2017 Mission Journal

October 12, 2017


As many of my mission followers know, God always shows me a revelation, a truth, or provides a message that I am to take forward from each short-term trip.  This year was no different. We came to drill a well, and in return, God continued to share with me ideas and concepts to take forward.

Last year’s trip to El Salvador was significant, because it was the final message in a book that God was writing for me.  It culminated into the concept of World Changers on Mission (WCoM). As I approached this trip, I was curious whether there would be a message, and if so, would it be the beginning of a new book or perhaps its own short story.  As is God’s way, He never shares the entire plan with me.  As He impressed upon me a few years ago with a vision: if He gave me the entire plan, I would have nothing to look forward to.

IMG_2737You ask, “What did God impress upon you this trip in El Salvador?” I experienced firsthand how the prisoners and community looked at me and how some of them hugged me.  They all wanted a future–something to look forward to.  Many of the kids, teachers, and parents wanted to come to America, a land where they believe dreams can come true.  We, who hold the power and resources, have a have a responsibility to honor others by truly seeing, knowing, and accepting others despite our differences in circumstances and cultures.

I am now a life and leadership coach.  I feel like I have been one my entire life, living it even without the formal training and title until this year.  I graduated in May with my Master’s in Human Services Counseling, Life Coaching, and put out my shingle under Shine Crossings.  Although I envisioned working with both individuals and businesses, the clientele who have reached out have primarily been friends, colleagues, and friends of friends.  I cannot tell you how much joy I get when I see my clients flourish, achieve their dreams, and improve their lives and relationships.  I really do feel like I’m living my calling.

IMG_3333In many ways my mission of life coaching is linked to the message of this mission.  Life coaching allows me to enter into a relationship where a person can be seen, known, and accepted.  If there is a connection between my coaching mission and the mission field, where do a take life coaching?  God told me many years ago that He has no borders, and neither should I.  I have a suspicion that I may need to take life and leadership coaching outside the walls of America.

IMG_3294Ivy keeps coming to mind.  Is it coincidence or plan that I met this self-taught English-speaking teacher, who lives in a rural farming community in El Salvador?  What is the likelihood that Ivy is fluent in English with no one to speak with until our team comes to drill a well on the school property?  Was this a divine encounter? Was I predestine to meet Ivy?  What will Ivy and I do together?

Although I prepared one, I never had the opportunity to give my devotional as other team members stepped up to share what was on their hearts.  What I planned to share was the life Scripture that God first put on my heart during my first mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya in 2013.  This Scripture was the intended message that the mission team was to teach at the local high school we visited:

Jeremiah 29:11 which says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Then a few months before this trip, God strongly laid down on my heart:

John 15:5 which says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I see how the Scriptures connect and build upon one another.  Jeremiah first declares the truth: there is a plan, a plan for a future filled with hope.  John then declares how I must walk out the plan for it to come to fruition.  I believe it is our human nature to create our own plan and exercise our own free will to execute that plan.  Our ears become muted to God’s direction and pearls of wisdom, so we end up relying more on our own foolish ways.  It takes concentration and effort to fight my own free will and follow God’s plan for my life.

God’s intended message for me is not crystal clear, so I will continue to pray for its clarity.  If you have read through all my entries, you will notice several highlighted phrases that resonated with me throughout the trip.  I believe the bigger picture lies in these puzzle pieces:

  • God brings together His team
  • People want to be seen by others
  • We live out purpose when we live in community
  • Make time to be in relationship
  • God’s dreams for us are always bigger than we can imagine
  • I am not the puzzle, but only one piece of a bigger vision
  • God never leaves us; He never forsakes us
  • People have a deep desire to be known and accepted for who they are, not necessarily, for what they have done

Amen!

Giving To A Vision

vision signIn the non-profit world, many people struggle with how to secure resources, namely raise money, to support their cause. Despite a ministry’s worthiness, many struggle or never reach their full stride due to inability to secure volunteer time or funding.   Why does raising money seem so daunting?  Although God is the ultimate resource provider, why do some non-profit leaders receive an outpouring of funds while others not?  Although most situations cannot be attributable to only one reason, I would propose a significant contributor is the lack of a leader’s clear, compelling, and well-communicated vision for the ministry.  I believe people are inherently generous and predisposed to give of their time and resources, if the right opportunity is presented the right way at the right time. When done right, I expect people to respond with joyful hearts and generous giving.

One of the key responsibilities of the leader is to ensure the ministry or non-profit has a powerful vision, strategy, and plan that can be effectively communicated to potential donors.  From a Biblical perspective, Christians are called by God to steward their resources and use them to invest in Kingdom opportunities.  Therefore, a responsible donor would logically expect to understand the vision, the strategy/execution plan, and how the ministry will be held accountable.  If a leader cannot article the vision and supporting details, a donor is likely to assume the resources will not be well stewarded.

When I interviewed for a full-time fundraising position at MedSend, the CEO enlightened me that those who have significant wealth feel an overwhelming burden of responsibility to give back and are actively looking for causes where their donations can make a big impact.  They want to make a significant contribution to the world and want to invest their money in a vision that is greater than paying someone’s bills.  Think about it.  What criteria do you use for giving?  Aside from tithing, people give to people not organizations, specifically to people who have visions.

If you are fundraising for a cause for which you are passionate, take the time to paint a clear and engaging picture of your vision, so you can help your donors understand how their efforts will release joy and power.  Make it big!  Stretch your dreaming! If you can create a vision that you could accomplish on your own, it is likely not from God.  God does not dream that small.

A Tale of Three Trees: It’s Not What You Think!

Have you ever bawled like a baby when reading a children’s fable?  I have!  Several years ago, as I was browsing the small bookstore at The Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, I picked up The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale.  I guarantee you that this was no ordinary children’s story.   The tale tells of the dreams of three trees in the forest, who all long to grow into something that the world would value.  One wanted to be the most beautiful, the other the strongest, and the third the tallest.   After many years the woodcutters came to harvest these trees on the mountain.

Christ with CrossWhat these three trees wished themselves to be instead became how they were used to serve.   The purpose of each tree brought me to tears.  Can you guess how the tallest tree was used?  The third tree wanted to be the tallest tree in the land, and by some accounts this tree got what it wished for as it stood tall at Calvary with Jesus nailed to it.   This tree had one idea of its future, but God had another purpose and plan.  Despite the ugliness it endured as it co-labored with Jesus, the third tree had the opportunity to help bring Salvation to the world.  Now that’s worth both living and dying for!

We all have dreams, and the question we should ask ourselves is whether we are dreaming the right dream.  Are you pursuing your own dream or seeking to know God’s dream for your life?  Sometimes God’s dream for your life will take you through ugliness, harshness, and cruelty such as what Jesus experienced on the cross?  Much of the time you will never be made aware of the impact you are making and must maintain faith that God is using each faithful word and action for Kingdom impact.  On those seemingly rare occasions when I do get feedback, I find those are the fuel that keep me seeking the Lord’s will for my life.

The Scarlet Letter “F”


In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional setting of Boston in 1642, a woman named Hester Prynne must stand for three hours on a public scaffold wearing the scarlet “A” on her dress.  For what purpose?  So that she could be publicly shamed and humiliated for adultery!  For those not familiar with the classic novel The Scarlet Letter, adultery was against the law of the land and church but also an unforgivable sin whose sentence lived on until death.  Fast forward 375 years when adultery does not carry the same legal or societal stigma and where most surveys reveal that it is more common for husbands and wives to cheat than not over the course of their marriages.

Perhaps because adultery is so common, we have put the Scarlet “A” back into our pocket and now sew on a Scarlet “F”, as in felony, on every shirt lapel leaving prison.  Oh, we may not be as obvious about it in this politically sensitive world, but how we treat ex-felons, who have served time for their crime, speaks volume in what we think of these men and women.  Through our laws, community policies/practices and personal actions we have labeled these released prisoners (a.k.a. felons) with “F” as in “Failure.”   Did you know that when a prisoner is released from prison he gets the clothes on his back, $50, and a bus ticket to anywhere?  What is he supposed to do with those resources for his first night’s lodging and food?  Let’s get real.  What do you think happens next?  With no support he will likely connect with old friends who will help him back into illegal activity to put food in his mouth and a roof over his head.  And so the cycle begins again!  Statistics show that 50% of felons return to prison after 3 years and 75% after 5 years.  These are just the felons who get caught.  Why are these statistics so surprising?  They shouldn’t be.

What are the hurdles for felons who want to legally re-integrate into community?  Well, he has difficulty finding a place to live, because he doesn’t own a home.  He can’t live in an apartment complex, because management discriminates against all felons regardless of the crime, and probably, he can’t stay with relatives where he has worn out his welcome long before his prison sentence.  He can’t get a job, because he doesn’t have any decent clothes for an interview, but if he Sandi 1 Class 27did, when he checked the felony box on the application he is immediately disqualified.  What would you do?  I expect you are saying to yourself, “Well, he shouldn’t have gotten himself involved in crime to begin with?” Honestly, there is a part of me that wants to sympathize with that statement, but the other part of me knows a different story.  My other half will suggest that the difference between you and an ex-felon can be the simple fact of just getting caught.  How many times have you had one too many drinks, been legally intoxicated, and yet chose to drive home?  For those who made it home safely, we breathe a sigh of relief—no one was hurt or killed.  If you didn’t make it home, you might be in prison for intoxicated manslaughter.

So, you may think, “I see your point; it could have been me, but it wasn’t. Felons are not my problem.”  My reply is, “If you live in this country, it is your problem, because incarceration affects each and every one of us.”  Did you know the average annual cost to hold an inmate exceeds $30,000?  Did you know the real cost to the taxpayer is multiples of that when you factor in lost tax revenue on wages, welfare and aid given to families of incarcerated men, and damages from crime.  For those who are killed or harmed during a criminal act, I cannot put an estimate to the value of life and limb, but at a minimum, lost wages, funeral expenses, and medical bills could be tallied in the total cost.

So what can be done about this problem?  Well, the solution is not by any means easy or short-lived, but we can start by building awareness of the issue, investing in effective transformational programs, and crushing the felon stereotype.   The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, http://www.pep.org) is giving prisoners the opportunity to change their lives for the betterment of their families and communities.  PEP sees the value of these incarcerated men, and along with other business volunteers, they all come along side those prisoners who are doing the hard work to transform themselves.  This program initially focuses on building authentic manhood and servant leadership and follows with building skills and training in business entrepreneurship.  When program graduates are released from prison, they have access to transitional living and support to help integrate back into society.  Over the past 3 years I have been an executive PEP volunteer and have seen transformed lives and returned dignity in the men we serve.

On April 1, 2016 I honorably participated in a kickoff session for another PEP class who were entering the authentic manhood segment of the program.  Today I received a batch of photos with thank you cards from those men with whom I had the privilege of spending the day in prison.  Yes, they teach these men how to write handwritten thank you cards, a much appreciated and overlook form of business etiquette.  When you see how hard these men work for their future, you can’t help but be inspired to partner with them in their walk.  If yoThank you cardu were wondering whether this program works, recidivism is < 7% after 3 years for those graduating from this program. For the fifth consecutive year 100% of the graduates secured their first job within 90 days.  Since PEP’s launch in 2010, 211 businesses have been started with 6 now generating over $1 million/year revenue.  That’s not failure—that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

PEP is a non-profit organization operating only through donations and no government financial assistance.  The local Texas state correctional facilities welcome this program, because it works!  We can only hope that one day, the federal and state governments will fund and incorporate these concepts into the prison system as a whole.  You may not be in a position to volunteer your time or talents or to donate to this worthwhile program, but you can change the way you think about a felon.  You can start to break the felony stigma. Don’t rush to pin the “F” letter on a felon’s collar.  Ask questions.  Learn his story.  Offer support in a meaningful way.  Even the act of listening and empathizing shows compassion and can make one feel valued as a human being.  Like every one of us who has made a mistake, we hope to be judged not for who we were but for who we are actively working to be!  Embrace the PEP Revolution!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business, life, and marital coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She now coaches others in how to develop and execute their life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Missional Living?

“Missional Living” has been a phrase or theme that has been popping up in my world and my thoughts for the past year!  Our church, Northside Christian, just redid its vision statement “Making Disciplines Who Are Making Disciplines” and launched “Life on Mission, Equipping You to Live Missionally Every Day.”  When I ask my friends “What is mission?”, a typical response is a 1-2 week trip out of country or another state.   So I decided to ask a slightly different question, “What is missional living?”  I appreciated that a dozen plus friends responded, and quite frankly their answers were within the range of what I expected.   A mission is not necessarily missional living, but missional living can certainly include a mission.   Below are a sampling of the descriptions:

  • “Awaking reach day ‘ready to serve.’ And every now and then driving or flying to experience God’s beauty while serving the smallest needs. When done correctly love, compassion and understanding are felt by all involved.”  (Darin Dillon)
  • “The Corporal Works of Mercy are acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead….When you do any of these things I believe you are living a missional life.” (Mark Halleck)
  • “Missional living…is considering the value of things and people…I am less wasteful and make a smaller footprint, both geographically and as a consumer, when I am being a good steward of my blessings. It also makes me more conscious of the depth of my connections.  I don’t want to be only involved at the surface.  I prefer deeper relationships.”  (Casey DeShazo)
  • “Missional living is pursuing Christ in everything we do and showing love and grace to everyone we come in contact with. This can be in your home, on your street, in your city, or even around the world.  Missional living is actively choosing to reflect Christ every day.”  (Jenna Scott)
  • “Spreading God’s word via one’s Godly given strengths.” (Ish Medeles)
  • “…trying to connect the calling and purposes God has given me to the threads of my everyday life. I believe these threads need to intersect at work, at church, at home, in my private time with God and with everyone I meet.  I try to draw connections between what are ‘opportunities’ for me and what are ‘appointments’…God directing me in His purpose and the opportunities…..are often detours that can distract my time and energy from His appointment.”  (Dayna Hardee)
  • “…it is living life like God wants us to live, thinking and caring for others less fortunate than we are.” (Jane Phleger)
  • “Exposing the awe of God and His creation within the reality of daily life…but it needs to be done through an attitude of gratefulness and with the heart of a servant for His glory.” (Craig Washburn)
  • “…missional living is radical stewardship of your life! … using your time, talents and treasures to your utmost ability.” (Gloria Bouknight)
  • “…living the lifestyle of a spirit-filled believer.” (Mohamed Chmayssani)

Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond even if I did not have enough space to share all the heart-felt words.  Since I have asked this question, it is only fair that I share my thoughts to this question; however, I warn you as the writer, I will take the liberty of using more than a few sentences to explore this subject.

In its simplest form “missional living” is “purposeful living”—a substitution of the word “purposeful” or “with purpose” for “missional.”  Purposeful living means to live each day with INTENTION—the intention to (1) serve others in whatever capacity the will help them grow in their personal identity in Christ and fulfill their life purpose and (2) love God, our almighty creator.  Service may come in the form of (1) relief such repairing a well pump in a village which does not have clean water or in the form of (2) restoration such as counseling a teenager after a poor decision spelled disaster or in the form of (3) development such as conducting an interactive business workshop in a third world country to help a struggling business owner with skills to improve his business performance.    My conclusion is:

Missional = Intentional Purpose

God intentionally put each one of us on this earth for a purpose, and if we are going to realize our purpose we must move intentionally through life.   Easier said than done, I know.  It took me 48 years to find Christ and realize I had a true purpose.  But now that I know, I have no excuse.  And it’s still not easy.  So let me help with what I believe is a myth buster for those who seem blocked to action, because they don’t know if a move is in accordance with God’s plan.   Here’s the myth:  God has a plan for your life.  Truth: God has a purpose for your life. 

I have heard people use the excuse for inaction or indecision based on the need to pray about it and see if it was part of God’s plan.  Without His confirming word, they chose not to act.  Believe me I’m not knocking prayer!  I pray every day for wisdom, encouragement, discernment, protection, health and blessings for friends, family and people across the globe.   I don’t believe God has a plan for our lives, but He has a purpose for our lives.  He gave us free-will to act, to plan, to obey, and to disobey if we choose.  I don’t think God has planned out the nitty gritty details of our lives such as whether we should go on a short-term mission trip, because He trusts and honors us to move in our purpose and gifting.

God has no boundaries, so neither do I.   God gave me the gift of administration.  God also gave me a purpose: coaching future leaders to crush their limiting beliefs, love who they are and discover their true purpose and identity in Christ.  Bundle all those pieces together and it’s not surprising that you find me organizing mission trips to third world countries and taking people along for the ride as just one expression of my purpose.

Once you have purpose, just move—just do it!  I bet you have God’s blessing.  If you don’t yet know your purpose, just move!  When you start are moving, God will guide you, opening and shutting doors that allow you to flourish in your gifting and purpose.  God is with you but he’s not planning every step you take!  He made us creative human beings, and I believe He takes joy in seeing what we create within our purpose.  I can visualize the smile on God’s face when we just move, even if we are just trying to figure it out.

Think of a child learning to ride a two-wheeler for the first time.  God’s hand is holding the back of the seat cushion, making sure you don’t fall over until you have the confidence and ability to ride all by yourself, but He is always there, perhaps running along side you as you pedal and eventually watching you ride down the street with His arms by His side and a big grin on his face—just like a parent.

Does any of my message ring of truth for you?  I realize this entry my bristle a few feathers in some people, so I would like to leave you with these thoughts.  First, my intention is not to offend—remember being offended is a personal choice and reaction—but to stir and challenge your thoughts.  My second intention is not to change your mind, but to encourage you to consider what missional living feels, tastes, and sounds like in your life.  You, my friends, each have a high level definition of missional living, but how is that expressed in your life?  Would love to hear from you!