Healing and Restoring
Rev. Marvin Hood walked across the uneven floorboards of his church, and stepped outside onto the small rectangle of the front porch. Then he turned, pulled the door shut, and locked it one last time. The aging United Methodist building had served his small congregation well, but it was time to move on to the next stage of ministry. Newgate Fellowship was leaving the suburbs behind to move into their new facility located on a seven-acre campus in the heart of Newgate’s mission field -- the city of Houston.
Heal and Restore
Newgate is ready to embrace their new facility and all of the opportunities that come with it, but their mission of Restorative Justice remains the same: To gently heal and restore those who are falling through the cracks of society because of incarceration and drug addiction.
As a former inmate, Marvin knows how overwhelmingly difficult it is for offenders to re-enter society when they have completed their sentences. Newgate is committed to “obscure the lines” that keep former inmates from becoming productive members of their communities.
To do this, his church provides practical needs such as bus tokens, assistance in finding work and housing, as well as a food pantry. Marvin is excited that Newgate’s new campus will not only place the ministry in the heart of the community it serves, but will also allow the church to expand their services to more fully become a re-entry point for former inmates. Newgate looks forward to offering GED classes, a computer lab, and Al-Anon meetings, as well as workshops for career development. Marvin envisions that in five to seven years, once the church has established roots in the community, Newgate will be ready to move on to the next stage of ministry by providing temporary, low-income housing for former offenders.
Restorative Justice for Every Congregation
But ministry to offenders, former offenders, and their families is only one part of Restorative Justice. Newgate serves correctional professionals and crime victims as well. The diversity of this three-pronged approach offers a wide range of opportunities for congregations across Texas to be part of God’s work in Restorative Justice in a way that is a good fit for their particular church. Marvin points out that while some churches might be better equipped to help offenders with the process of re-entry, another church might be better suited to help in other ways such as take a potluck meal into the prison to serve correctional officers as they begin their shift.
Marvin is eager to assist Texas UMC congregations in joining the work of Restorative Justice because he knows God has the power to change lives. “Not everyone who goes to prison is a write off. When I went to prison, I thought my life was over, but when Jesus came into my life and spoke to me about what he wanted me to do, I was hard-pressed to do it,” Marvin said. “I won't turn back. I want to see people become part of the social fabric in a contributive way, as productive citizens. I want people to know, you can stop here and we will help you turn your life around.”