How to Strengthen Your Marriage When Your Spouse Is Incarcerated

DSC00765I struggled with a title that would do justice in describing my experience volunteering as a relationship coach at a marriage seminar for 30+ couples in Lockhart’s Women’s Prison. What words could I share that would capture your attention to read and embrace the incredible impact that Greg and Melissa Alvis have every month on the couples who spend a full day in prison with the intent of strengthening their marriage.

Statistics show that the likelihood of a couple divorcing increases by 32% per year for every year that one spouse is incarcerated. With an average divorce rate already nearing 50%, you can safely assume that most marriages never survive through a spouse’s incarceration. Prison truly tests the strengthen of a marriage, and Greg and Melissa are slowing down that divorce rate to keep families not only surviving but thriving.

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The Ministry

Greg and Melissa travel the state of Texas with their self-created marriage strengthening seminar–knocking on prison doors and selflessly offering their personal testimony, program, and time. Spouses are invited to spend a Saturday with their incarcerated partner as the Alvis team and volunteers lead the couples through powerful material delivered in the form of lectures, exercises, and small group discussions. Oh, and the seminar ends with the couples renewing their vows! Wow, you can’t help but shed a few tears of joy.

DSC00786Greg and Melissa relate to these couples, because they are the heroes and authors of their own marriage story. The defied the marriages statistics. Greg was incarcerated for over 20 years, entering prison at the age of 26. Without a doubt, they struggled to keep their marriage alive, but their marriage survived 22 years of incarceration. They now have a powerful marriage testimony to share with other couples, who can travel their own path but end up in the same position as Greg and Melissa. Under the ministry of Ephesians 521, they taken their powerful learnings on the road, and the feedback is both emotionally moving and priceless.

The Ministry Impact

I could share my thoughts, impressions, and the words shared with husband, Darin, and me, but I’ll let the couples own words, in the form of direct quotes from the evaluation forms, sing praises for the program and its impact on their lives.

What was your favorite part of the day?

  • Spending time with my husband, incorporating God, being given healthy tools to meet our needs moving forward, and the volunteers’ perspective. Learning to love my partner the way he needs.
  • Tools on how to make my marriage better while incarcerated, because I was in fear of losing my husband.
  • I enjoyed the small groups, because we were able to learn more about each other’s needs.
  • Besides seeing my wife for a full day, receiving the training we both know will help us and the encouraging stories.
  • Renewing our wedding vows. I think it is exactly what we needed.
  • The renewal of our vows, because it was what we needed to move forward in our lives.
  • Looking into my husband’s eyes and holding his hands as we re-affirmed our love and commitment for one another.
  • Group discussions. I loved watching and listening to my husband talk about his opinions and feelings about our relationship, and it opened up our communication.
  • Spending time with my wife made us realize how important family is to stay together.
  • Enjoying my husband and renewing our vows and learning more about our needs and where we stand.
  • Eating lunch with my wife.
  • The gathering in small groups and finding out about others’ experiences.
  • The renewing of vows. I believe I have a new beginning in my life and my marriage.
  • Identifying personality types and traits. It seems helpful for day-to-day living.
  • Holding and touching my wife.
  • Spending the day bonding with my husband. We needed to have the physical touch.

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What is one thing you can take from the day that will help you move forward?

  • All that we have been through has made us stronger. Now we get to go from this with a stronger relationship and faith in one another…
  • I am not alone, and I have tools!
  • We’re not alone in our struggles.
  • Knowing how we still feel about each other in our relationship and what we have to look forward to.
  • Knowing we are not alone, and it’s only going to get better.
  • That my husband was committed to our marriage so much so that he put everything on hold in his life to be here with me, for us, for an entire day.
  • Listening to his feelings and working on his relational needs.
  • The book Growing Together as One. Learning about it and taking this advice home and practicing it towards our life.
  • Not lose faith in my spouse and enjoy life and the love we have for each other.
  • The actual real stories they spoke encouraged us.
  • To keep believing and staying together through it all–iron sharpens iron.
  • Knowing that I can move forward in faith and work with my husband and have a new relationship.
  • What my wife requires to feel loved.
  • Five love languages—learning to love him the way he needs.
  • Our commitment.
  • Recommitting and learning my husband’s feelings and our future is growing stronger.

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Importance of Marriage Support in Prison

Supporting any marriage is important, because so many relationships are at stake. If the marriage is strong, the family is strong. If the family is strong, the children are strong. If the children are strong, there is a greater chance the children will continue the legacy of a strong family. Keeping families together in a healthy marriage helps with mental health, financial security, and general well-being.

DSC00864AAs a marriage coach (www.shinecrossingsministry.com), I have a passion for strengthening marriages. As an executive volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (www.pep.org), I have a mind to invest in felons who will eventually be released and need a hand up. As a marriage volunteer (www.ephesians521.org), I have a heart to help prison inmates take what is surely a first big step in investing in their marriages.

The Future

If I had to boil it down to its core, what Greg and Melissa bring to prison for the incarcerated and their spouses is hope–hope that their marriage can not only survive but thrive. They are the walking testimony of this fact. Go back and re-read the messages from the couples. They primarily speak of hope for a better future in their marriages.

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There aren’t many ministries that have this magnitude of impact in just one day. If you are as moved as I am on what Greg and Melissa are doing in the local mission field, I encourage you to visit their website (www.ephesians521.org) and make a donation of any amount. They are funding these seminars, primarily from their own resources and could use your encouragement in both word and donations.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

Support Rescuers’ Suffering from Compassion Fatigue

Dedicated to my 18-year old rescue, Mr. Butters, whom I lovingly helped over the rainbow bridge today

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Compassion fatigue? I first learned of the term while reading the book Toxicity Charity which defined it as the emotional distress that results from the constant demands of caring for others. Some sources claim it as the feeling of apathy when continuous charitable giving doesn’t meet expectations. Regardless of which definition you lean towards, the rescuer’s energy and mindset are exhausted. While doing good, the caregiver gets emotionally and/or physically hurt or burnt out.

Who’s to Blame?

Some believe rescuers are at fault, because they should have personal boundaries and stop when they get too tired. Those in the rescue field feel they have no choice; their big hearts care too much. Who will step up, if they don’t? The problem of unwanted dogs and cats is bigger than any one or group of people can manage. If you’re a family member or friend watching a loved one playing on the field with compassion fatigue, what can you possibly do?

 

Those in rescue need to wrestle with compassion fatigue and figure out what they can and cannot do. As fans from the stands, we can’t play the game for them. This isn’t our sport, and we likely don’t know the rules. We can, however, support from the sidelines. We can be the water-boy in football or the ball retriever in tennis. We don’t play the game, but we can be there to help.

What Does Help Look Like?

What does help look like for someone suffering from compassion fatigue? I would encourage you to offer your services to lift some of their burden. Can you give them a gift card for a personal service or a meal? Many of these caregivers are using their own funds while also giving their time.

My daughter has been involved in animal rescue for several years. It all began when she browsed the local SPCA and Human Society shelters looking for a dog in need of a forever home. After adopting 2 dogs and 1 cat, she then took in her first heeler mix as a foster. Volunteering has become a full-time job, and she works with several non-profit rescues to:

  1. Serve as a board member
  2. Search and pull dogs from shelters
  3. Arrange dog transport from other states to Colorado
  4. Foster several dogs
  5. Arrange fostering families
  6. Transport dogs to foster families and for vet care
  7. Administer vet care
  8. Process adoption paperwork

She is well connected in the rescue community and routinely get requests for help when people find abused dogs. Alex gets paid nothing for her time and routinely uses her own money to help the animals. My daughter is one of my heroes for her selfless giving and ability to organize through this complicated ministry. And yes, she suffers from compassion fatigue! She’s commented that working in rescue is both the most rewarding and depressing job she could imagine. Alex exemplifies a true servant leader who selflessly gives of herself to bring dogs and families together in need of each other.

I’m grateful for servants like my daughter, who’ve made it possible for me to have 17 rescue cats [Frisky, Missy, Midnight, Butterball, Tigger, Popcorn, Slurpy, Tigger, Rascal, Fiddler, Little Girl, Toby, Tigger 2, Mr. Butters, Felix, Zipper, and Zoey] and 2 rescue dogs [Crystal and Duffy] over the last 40 years. Without rescues, I wouldn’t have had the companionship, love, and laughs of these furry friends.

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Thank you to all the caregivers serving in the world. If our paths cross, I hope I can find a way to ease your burden. If you’d like to learn more about the epidemic of rescue fatigue, read this article: The Fatal Epidemic of Animal Care Workers That No One Is Talking About


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Is Your Church Thriving, Surviving, or Dying?

comback church

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your church involvement? What would be your score 5 years ago? How different are your answers to these two questions? Scrappy Church: God’s Not Done Yet (Rainer, 2018) discusses the status of today’s declining churches and provides a working model for those who choose to fight for a comeback. The stories from pastors, church leadership, and membership are vulnerable and explain the “why” behind church death based on choices and their unintended consequences.

I agree with the mentioned reasons for a church’s decline and how to best address each; however, the book leaves out an important factor influencing engagement. As the saying goes: times, they are a changing! Part of a church’s decline in attendance may have little to do with the church, but the priority church has in the over-scheduled, over-stressed average American family’s life. Even if a church hits on all cylinders in outward deluge, welcoming, and back door closure, it’s hard to overcome a family’s pressure on time management with the options that technology provides.

Years ago, if you wanted to attend a service not inside brick and mortar, you only had a few TV evangelism options such Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, and Jimmy Bakker. Technology now allows us to stream a live service of our favorite church or pastor from our iPhone or watch a video on our computer at our convenience. You could call it: church service on demand in the comfort of our own home.

I too have succumbed to watching Jeremy Foster preach on a Sunday morning in my bathrobe while eating bacon and eggs. Afterwards, I dress and get to work, saving myself a couple hours of commuting. Of course, I miss the worship music vibrating through my body and meeting up with friends. I can schedule coffee and conversation later when it’s more convenient. What about spreading the Gospel? Our church outreach includes inviting people to Saturday dinner on occasion and followed by a church service at Hope City. I’m not justifying my choices but explaining how I get comfortable with my decision.

I believe churches that will thrive will be those that break the mold on traditional church. Church members want intimacy with flexibility, which I believe will be difficult for most churches to achieve based on the traditional upbringing in how church is done. Do you wonder what church will look like 10 years from now.

Reference

Rainer, T. (2018). Scrappy Church: God’s Not Done Yet. B&H Publishing: Nashville, TN


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

What’s Your Relationship with the Spirits …and Not the Alcoholic Types?

I find many of today’s Christian denominations avoid discussion or minimize the existence of the spiritual realm that operates in and around all human lives. The Bible tells us that Satan still has dominion of this earthly world. “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Enemies will always have the advantage when they are denied or disguised. I’d rather know there’s a real devil to battle than be uninformed or ill-equipped to fight.

spiritual realm

Why is the church not teaching Christians about the spiritual realm, preparing them for battle, and reminding them of their power? Are they afraid of scaring Christians?  Are pastors afraid that people will distance themselves from Christianity if they preach on the spiritual realm and the daily workings of demons and angels? Are we that fragile? I believe teaching on the spiritual realm provides answers and brings clarity to events that the three-dimensional world cannot explain well.

Just before Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished,” meaning the human lamb was sacrificed to bring new life for all who were once dead in sin and made alive in Christ. The power of darkness was now defeated. Christ’s death was the defeat of the power of Satan—his only weapon was people’s unforgiven sin.

If we don’t acknowledge or leverage the power of Jesus, we are giving our power away to Satan. When I ask Christians whether they believe the Bible represents God’s words and truth, they answer, “Yes.” When I ask whether they believe in the spiritual realm, too many look at me with a quizzical look and answer, “I’m not sure.”

The Bible tells story after story about Satan and his demons including when the Devil tempted Jesus in the dessert (Mark 1: 12-13) and Jesus casting demons out of the man into a herd of pigs (Matthew 8: 28-34). The world hasn’t changed in these thousands of years—it’s still governed by Satan and his minions.

What’s so scary about acknowledging the spiritual realm surrounds us? I know Christians who’ve seen Satan, seen demons attached to people, and gazed at wings of angels. As a child without formal Christian instruction, I didn’t have an explanation for the little demons I occasionally saw on the landing outside my bedroom door. I didn’t accept Jesus based on logical argument and exposure to the Scriptures. I came to know Jesus by unknowingly tapping into the spiritual realm. What I experienced was so real, an engineering mind couldn’t deny its existence.

When Jesus died on the cross, He gifted his power and a companion [The Holy Spirit] to anyone who chose to believe, so they would be equipped for both earthly and spiritual warfare. We honor this power when we understand the breadth and intensity of the battlefield. I understand that for those who grew up in the traditional church, acknowledging or talking about the spiritual realm may be uncomfortable. Have you had nagging thoughts that quietly whisper to you that maybe the spiritual realm really does exist, because it explains what you are feeling, hearing, seeing, or smelling? Some may dismiss it as intuition, but I prefer to call it tapping into your sixth sense.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Help a Child: Volunteer at a Women’s PEP Event

DSC_0508-SI’ve spent a significant amount of time in prison investing in felons who are enrolled in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) and working diligently to improve their character, personal leadership, and business skills, so they can become leaders for their families and community. You only have to spend one day in prison as a business volunteer to be hooked on the value of this program.

DSC_0083-SAfter many years, PEP launched its first women’s program in Lockhart, Texas. I’ve always had a heart for women and girls, so naturally, I volunteered to make the long drive to Austin to spend time with these ladies. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the women’s program. How different would it be from the men’s? I was blown away by these 70 women. Let me share why you should consider becoming a volunteer in human transformation.

Children’s Lives Are at Stake

In my conversations with these women, I learned how concerned they were for their children’s welfare and excited to finally be reunited with their kids. Rarely do I hear men talk about their kids in this way. I’m not suggesting PEP men don’t deeply care about their kids; they just don’t articulate it. They focus more on how they’ve changed, will “make it” legitimately in the real world, and ultimately give back.

DSC_0099-SMany of these men enter a PEP transition program and live in transition housing for months as a bridge to successfully acclimate into community. They need the brotherhood and support of other men making good decisions. PEP women don’t have access to transition housing, and even if they did, I don’t think they would leverage its value, because they need or want to go home and take care of their kids. They want to be moms again.

Most people don’t understand why I volunteer so much of my time and money in PEP? If I ask people to help with the orphan, they open their pocket books, but rarely can I get a new volunteer to PEP. After spending time with the incarcerated PEP women, it made me wonder, “What’s the difference between an orphan and a child who has their parent, especially their mother, in prison?” Isn’t a child of an incarcerated mother far worse than an orphan? Can potential volunteers see that helping a PEP woman is like helping an orphan?

Research (Murphey & Cooper, 2015) shows that 5 million children or 7% of all U.S. children, have had a parent they lived with go to prison. Parental incarceration has been linked with health problems, behavioral problems, and grade retention which carries into adulthood with mental and physical health problems. Although men are the majority of parents incarcerated, mothers are the growing segment of this population.

Murphey and Cooper (2015) also suggest that minimizing the child-parent separation can be facilitated by reducing the stigma and trauma for the child as well as improving communication between parent-child and making incarcerated visits more child-friendly. For most children, the first trauma is loss of an attachment figure, followed by the continued series of negative unintended consequences.

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How to Help the Children

When you help a mother not to recidivate, you invest in a child. Perhaps you don’t necessarily have a passion to help adults who made a poor choice and got caught. If you have a heart for children, you can help them by helping their mothers. See for yourself, firsthand, how hard these women are working on their character, leadership, and business plans to give their families a better future. The PEP program builds their self-confidence one assignment and one Toastmasters speech at a time. Be part of a mother’s transformation and help a child.

Reference

Murphey, D., & Cooper, R. (2015). Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children? Retrieved from www.childtrends.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/ marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her at www.shinecrossingsministry.com or contacting her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com

Everybody Always: How Do I Prove Who I Am?

Bob GoffBob Goff followed up Love Does with Everybody Always which uses his own struggles, told as stories, to challenge us on whether we’re becoming Christ-like in our walk with Him. Just when I thought I was walking straighter and farther, Bob smacked me upside the head with the truth, so my eyes could see more clearly the path ahead of me. Thank you, Bob, I needed that, and as I suspect, we all do at least every now and then.

The Book

I recommend you read Everybody Always and add your own fingerprints on the cover and pages in between. Do you notice the colorful ovals decorating the cover of the book? Most of the fingerprints are from witch doctors in the Love Does School in Gulu, Uganda! I bet that has you at least mildly curious to know more. The true story will rock your world and show you what God can do when you choose to be more like Jesus. I say, “Love everybody always and go change the world.”

My Thoughts

With yellow highlighter and red pen in hand, I marked the pages and took plentiful notes in the margins. My mind filled with many questions and ideas that haven’t been fully answered or thought through. I encourage you to read the book and receive the messages God is speaking into you through the penned words of Bob Goff (2018). I pulled some of Bob’s messages and mixed them with my own thoughts as follows:

  • Many people ask themselves: Who am I? What if instead we asked ourselves: How do I prove who I am?
  • Love has been described as a feeling and a verb. What if love was a proper noun and someone we become? What if we strive to be called Love with a capital L.
  • What would it take to become Love? We would probably have to conquer a whole lot of fear. What if you weren’t afraid anymore? Be not afraid and stop letting fear call the shots.
  • When we distance ourselves from people would that be akin to Jesus turning wine back into water? Can we truly love God if we can’t love the people we’re not comfortable with?
  • Are our righteous opinions blocking people from seeing Jesus? Let the power of love do all the talking for Him.
  • Those uncomfortable people and enemies are called our teachers, and the world is just one big classroom. Are you making the most of your classroom time?
  • We become what the people closest to us say we are! Have you pinned on your hall monitor badge—casting out judgment instead of God’s love?
  • What’s the difference between a castle and a kingdom? Castles have moats to keep people out, and kingdoms have bridges to connect people. Are you building a castle or a kingdom?
  • WITH is a short word with big meaning. How much are you living out WITH? I know I’m with you, Bob!
  • People who are becoming love stop pretending who and where they are in their faith and are real about who they are right now and want to be some day.
  • “Why not just go somewhere to learn about your faith from the people you find there and be as helpful as you can be?” (p. 73)
  • Many of us pray for the green light from Jesus. Don’t be fooled. Our faith, life, and experiences are the green lights. Jesus knows we want more confirmation, but He hopes we don’t become parallelized waiting for it. Go! Stop waiting for permission. “What a shame it would be if we were waiting for God to say something while He’s been waiting on us to do something.” (p. 136)
  • People who are becoming love define success and failure not by the world’s standard but by how Jesus did. Who should you be associating with that you haven’t been? Invite strange people into your life.
  • Where you focus your vision is where you will land. Where is your focus: career, relationship, possessions? Do you need to turn your head in a different direction?
  • When you look in someone’s face do you see brokenness or opportunity?
  • “How is your life working for the people around you? Because if our lives aren’t working for the people around us, our lives aren’t working for us.” (p. 159)

Two Big Questions

Why is it so damn hard to be like Jesus? The response to that question is similar to what I say to premarital couples sitting on my couch about marriage: “It’s hard work. Anything worth having requires hard work, so why would marriage be any different?” Yes, being like Jesus is hard work, but isn’t the reward worth the struggle?

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to (1) love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and (2) love your neighbor as yourself. I believe this journey to fulfill those commandments can start by answering for ourselves:

Who do I think Jesus is?

Who am I and how do I prove who I am?

Now who’s ready to go on a Love & Learning Journey?

References

Goff, B. (2012). Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Goff, B. (2018). Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

 

Trending: More Business Executives Caught Going to Prison

Sandra Dillon: December 13, 2017


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 have 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 class started at the Hamilton Unit in Bryan, Texas, and then in 2008 moved to 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 his 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!

Come Party and Learn More About the PEP Revolution

Sandra Dillon: October 22, 2017


PEP Roundup 2You are invited to pony up and party at the PEP Round Up where you can learn more about how the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) transforms community.  Meet men like Richard, who is now a Christian leader of his wife and son and who owns a business that operates in two major Texas cities. Before entering PEP, Richard was incarcerated, gang affiliated, and a weapon-carrying drug dealer who had 7 felony convictions.   PEP was integral to transforming Richard’s life and now his family and community thrive from his life-changing PEP Roundup 3PEP experience. Richard is just one example of men transformed through the leadership academy, business plan program, and the executive volunteers who partner with these men.

PEP had another record breaking years in 2016.  PEP graduate recidivism continues to remain less than 7% as compared to the general prison population of > 50% after 3 years.  PEP graduates have achieved 100% employment after 90 days upon release.  Seventy-eight new businesses were formed with over 6 reporting more than $1,000,000 in revenue.

PEP Roundup 1The first PEP Round Up on October 29, 2017 is a fundraiser and social event to keep the program growing so it can serve more men.  This nonprofit organization runs solely on the generous donations of companies, individuals, and grants.  Although the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) fully supports this program because of its unprecedented impact, there is no federal or state funding for this program that is rehabilitating men into contributing citizens.

Enjoy live music, armadillo and pony races, games, silent auction, and an art show while dining on mouth-watering BBQ.  Converse with some of the PEP graduates who have started businesses and have some kick-up-your-heels fun! Individual tickets are $100 (tax deductible).  Although the Howdy and Hoop-de-Doo starts at 5 pm, you and your family are welcome to arrive at the George Ranch between 3 – 5 pm for a tour of the historic homes. Come join me on October 29th and change a life!


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

Be an Investor in the Change You Want to See Happen

Sandra Dillon: September 18, 2017


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Jamar and Sandi discuss his business plan

Who wants to pay less taxes for Welfare, Medicaid, and housing the incarcerated? Who wants less crime and fear of crime? Who wants to pay less in insurance premiums, because claims are down?  I bet everyone said “yes” to those three questions. Wait, there’s more! I’ve only listed the savings.

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Darin giving Andrea feedback on his plan

Who wants to add taxpayers to the economic base?  Who wants to see dignity restored?  Who wants to see families reunited and thriving?  These results are the opportunities for growth.  If any of this sounds attractive, I’d ask you to consider an investment in a business called the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), which might return the highest ROI in your outreach portfolio.  As a savvy investor, I’ve been pleased with its performance over the last 4 years. Recidivism rates for the general prison population exceed 50% after three years post-release, yet PEP graduates boast less than 7%.

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Sandi sharing ministry information with Leo

My portfolio strategy is to build equity in our society by investing my money and time in PEP men who are committed to turn their lives around and give back to their families and communities.  PEP is the catalyst and the full-time partner to these men who work through the intensive, character development leadership academy, followed by business skill development and business plan competition for the coveted prize of bragging rights.  The program culminates with graduates walking across the stage in cap and gown to accept a diploma certificate from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

Although PEP business volunteers enter prison to teach and encourage these men, I walk away from each event inspired by their hard work, dedication, and personal growth month after month. Surprisingly, it’s not all about business. Many of these men ask me about my mission ministry and explain how they plan to bless others with the profits from their businesses.  Statistics show over 78 new businesses have been formed by PEP graduates upon their release, with more than six reporting $1,000,000 in annual revenue.  For five consecutive years, PEP has reported 100% employment for program participants within 90 days of release.

Get Into JailPEP has so many ways for the business leader to invest their time and resources: work side-by-side these men in prison while they refine their plans, be a business advisor, host a transition house dinner, teach at e-School, and hire the services of a PEP graduate/business owner.

If you are interested in learning more, I would love to spend the day with you in prison and can get you a “Get into Jail FREE” card.  I have connections!  I guarantee you will have an unforgettable experience, will make friends with other business executives, and be richly rewarded with a personal handwritten thank you card from the men you coach. These men need mentors and role models of servant leaders.  Will you be that leader? If PEP does not speak to your heart or talents, I encourage you to seek out and invest your treasure in whatever change you want to see happen—be that servant leader.


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